Tenant Reference Check Questions

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One of the biggest challenges of managing a rental property is finding quality tenants who pay rent on time and don't disturb their neighbors. Finding those people, however, requires talking with previous landlords or property managers. You must ask the right questions to determine if the applicant is a good fit.

Is This a Good Time?

Begin your conversation with a reference by thanking the applicant's previous landlord for his time and asking if you have called at a good time. You don't have to spend a lot of time on the phone, but you'll get better answers if the landlord isn't rushed. If necessary, offer to call back at a more convenient time.

Does the Tenant Pay Rent on Time?

Non-paying tenants cause significant difficulties for landlords. Find out if the potential tenant has a history of paying his rent on time. If he fell behind on his rent payments, find out how he handled the situation. For example, did the tenant take the initiative and call the landlord or property manager to make payment arrangements? Did the tenant fulfill complete the payment arrangement as agreed?

Was Any Damage Left Behind?

Find out if your potential tenant kept the home and yard clean. Ask if the landlord had to make repairs or pay for extensive cleaning after the tenant left. Determine whether maintenance issues were reported promptly. Security deposits don't always cover the cost of repairs and cleaning, so it's important to find out ahead of time about how a tenant cares for his living space.

Did the Neighbors Complain?

Ask if the landlord or property manager ever received any complaints from the neighbors about the tenant's behavior, noise levels or guests. Did police or local officials ever contact the landlord about problems with the tenant?

Did the Tenant Have Any Pets?

If you permit pets in your units, ask the previous landlord about the applicant's own pet history. Did the tenant's pet or pets cause any problems? Find out if the animal or animals were loud, dangerous or messy.

Why Did the Tenant Leave?

Find out if the tenant moved out on good terms. His reason for leaving could be a signal of potential problems. Find out if the tenant gave the landlord advance notice of leaving and ask if the tenant broke or completed his lease.