Questions every landlord should ask when choosing a tenant

04 August 2022

When selecting a tenant, landlords are pressed to find the best possible tenant to occupy their rental property. The questions asked during the screening process are crucial for the success of the rental property in the long run.

As a starting point, Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, explains that the following criteria are usually used as minimum guidelines for selecting a reliable tenant:

* A monthly income that is at least three times the rental amount
* A good credit score
* Positive reference checks from past landlords
* A consistent employment history

"While verbal agreements can be legally binding, it is crucial to obtain a lease agreement in writing; one that is signed by everyone involved. This document clearly sets out all the terms and conditions of the rental as well as the rights and responsibilities of the tenant and the landlord," he explains.

Over and above these rental agreement basics, RE/MAX of Southern Africa shares some other questions landlords should ask tenants to make sure they are the right fit:

1. When can the tenant move in?

This should be one of the first questions to discuss with potential tenants. If the landlord's and the prospective tenant's timelines do not match, then a landlord will save themselves (and the prospective tenant) the time and hassle of going through the rest of the screening questions.

2. Has the tenant ever been evicted or broken the lease agreement?

Most people will be hesitant to answer truthfully about this if they have indeed been evicted or broken a lease agreement before. However, if a prospective tenant has been evicted before, asking them about it will at least offer them the opportunity to (at the very least) explain the circumstances that led to the eviction. In some cases, a prospective tenant may never have had an eviction, but because they broke their rental agreement, they were forced to end the lease early. This may be understandable though. For example, in the case of a new construction or unruly neighbours. However, without significant reason, this could be considered a red flag.

3. Can the tenant comfortably afford the first month's rent and security deposit?

If any prospective tenants display hesitancy when asked about the affordability of the deposit, this could indicate that they are not in a financial position to honour the rental agreement. Landlords should avoid tenants who try to negotiate to pay it off later or in instalments along with the rent.

4. How many occupants will move in?

The industry standard is that a landlord should not allow more than two people per bedroom, which is why this screening question should be asked. What landlords will also often want to know is whether any of the occupants are smokers and whether they are expected to smoke outside or cover the cost of the extensive property damage that smoking inside the unit can cause. Again, landlords might not get an honest answer here, but it never hurts to ask.

5. Does the tenant have pets?

Whether a landlord has a pet-friendly unit or not, this question still applies. If the tenant has pets and the rental accommodates them, find out what types of pets (and how many) will be occupying the space. This is also a great time to discuss any ground rules about keeping pets on the property.

Of course, all this can be handled on a landlord's behalf when they hire a rental agent to manage the rental property. "If you need assistance with managing your rental agreement and screening your prospective tenants, reach out to a reputable real estate agency to find out how they can make your life easier," Goslett concludes.

Article published courtesy of My Property

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