Landlord Checklist: Interview Your Prospective Tenants
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Landlord Checklist: Interview Your Prospective Tenants

It's important to get this information as part of your screen process. You especially want to check with the landlord prior to the current one. Often a tenant is required to pay first and last month's rent (whether on a lease or on a month-to-month tenancy) plus a hefty cleaning deposit.
                            landlord and tenants

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Can I contact your previous landlord and do a credit check?

It's important to get this information as part of your screen process. You especially want to check with the landlord prior to the current one. (The current landlord may give you a glowing report just to get rid of a bad tenant.) Be sure you ask this question and get permission in writing. You don't want to have a tenant accuse you of invasion of privacy. Most landlords include it as part of their rental application.

How many pets do you have?

Pets, when uncontrolled, can do serious damage to a property. Over time, however, you'll find it's almost impossible to rent exclusively to tenants without pets. Therefore, you'll want to determine how many pets and what kind. You may want to set a separate cleaning deposit for each pet as a way of inducing your tenants to keep their animals under control. Remember, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you must allow a tenant to have a seeing-eye dog. Also, a tenant has the right to have a companion animal as prescribed by a doctor. You cannot discourage a tenant from having a pet in these circumstances.

Do you have a waterbed?

Waterbeds, once the rage, are now much less common. Nevertheless, some tenants will have them, and they pose some concerns for landlords. The beds can be particularly heavy, and if you have an older building that wasn't constructed to modern standards, they can strain the structure. Further, if a waterbed pops, you can have water damage in the bedroom and possibly in rooms beneath. (Water damage can lead to black mold, which can be a real problem when renting or selling a property.) You may want to ask for a special security deposit from a tenant who has a waterbed.

How soon will you be able to move in?

Every day that your property is empty, you lose rent and have to pay expenses (including mortgage, taxes, utilities, and maintenance) out of your pocket. Therefore, finding a good tenant who wants to move in tomorrow is better than finding one who wants to move in next month. Most landlords give preferential treatment to tenants who can move in quickly. Sometimes, for a good tenant who wants to move in later, you may want to split the rent between the present and the move-in date.

How many people will occupy the property?

You will find it difficult to restrict the number of occupants, particularly children, in a rental. According to federal law you can't refuse to rent to families with children. However, some cities fighting high density in rental housing have their own rules that prohibit you from renting to more than a set number of people per unit. As a landlord, you're caught in the middle. At the least, find out the names and ages of each of the tenants who will occupy your property. You may want to argue that more than a certain number per bedroom is too many, but be sure you check with your attorney first.

How many cars do you own?

Usually rentals have limited parking. You may have spaces in a multifamily dwelling for only one or two cars per unit. If a tenant has more than that number of cars, you may want to charge extra for parking spots. Keep in mind that for a person with a disability, you may be required to provide parking access near his or her unit. It's a good idea to find out the number of cars a tenant will have and to get the license numbers as well.

Can you pay in cash all the money owed before you move in?

Often a tenant is required to pay first and last month's rent (whether on a lease or on a month-to-month tenancy) plus a hefty cleaning deposit. Frequently tenants cannot come up with all the cash at once and will ask if they can pay you a portion now and a portion within a few weeks, or after the first month. Savvy landlords will refuse this request. The whole purpose of getting a last month's rent and a cleaning/security deposit is to ensure the tenant's compliance with your rules, including keeping the place clean and making timely rent payments. If the tenant can't provide the cash up front, you won't have the financial security requirements you need.

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Comments (3)

Renting in Australia (commonly through a Real Estate agency) has quite strict requirements. The prospective tenants need to fill out a written application supplied by the agency and information is checked very carefully; 4 weeks rent as bond + 2 weeks rent in advance (total of 6 weeks) is always required up front upon signing the lease & being given the keys. There are those of course who choose to rent privately. Your article is a very good guide.

Very well done! Excellent guidelines for interviewing prospective tenants. Great presentation and detail. Voted up

Good work...useful information to have. Voted