Committing to a six-month tenancy or longer with a perfect stranger can be a daunting prospect, even for experienced landlords. To help you along, we’ve devised 8 killer questions to ask tenants before handing over the keys to your property.
Having a chance to meet the tenant in person is by far the best way to weed out potential nightmares further down the road. To be able to have an in-person conversation and be armed with these questions, you’re on your way to a peaceful and profitable let!
Of course, a first impression is important, but you can’t rely on it alone. we strong In addition to these questions to ask tenants, all tenants should undergo comprehensive tenant referencing to check their employment reference, previous landlord reference and six-year credit history.
Questions to ask tenants face to face
According to research conducted by Albert Mehrabian in 1971, body language (non-verbal communication) attribute up to 55% of our communication. This is followed by Tone of Voice (38%) and the content of what is being said – around 7%.
This is why it’s much better to ask the questions face-to-face with your prospective tenants rather than send over an application form. Being able to study the tenant’s reactions to the questions being asked, you’ll be able to get a more accurate impression of them and gauge a ‘gut feeling’ to their responses.
Before jumping into the questions to ask tenants, be careful not to interrogate them. The viewing is an opportunity for you to make an informed decision – not bombard them with questions. They want to make a good impression, but so do you. On the flip side, the tenant may have questions that you should be ready for, such as how long have you been a landlord and why your property is vacant.
Question #1 – Why are you renting?
A simple question, but an important one. This gives the tenant an opportunity to divulge their life story and gives you an insight into their current situation. You’ll be met with answers such as “I’m moving out of home”, “relocating with work” or “saving up to buy a property”.
Whatever their response, you can gauge whether they’re looking for a long or short term let and determine whether they’re the right fit for your rental.
Question #2 – When are you looking to move?
Knowing when the tenant is looking to move is important. Ideally, you want to reduce your void periods as much as possible. If your property is vacant but they’re not looking to move for another few months, you may prefer to go with a tenant who can move in sooner.
Similarly, if you’re advertising your property well in advance, but the tenant needs somewhere immediately, asking this question will minimise any more wasted time for both parties. If their moving date fits with your plans, establishing it early on helps with the tenancy arrangements move forward too.
Question #3 – Do you currently have any pets?
An important question to ask if you are not accepting pets in your property. Some tenants try to keep their pets a secret in hope that the landlord won’t find out. Asking this question at the viewing will save any issues further down the line. The last thing you want is to get to the move-in stage and then they reveal they have a dog or cat.
Alternatively, if they confirm that they have a pet, but you really like the tenant, you could reconsider your rule on pets.
It’s important to note that the rules regarding renting with pets are set to change in 2021. Permitting tenants with pets will be the default, but pet owners must be on a government register to prove they are responsible owners.
Question #4 – What’s your relationship like with your current landlord or letting agent?
Knowing of any issues with the previous landlord or letting agent can be a good indicator of what the tenant expects when renting.
If they have had a bad experience, ask them for more information. The issues they raise will highlight what’s important to them, but their tone and body language will also give you a good indication of their character.
It’s also an opportunity for you to reassure them. For example, if their previous landlord neglected repairs, you can explain your usual process for property maintenance.
Question #5 – What line of work are you in?
More of a practical question to ask your tenant however, it will provide you with further insight into their living habits.
For example, a tenant that works night shifts may cause issues with neighbours in an HMO or flat block, or be difficult to get hold of during the day.
This question can also lead to other useful information related to work. Are they full-time, part-time or self-employed? What is their job role? Are they working on a temporary or permanent contract?
Remember, it’s not an interrogation, so don’t jump into these questions too soon. If you’re getting along well with the tenant and they seem quite interested, they’ll probably be more comfortable with sharing this information.
Question #6 – Who would be living in the property with you?
Multiple tenants named on a tenancy agreement are typically jointly and severally liable unless they are named as a permitted occupier. ‘Jointly and severally’ is a legal phrase that means two or more persons are equally responsible to adhere to the terms and conditions laid out in the tenancy agreement. The most important of these terms is the payment of rent on time – if one tenant doesn’t pay their half – both are liable.
Under no circumstances should a landlord accept a second or third tenant (over the age of 18) living in the property without them being named on the tenancy agreement and undergoing formal referencing. If they are only living in the property some of the time, such as a partner who has a separate place, a relative or carer – they can be listed as a permitted occupier.
Question #7 – Do you have any questions for me?
A house viewing is a great opportunity to answer any questions the tenant has, so invite them to do so! There may be something about the property or tenancy that the tenant is concerned about, but a simple conversation could quickly put their mind at ease.
Inviting the tenant to ask you questions shows that you have nothing to hide and builds trust between both parties.
Related article: House Viewing Advice for Landlords: Should I Do My Own Viewings?
Question #8 – Why should I consider your application to rent my property?
This one may sound a little cheesy, however, it will certainly give the tenant an opportunity to shine and build rapport with you. Plus, if your property is popular, this extra information may help you choose between multiple applicants.
So, there you have it, 8 killer questions to ask tenants before handing over the keys. Is there a question you always ask that doesn’t appear on this list? Please share it in the comments below.