February 13

First Lets – The buy-to-let landlord’s guide to get the best tenants: Part 5

First Lets – Eleven killer questions to ask a prospective tenant

Property managers must be savvy interviewers. The applicant interview is an excellent opportunity to screen tenants so you end up with best tenants.
At the interview, you should ask the right questions, read body language, and act impartially without bias. A tenant applicant meeting could take place at any time. It may happen when an applicant meets you for the first time to enquire about properties to rent, during a property viewing, or even over the phone.
It takes experience and training to be a good interviewer. In this article, I’ll let you in on eleven key questions to ask the best tenants. The answers, and how the answers are given, could help you spot the tenant from hell that you don’t want in your buy-to-let property.

1.    Why are you moving?

Good reasons would include a job change or increase in family size. The best tenants is unlikely to tell you that they’re being evicted or are in dispute with their landlord or neighbours, but these are the red flags you’ll be looking for.

2.    When do you want to move in?

I’m always wary of tenants who want to move in immediately. The current landlord needs notice. Why does the applicant want to move in now? There might be acceptable reasons: a fast job change, domestic abuse, or another property that has fallen through, for example. In the normal course of events, the best tenants who want to move will start looking for their next home a few months and give at least a month before wanting to move in.

3.    How much do you earn each month?

The answer should come back to you without hesitation. The best tenants should earn enough to sustain their rent payments – generally speaking, that’s around three times the rent. It is a very good time to ask if the tenant minds you speaking to their employer and running a credit check. If they’re unwilling to provide such details, you don’t need to continue with the process.

4.    Will you be paying the rent on your own, or will others help you?

Sometimes, especially with first-time tenants, there will be financial help from other people. Predominantly, this is a parent who wants to help their child leave home and become a responsible tenant. If this is the case, you’ll need to treat the other payer as a tenant. They’ll need to fill in application forms. You’ll need to conduct the same background checks on them as you do on the tenant who will be living on your property.

5.    How many people will be living in the property?

You want to establish early on that your property isn’t going to be used by more people than it’s intended for. You’ll also need to run background checks on all those over eighteen who will be living there – naturally, they become tenants themselves.

6.    Have you ever been evicted?

There are two reasons you ask this question. It may be that the tenant has been evicted before, but there are reasons why that happened. If the applicant tells you that they have been evicted, and then explains why it could be a sign that they could prove to be a good tenant. Warning signs here include reasons such as non-payment of rent, damage, and unsocial behaviour.

7.    Can I see your passport?

A passport is one of the documents that are used to prove identity. There should be no reason why the best tenants aren’t happy to provide one. I once had a prospective tenant who started screaming and shouting about ‘confidentiality’ and ‘abuse of rights’. When I explained that it’s all part of the process, she walked out, slamming the door behind her. I never saw her again. I didn’t want to.

8.    How long are you planning to rent?

You’re looking for a long-term tenant, not one that will be moving on in a couple of months.

9.    What do you do in your spare time?

You want to know how the applicant lives their life. If they practice the drums late into the night, you might have problems with the neighbours. What appears to be the best tenant from all the other questions you ask, could turn out to be a nightmare that causes nothing but aggravation with neighbours and other tenants.

10. Do you have any social media accounts?

Social media is a big thing today. A lot of people have Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Employers are increasingly searching on social media for insights into applicants’ and employees’ lifestyles. Landlords should do the same to discover  their best tenants.

11. Do you have any questions?

This question gives the best tenants the opportunity to ask about the rental process, background checks that are done, and gives an indication as to how interested they are in renting your property. You might use their questions to determine how keen they are.

How can you tell if an applicant is lying?

Whatever questions you ask, a malicious tenant will lie to you. They want to rent your property. The worst tenant will say whatever they think you want to hear. You must listen carefully to the answers an applicant gives. You need to spot the signs that they are less than truthful. These signs include:

  • Stammering
  • Hesitancy to answer questions
  • Folded arms
  • Avoidance of the question
  • Not looking you in the eye when answering your questions
  • Shuffling feet, or fidgeting
  • ‘Shifty eyes’

Never rely solely on the interview. The rental application and background checks are there for a reason.

Why interview applicant tenants?

The applicant interview is the opportunity for buy-to-let landlords and investment property managers to assess a prospective tenant. It’s the ideal opportunity to get the gut feeling which so often proves right (with experience). It helps to reduce the time to find the best tenants, and an ideal opportunity for tenants to reject themselves.
Our staff are all trained in interview techniques. They’re also trained to spot fake documents, like passports. Just two reasons why Ezytrac has such a high proportion of great tenants in client properties.
You may be new to buy-to-let property investment. Or unhappy with your current investment property managers. You might have been thinking of transferring your properties from self-management to investment property managers for some time. Whatever your needs and objectives, feel free to contact one of the Ezytrac team today on +44  1522  503  717. You’ll quickly start to discover why we’re one of the fastest-growing investment property management companies in the UK today.
Yours in effortless property management,
Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA


Property Managers

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