Tenant Placement Tricks - Part I - The Phone Interview Top Questions


Avoiding evictions at Great Day Property Management starts during the tenant screening.  Every step is vital to the success of a good tenant placement. 

I keep a couple attractive clipboards around my office and in my car.  On the clipboard I have typed up my list of questions that I print on the back of scrap paper.  I'm all about saving the planet and streamlining my costs! 

Besides the standard questions like name, phone number, when do you need to move, I do have my most revealing questions that I ask.

  1. Can you please tell me about your ability to pay the rent?  The standard rule is that rent should be one third of their income.  I read this all the time and I think it would be tough finding tenants. You can find my income ratio rule on my website under Rental Screening Process.  Besides income, I'm looking to see how solid their income is.  This begets the questions of how long they have been at their job and what other sources of income they might have.  If they say they are counting on their child support checks, I do not consider that to be very solid.  They may say they have  disability checks or Section 8.  By the way, do not ask what their disability is!  That is protected under the Fair Housing Act.  So is source of income.  You cannot discriminate against someone because they have public assistance. 
  2. Why are you moving?  This is my favorite question.  This gets them talking about their relationship with their current landlord.  I listen to hear if their reason for moving seems reasonable.  Even if their reason is that the landlord is awful, I follow up this question with, "What's your relationship with your landlord if I have to call him?"  I'd like to know before I make that call later.
  3. What pets do you have?  Notice I didn't say, "Do you have pets?"  My pet policy varies between my different owners.  I've learned that if an owner accepts pets, then there are many more tenants from whom to choose.  If the owner does not allow pets, then when the tenant has a pet anyway, we are in the tough position of enforcing our fines.  Oftentimes I get an answer stating the tenant is allergic or scared of dogs.  That is more reassuring if there is a no pet policy.
  4. The security deposit is _____.  Will you be able to come up with that?  Very important question!  If they ask if they can pay it once they are in the house, resist the urge to hang right up on them.  Be up front.  Tell them "It doesn't sound like we are a good match for each other."  You can "discriminate" against someone not having the proper funds to do business with you.

If they sound like a good match, set up the time to meet.  Tell them to call you on their way to the property.  This prevents you from being stood up. 

Now save that questionnaire in case someone feels you discriminated against them.  He or she with the most proof shall win!

In my next blog, I will explain how to further interview the tenant at the house showing.  Let the fun begin!