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Top 8 questions to ask tenants

There is a dialogue in Jack Finney’s “Time and Again” where the landlord asks a tenant for references and he replies “It’s true that I’m an escaped convict, an active counterfeiter, and occasional murderer. And I howl during the full of the moon. But I’m neat.” 
Well! I don’t say for a moment that things could get as bad, but it’s always prudent to rent out your property after thoroughly checking with the prospective tenants. Conducting Due Diligence is part of your homework but equally important is to ask a few probing questions.

Here, I have shortlisted a few must-ask questions:

1. Monthly earnings

“How much do you earn per month?” This question gives you an insight into a tenant’s rent paying capacity. The golden rule to follow is to divide the rent by his or her monthly income and see if the figure is in excess of 2.5 (two and half times). Again, the monthly earnings should only be calculated keeping in mind that there may be more than one earner in the family.

2. Propensity towards debt

It is wise to prefigure a tenant’s outstanding debts. It is right that those under the debt hammer do not declare the actual extent of problem to a landlord but you will at least have some idea about your tenant’s financial propensities and how much burden there is to unload each month before handing you over the rental amount.

3. Stability over flamboyance

One always looks for reliable tenants who are stable in their lives. It is good to sight a spark of professional genius in your tenants but it is a lot more pacifying to know that they have a stable job. Thus, it is not unwise to ask “how long have you been with your current employer?” For a family of multiple-earners, this question needs being asked only to the principal earner.

4. Seek references

Good people are never short on references. Ask a neighbour, a colleague, a boss or a landlord and you are bound to get a nod of agreement from them. Ask your tenants-to-be whether they can forward references from the current employers and the previous landlords.

5. Number of people

Find out how many people will your property play host to. It is only natural that the chances of wear and tear grow exponentially with the number of residents.

6. Will toddlers or senile people inhabit the home?

It is wise to ask beforehand about the number of children or if there is a senile person involved. This is even more the case if your property has low railings, old window meshes and is prone to accidents. You never know when a subrogation claim from an injured tenant flies your way.

7. Why are they moving?

Ask their purpose for moving. Look for their first reaction. If you see them dumbfounded, it is time to smell something fishy. Humans get evicted, caught in a dispute (with previous landlord) or forced by circumstance in a hundred different ways. It is prudent to find out whether your tenants have dug a hole for themselves somewhere and are seeking your place as a bailout.

8. Are pets immunized and insured?

Learn about pets, if any. Though this should not dissuade you against the tenants, you must check for the associated insurance documents. It is relevant to find out whether the pets are properly vaccinated and immunized.

In the final run

If you get the answers you desire to these questions, you probably have found yourself some good tenants. Your rental property is part of your livelihood. So good tenants, who will take care of your rental home deserve to be taken in even if it means a little less rental income each month.

Which quality do you seek in a tenant foremost?