Showing a rental property to a potential tenant is an important step in the screening process. It’s the first chance the landlord gets to meet the tenant in person and make a good first impression on them.
But landlords shouldn’t be standing outside or by the door while the prospective renter walks around. Landlords need to be proactive and should be asking questions throughout the tour.
Not sure what to ask? Here are three questions that all landlords should be asking tenants before they sign the lease.
Why are you moving?
In a perfect world, every renter would stay in a property for several years. Most landlords prefer long-term renters because that means a steady rental income, usually good property upkeep and time saved. When you have tenants coming and going every year, that means finding a new tenant every year, screening references every year, cleaning and painting the house every year — it’s a lot of work. But if you can find tenants that stay for three or five years or even longer, then you’ll cut down on this work and the worry of going for a month or two without rental income.
To get a feel for your prospective tenant, ask simply: why are you moving? The answers will vary, but they’ll tell you a lot about your tenant and open up opportunities for you to learn more.
For example, if a tenant says he’s moving to Washington, DC for work, then it’s a good time to ask about his line of work. Is it a government job? Temporary or permanent? How long has he been with the company? Will he be working from home often or going into the office? How far away is the office? Does he like what he does? All of these answers can help hedge your bets on whether the tenant will stay in DC or with their current employer.
This question can also introduce previous bad relationships with other landlords if the tenant is moving because they didn’t like their landlord. Those answers can be tricky to navigate. On the one hand, it’s not uncommon for some landlords to neglect their properties and their tenants, so complaints about broken windows and poor communication may be valid. However, there are two sides to every story, and it’s possible the tenant may not have treated the property well. Tread carefully with these answers, and be wary of any tenant who does not hold back in bad mouthing their previous landlord.
How many people will be living here?
When a tenant shows up to view a property, he or she will usually bring the whole household — but not always. Sometimes a husband shows up without a wife because she’s working or one partner is out of town so the other must step up.
But there are other times when your property may be occupied by far more people than you anticipated. Parents don’t always bring their children because they want to focus on asking questions and checking out the property. Not all roommates may be available for one showing, and it’s always possible that a prospective tenant may be dating someone with a child.
No matter who shows up to the viewing, landlords should always clarify how many people will be living on the property. It will affect who will be contributing to the rent and how much wear and tear the property is likely to endure.
From a legal perspective, there are occupancy limits in place to prevent overcrowding and fire hazards. Six roommates trying to live in a three-bedroom apartment may exceed the occupancy limit. Property management companies usually keep track of this legal information, but you can always look up your local occupancy laws yourself.
Do you have pets or will pets be visiting the house?
Having a pet-friendly policy on your rental properties can give your property an edge over others. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that about 72% of renters own a pet, but finding a great property with a pet-friendly policy can be difficult in Washington, DC. If your property can handle pets, then developing a good policy will attract tenants and protect your property.
You need to ask prospective tenants if they have pets when you meet them. Not everyone coming to your property will have a pet, but some might be considering it since you have a pet-friendly policy. Getting a feel for this now can help give you an idea of what your tenants will be like.
If the prospective renter does have a pet, feel free to ask more questions. Is it a cat? Dog? Fish? If it’s a cat, will it use the litter box? Has it ever torn up carpet or curtains? If it’s a dog, how big is it? Is the dog trained to do it’s business outside? Will it bark at all hours of the night? Stick to questions that pertain to your property’s upkeep and let the tenant know about any specific pet policies you have, such as a restriction on the number of pets or the size of the pet.
It’s also worth asking about any pets that might visit. Some tenants have close friends, family members and even romantic partners with pets, and they might bring those pets over from time to time. A good pet policy should have guidelines for visiting pets, and tenants should be aware of them.
Pro tip: Before you decide not to allow pets, remember that dogs, even small ones, often deter burglars, so having a tenant with a dog might help keep your property safe.
When you’re showing your property, it’s hard not to get too overwhelmed as the tenant is looking around. You may need to get a tenant as soon as possible, but you shouldn’t neglect your due diligence. Remember to ask these three questions, and you’ll likely identify tenants who wouldn’t be a good fit right away.
Or you can have your property management company do all this hard work for you. To find out more, contact Atlas Lane here.