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questions to ask tenants

As a landlord, you will inevitably need to go through the process of finding a new tenant at some point in time. Even experienced landlords can find this process to be stressful. Ending up with a bad tenant could mean a huge amount of lost revenue in missed payments or damages.

To ensure that you select the best prospective tenant for your buy to let property investment you will want to thoroughly vet any prospects that enquire. One of the very first steps is having a set of prescreening questions. These are questions that you ask your tenants before they move in and they should allow you to identify important information such as their income and renting history.

In this article, we detail 10 great questions to ask tenants before they move in to help you make sure you select the best tenant for your buy to let property.

Questions to ask tenants before they move in

  1. When are you looking to move in?
  2. How many people will move into the property?
  3. What is your relation to any co-tenants?
  4. What is your annual income?
  5. What is your current employment status?
  6. If required, can you provide a guarantor?
  7. Are you a smoker?
  8. Do you own any pets?
  9. The minimum tenancy length is X months, is this suitable for you?
  10. What is the reason for moving from your current accommodation?

About the Prescreening Questions

When are you looking to move in? 

Aligning a tenant’s moving date with the date that your property becomes available will allow you to keep the vacancy period to a minimum and avoid lost revenue.

How many people will move into the property?

If your property is an HMO you want to ensure that occupation limits are abided by. Additionally, if you have a single individual moving into a multiple bedroom house you want to make sure that they can cover the entirety of the rent. If multiple people will be moving in you need to know so you can follow up with all of those tenants individually and ensure that each of them is able to cover their part of the rent.

What is your relation to any co-tenants? 

This could be friends, family, or they could even be complete strangers. Each of these situations will tell you something different about the tenancy that these potential tenants want to undertake.

What is your annual income? 

Generally speaking, you want your tenants to be making at least three times the monthly rent. This will allow them to cover the rent comfortably and still be able to afford to live. If they don’t make three times the rent amount, then any unexpected costs could lead them to either be late or even miss a rent payment.

What is your current employment status?

This question aims to establish that they are currently stably employed and have a regular monthly income. If, for example, they say they are self-employed you will know to ask for more details to confirm they will be able to afford the rent each month.

If required, can you provide a guarantor? 

A guarantor can be used in several scenarios. If, for example, they do not have enough income to comfortably cover the rent you might ask for a guarantor to ensure that, should they fall into rent arrears, there is a course of action to claim the owed rent. Alternatively, if they don’t have a renting history because they’re young, or a student, then you might ask for a guarantor to ensure that payments are made promptly.

Are you, or anyone else looking to move in, a smoker? 

Whether or not you allow smoking in your buy to let property is entirely up to you. However, smoke can damage property, the smell is difficult to get out of soft furnishings and carpets, and it can leave stains on the walls and ceilings.

Do you own any pets, and if so what kind? 

Again pets can cause additional damage to the property. So, it’s a good idea to check if a prospective tenant has a pet, as well as what kind of pet and how large it is.

The minimum tenancy length is X months, is this suitable for you?

Ideally, you will want to lock in your great tenant for 6 months to a year so that you don’t need to go through the process of finding a tenant again any time soon. What you do not want is to be in a situation where your tenants are trying to move out before the end of the tenancy agreement.

Confirming upfront whether or not they are comfortable with the length of tenancy agreement that you are proposing is a good way to validate that these are the best tenants for your property.

What is the reason for moving from your current accommodation? 

There are numerous valid reasons why somebody would move, maybe they fancied a change, or they’re moving jobs. However, it could be the case that they didn’t get on with their last landlord. The reason why they move could be an indicator as to whether or not they’ll be a good tenant.

Final Words 

Prescreening your tenants is a great way to weed out time waster and legitimately whittle down long lists of tenant applicants. However, it is also not a replacement for getting a professional tenant referencing report done. these reports can be quite costly and you cannot charge these fees due to the tenant fees act of 2019. However, they are an invaluable final check on the prospective tenant you decide to choose to make sure they were truthful about their income, credit, and renting history.

Finally, make sure that whatever questions you are are in no way discriminatory against potential tenants. It is against the law to discriminate against any of the protected classes which include age, gender, being married or in a civil partnership, being pregnant or on maternity leave, disability, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation.

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