The tenant screening process is vital to your success as a landlord and knowing what questions to ask a prospective tenant’s references is paramount. After all, the more you know about a potential tenant, the better. You want to place someone in your Phoenix, AZ rental who has a steady income, can follow the rules, and will care for your property as though it were their own.
One of the key aspects of tenant screening is checking references. This includes personal, professional, and housing-related references. Doing this can give you insight into the type of person your interested candidate is. But knowing what to ask can be tricky.
If you want to improve your reference-checking skills and screen for higher-quality tenants in Phoenix, keep reading. We’ve rounded up the top questions to ask your tenant’s references.
How to Perform Tenant Reference Checks
When it comes to checking the references of a potential tenant, there are some simple steps to follow. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be able to better screen tenant references, gather the right information, and save yourself a lot of hassle.
- Research References: It’s not surprising to find out that tenants will often provide incorrect or false reference information. For example, some prospective tenants convince family or friends to act as their references to ensure only good things are said. It’s important to double-check all reference information and verify the information is real.
- Make a Call: It’s easy for tenants to create fake email accounts that mimic employers or previous landlords. That’s why you should pick up the phone and make a call. This way you can hear an actual voice and have a better chance of getting true information.
- Ask the Right Questions: One of the hardest things about checking tenant references is knowing the right questions to ask. The answers you receive will help you make an informed decision about whether to place a tenant in your Phoenix rental.
Best Questions to Ask Tenant References
You should always require that potential tenants provide previous landlord information and both personal and professional references. From there, you should ask each type of reference a specific set of questions so you can get an idea of what type of renter your tenant might be.
Questions to Ask Previous Landlords
Speaking with previous landlords is one of the most important things you can do before placing a tenant in your Phoenix, AZ rental property. Talking to a landlord who dealt with your prospective tenant will help you determine whether the tenant will be a good fit for your property.
Here are the best things to ask your would-be tenants’ previous landlords:
- Was the rent paid on time and in full every month? – You rely on your tenants to pay rent in full each month. After all, that’s how you make money. Of course, your tenant will tell you they will pay rent on time. But a previous landlord will know if that’s true or not.
- How did the tenant maintain the property? – You want a tenant in your rental that will care for your property. You don’t want a careless tenant in your Phoenix property, even if you can pay for the damages using the security deposit at the end of the tenancy.
- How well did the tenant communicate with you? – An open line of communication with your tenants is the key to a good lease term. You or your property manager will need to schedule maintenance and repairs, inspections, and other rent matters. Being able to communicate these needs easily is a must.
- How much was the rent? – Knowing how much rent your tenant paid in the past will help you gauge their financial situation a little bit better. You can then compare your property’s rent rate to the previous rent your tenant was paying.
- How long was the tenancy? – 33% of landlords stress about vacancies and seek long-term tenants to reduce the costs of constant turnover. Ask the previous landlord how long the tenant lived there. If they rented for a long time, you have a good chance of landing another long-term tenant for yourself.
- Did the tenant have any pets? – People love to hide the fact that they have pets to get around the added cost of pet deposits or to skirt a no-pet policy. Find out ahead of time whether your potential tenant has pets. This doesn’t necessarily mean the situation is the same for your tenant now, but it might. In any case, it’s good to know ahead of time.
- Would you rent to this tenant again? – Perhaps the best thing you can ask a previous landlord is whether they would rent to the tenant again or not. Any landlord that would hesitate to rent to a tenant again should be a red flag for you.
Other good things to ask include:
- Was the tenant evicted from the property?
- Were there ever any complaints against the tenant?
- Does the tenant smoke?
- Why did the tenant leave?
- Were there other occupants listed on the lease?
- Did the tenant break any of the rules of the lease?
Questions to Ask Employer References
Another reference to check in with is your potential tenant’s employer. You want to make sure your tenant earns enough income to cover the rent with ease. Plus, an employer will be able to provide insight into the type of person your tenant is.
Here are the best things to ask the employer references:
- Can you confirm this person is employed?
- When were they originally hired?
- How many hours per week do they typically work?
- What is their current salary or hourly rate?
- What is their position at the company?
- Do they come to work on time?
- How do you like working with them?
- What are their long-term job prospects?
- Has this person ever had issues or been reprimanded at work?
- How well do they get along with co-workers?
- Will you continue to employ this person?
Another thing you can do is reach out to the HR department of your would-be tenant’s employer to double-check the information you collect. You never know the type of relationship your tenant has with their employer. While it’s nice to hope an employer wouldn’t embellish the details to help a friend out, it’s best to do your due diligence and make sure.
Questions to Ask Personal References
If you really want to get to know the kind of person your tenant is, you’ll talk to their personal references. Though there will be some element of bias – no one will provide a bad personal reference – it’s still a good idea to talk to them.
Here are the best things to ask your prospective tenant’s personal references:
- How long have you known this person? – Someone who has known the candidate for many years will know a lot about this person’s character. This information can go a long way in evaluating whether they will pay rent on time, damage your property, cause problems with others, and much more.
- If you were a landlord, would you rent to them? – Again, talking to personal references will reveal biases. However, a lot can be gained from asking a question like this. If the references can put themselves in your shoes and answer positively, this will help you make a good decision about whether to lease to this candidate or not.
Other good things to ask include:
- How do you know this person?
- How do they spend their free time?
- Does this person smoke?
- Does he/she have pets?
- Have you spent time in their current home? How would you describe it?
- Describe this person’s overall character.
When to Deny a Tenant Based on Reference Answers
The whole point of screening prospective tenants is to decide whether to lease your Phoenix, AZ rental property to them or not. Avoiding problem tenants will help you save time, money, and a lot of headaches.
Here are some reasons to deny a rental applicant based on the reference check you perform:
- Late or Non-Payers: History is a good predictor of future behavior. If you learn that your potential tenant has a history of late or non-payment of rent, it’s time to reconsider placing them in your rental.
- Eviction History: Do not risk taking a chance on a tenant that was evicted within the last five years or so – if at all. Evictions are not usually mistakes, and you don’t need the headache of dealing with eviction proceedings.
- Damages: Any signs that your potential tenant may damage your rental are red flags and should be taken seriously. The cost of recouping your losses in a damaged property can be a major pain and is best avoided at all costs.
- Lease Breakers: Lease agreements are legal contracts. Any tenant that has a history of breaking leases early is not the tenant for you. Again, prevention is the key to tenant screening.
Lastly, if you cannot get in contact with your would-be tenant’s references, it’s best to move on. Your property is a valuable asset. You should not risk it by taking a gamble on a tenant with no credible references.
Are you in need of a reputable property management company? If so, contact us today and see how we can help you with tenant screening, including reference checks.
At Brewer & Stratton, we understand the importance of reducing costs and earning the highest ROI possible. Because of this, we implement strict screening processes to ensure the highest quality tenants are being placed in your Phoenix, AZ rental property.
Take a load off and let us do all the heavy lifting for you. We can screen tenants, show your property, draft leases, and so much more. Add in the fact that we have a 12-Month Tenant Guarantee Program, and you can trust that both you and your property will be well cared for at all times.