Renting your property out is a great way to earn a little extra income and, to find the ideal tenant, it’s well worth screening your applicants. While the typical things to look out for will generally cover you (check out our previous article to find them out), sometimes it’s worth digging a little deeper. With that in mind, here are seven more things to look out for when screening tenants.
Reason for Moving Out
This may seem like a nosy inquiry, but it’s wise to ask your tenant why they are moving out of their current rental. Most of the time, it’s a simple reason, such as the lease expiring and them wanting to relocate closer to work or school. Or perhaps their previous landlord intends to sell the property. However, they could also be moving out due to a bad relationship with their landlord or roommates. A background check and landlord references will provide more context, yet it’s worth having the tenant’s side of the story as well.
Number of People Moving In
This is an important question to ask for legal reasons. First, the current regulation recommends two people per bedroom, so you need to make sure that your rental can accommodate everyone. Also, knowing how many people are moving in will help draw the lease agreement and highlight the legalities that come with differentiating between co-tenants and sub-tenants.
For example, a tenant can evict a sub-tenant, but only you, as the landlord, can evict one of the co-tenants. In the case of co-tenants, they will each be responsible for making sure the rent is paid in full each month, as well as complying with other contractual agreements, such as taking responsibility for any property damage.
When renting to several tenants, it’s also worth running a background check on everyone who is of age.
Always make sure that the information you receive from your tenant aligns with your own findings. For example, if the credit report you receive from the tenant shows drastically different data compared to the one you got from a credit reporting bureau, that’s a red flag. The same applies to an eviction report that came up during a background check, but the tenant avoided telling you about it.
Honest mistakes aside, you want to be able to trust your tenant, and missing or incorrect information does little to facilitate that. If you cannot establish a relationship based on trust from the very beginning, you can expect difficulties later on.
You may come across a tenant who is trying to negotiate a lower rent or security deposit. Although it’s well within their right to do so, it could indicate that, despite their current financial and employment status, they anticipate having difficulties later on. As a landlord, always do a bit of market research before listing your property. This way, when a tenant tries to negotiate a lower rent, you can explain why the price was set the way it was.
Cigarette smoke can cause hundreds of dollars worth of property damage. Not only does the smell permeate everything in the unit, from curtains to furniture, but the smoke can cause paint discoloration, and unattended cigarettes can result in burn marks. True, you can always use the security deposit to pay for a fresh coat of paint and an ozone generator to get rid of the smell. But that also means that your property will be off the market while you fix the damage. So always ask your tenants whether they smoke, and make sure that they’re aware of any non-smoking lease clauses.
Potentially Noisy Lifestyle
Ask your tenants if they have a potentially disruptive lifestyle. Of course, nobody will admit that throwing late-night parties is their favorite pastime. However, it’s worth asking them if they have loud hobbies, such as playing an instrument or woodworking. Also, if your tenant is working odd hours and coming home at 3 in the morning, they may disrupt the neighbors, even if it’s something as innocent and inevitable as opening drawers, moving chairs or taking a shower.
Always make sure that your tenants are aware of the quiet times in the building, and check whether their lifestyle could result in disturbances. This will prevent not just fines but also problems with people living next door and even the HOA.
It’s not unusual for tenants to prospect a new rental before actually moving out of their current one. Therefore, always remember to ask them if they can move in immediately or after a month. A tenant with stellar references, stable income and sky-high credit score but who can’t move in for several weeks is not ideal, especially in a hot rental market.