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The 7 Basic Tenant Screening Questions
If you are a landlord renting out your property without the aid of a rental agency, then you would be well advised to have a set of standard screening questions ready at hand to verify any prospective tenants looking to take occupancy in your property. These questions should be the same for every tenant to avoid being accused of discrimination:
1. Ask if they will agree to a credit check
Although you might feel inclined to take a tenant’s word for it, the numbers on a credit report will quickly let you know if the tenant can truly afford the property and if they have a good record as a rental payer. If a tenant does not agree to a credit check, then this should immediately eliminate them from your pool of prospective tenants. Independent credit verification companies like CheckD can provide this service at a nominal fee.
There may be many legitimate reasons for a tenant to move properties such as changing jobs or looking for a property with a little more space, but be cautious when you hear reasons like evictions, not getting along with the neighbours or fighting with the landlord, as this might be a premonition of what to expect.
3. How soon do they want to move in?
While at first, a tenant who wants to move-in tomorrow might seem great, you should proceed with caution. There are of course circumstances that may be valid for immediate occupation, but as a general rule organized tenants will start their search well in advance. The urgency to move in tomorrow is also a known tactic for fraudulent tenants looking to capitalize on a landlord’s fear of having their property sitting empty. This is all the more reason to conduct a thorough credit check on the tenant.
4. How long did they stay at their previous residence?
If the tenant has a history of frequently moving in and out of properties, it might be an indication of troubled behaviour. Ideally you want a tenant that’s willing to sign a lease for 12 months with the option to renew.
5. Ask for references from employers and former landlords.
References are not only a good verification of financial accountability, but a great indication of tenant behaviour as well. Try to get a verbal reference so as to avoid possible forgery.
6. Ask about their monthly income.
Ideally you want a tenant with a monthly income of roughly two and a half times your rental amount. So, if your rent is R10,000, then the rule of thumb is to look for a tenant earning no less than R25,000, or a combined income of R25,000 in the case of couples.
7. Make it clear that a security deposit and first month’s rental should be paid before taking occupancy.
Having a security deposit in place is of vital importance as this prevents the tenant from simply vacating the apartment at a whim, leaving you with an empty property. The deposit will also help you cover the costs of any damages that may have occurred in the duration of the lease. The only exception to this rule would be if the tenant is covered by HouseME’s Deposit Free lease.
HouseME specializes in offering services such as professional tenant screening, rental collection and eviction cover to ensure that you get the best tenants right off the bat and that your investment is protected along the way.
If you would like to hear more, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Simply email: Ask@house.me
Ben Shaw and Kyle Bradley are Co-founders of Proptech Company, HouseME, Winner of Seedstars World’s Best Start-Up Company in Cape Town.
To Sign up with HouseME as a Landlord or Tenant, Click Here.
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