10 Questions to Ask a Potential Tenant


It is common for renters to be cautious when renting as they are hesitant about moving into a new place. On the other hand, it is also crucial for landlords to be cautious and take action towards finding the best tenant. Being a landlord, you are solely responsible for selecting the best individual for the residence. It can be stressful deciding who to choose, having to lay out the rental terms, and you hope that the relationship is a positive one. To avoid having a rental horror story (where property gets destroyed or a landlord is taken advantage of), asking questions can relieve this fear. Questions offer more information and history on a tenant which can then help you judge who is the best fit. Here are 10 questions to ask a potential tenant to ease the pressure.


1. Why are you moving?

An important question to ask each potential tenant is why they are moving. Some tenants will consider this a personal question and refuse to answer, in which you can determine whether you think it is suspicious. But asking this question can also elicit information of what your tenant is like. Are they moving to be closer to a new job? Did they get kicked out of their last rental? Do they need a new place with more space? Listening carefully to their answers can identify whether the individual has a good reason to want to move into your property. Trusting your instincts will confirm if they are the right tenant or not.


2. When do you plan on moving?

When do you plan on moving

One of the more significant aspects of renting is to make sure that both you and your tenant’s timelines coincide. Of course, in most cases there can be flexibility on the move-in date, but in some cases, scheduling discrepancies arise. Asking ahead of time when the potential tenant plans to move in can help you determine whether or not their plans match up with yours. If they hope to move in the next 2 weeks, and you are only starting the interview process, you’ll have less time to decide.


3. What is your monthly income?

When renting out your property you want to know that your tenant is able to afford the rent and will make the scheduled payments. As a landlord, it is smart to ask your tenant how much they make monthly and even ask for bank statements for proof (which you are allowed to do). If your rental rate is $1,500 a month, you need to make sure that the tenant makes at least 3x that a month. A basic rule of thumb is to find a tenant who makes a yearly income that is 40 times the property’s monthly rent. You might be willing to make exceptions in some cases if the tenant is willing to pay the first few months’ rent in advance. Having this information gives you a better idea if your potential tenant will be reliable financially.


4. Will any pets move in with you?

Will any pets be moving with you

Although your listing identifies whether or not pets are allowed, always cover your bases. Ask each tenant if they plan to bring an animal with them when they move in. If your property is pet friendly, you may want to inform them ahead of time the policies you have with pets. Depending on the type of property and what animal they have, designated pet-areas could cause a problem for the tenant (ex. Dogs needing to go outside).


5. How many people will live in the property?

How many people will be moving in? Although this seems like a common question to ask, there is always the chance that the person decided last minute to bring a room-mate along. Knowing just how many people are moving in could affect the security deposit, as well as the cost of utilities. Depending on the size of the property, there are some laws in place that allow a certain number of people per bedrooms of the rental. This can especially be an issue if a bedroom is not up to code (ex: windows are not large enough). Verify the number of people planning to move in and avoid possible problems or lawsuits in the future.


6. Will you allow me to do a credit and background check?

Will you allow a credit and background check

If you require more background information on your tenant to see if they are reliable and trustworthy, ask them for a credit and background check. If the tenant denies immediately you have the choice to eliminate them from the prospective tenants. If the tenant does allow you to do this check, the credit check will display whether or not your tenant pays their bills on time. Chances are if they pay their bills, they will also be reliable on rental payments. As for the background check, it will tell you if they have been evicted in the past or have any criminal records. Remember to get their approval for these checks in writing so you always have a paper trail!


7. Do you require parking or other amenities from the rental?

It is always a good idea to go over the inclusions of the rental. Going over key amenities can assist both yourself and the tenant stay on the same page. Ask them if they require parking, how many vehicles they have, and whether they want access to facility amenities (gym, pool, laundry etc.). Asking them these questions will allow you to clarify what the price includes and what features have additional costs. It is better to explain thoroughly so you avoid confusion or frustration later once the agreement has been signed.


8. Can I ask for references from your previous landlord and employer?

Can I ask for references from your previous landlord and employer

This is a question that can tell you a lot about a potential tenant. Don’t jump to conclusions if they do not want previous landlords contacted. It could be the landlord who is crazy, and not the tenant – keep asking questions. If they do allow you to reach out to these references, do it. Employers can inform you on their performance, reliability, and trustworthiness. A person who is always late for work, has low work ethic, or is rude can suggest that the tenant might cause problems elsewhere. Speaking with previous landlords is a great opportunity to ask questions like:

  • Did the tenant pay rent on time?
  • Were there any complaints from neighbors about the tenant?
  • Do you know why the tenant is planning on moving?
  • Was there any damage to the property while the tenant lived there?
  • Did the tenant pay the expected amount?
  • Would you rent to this tenant again?

Once you have answers from these 3rd party references, you can feel confident in your decision.


9. Are you willing/able to pay the security deposit once the agreement is signed?

If you feel the applicant matches your ideal tenant, consider asking if they are willing to pay the security deposit at the signing. Depending on the tenant’s financial situation, that may not be something they can do until the beginning of the month when they move in. It is beneficial to do a quick overview of the expectations for the deposit return (no damage, limitations to changes in the home, etc.) as well as identify your goals for inspections. Remember, it is your responsibility to pay the interest on the security deposit, rates set by the government each year. If they agree to the payment, prepare a receipt for the tenant as evidence that the deposit was agreed upon and paid.

10. Do you have any questions or concerns?

Do you have any Questions or concerns

One of the final questions to ask a potential tenant is if they have questions or concerns. From your questions, they might have noticed a scheduling issue, a limitation that does not meet their expectations, etc. You want to ensure that your tenant will feel comfortable with the rules, regulations, and inclusions of the rental. Once you have asked your questions and they have asked theirs, you are that much closer to selecting your best candidate!