Screening tenants should involve all the necessary checks and systems. You’ll want to run a credit report and do a criminal history check. You’ll want to talk to former landlords and verify employment.
These things are all part of what we do as professional San Diego property managers. We’ve also found that having a conversation with prospective tenants before they even fill out an application can also give us a good idea of whether or not they’ll qualify for the property we’re leasing.
A few specific questions need to be asked before you even show a property. This will help you pre-qualify residents, saving your time and theirs.
Remember to follow all fair housing laws and requirements. It’s easy to make an unintentional mistake, so contact a local San Diego property management company or real estate attorney if you have any questions about what you’re permitted to discuss during the leasing and screening process.
Ask About Income
The most important thing you want to know when you’re choosing a resident is whether or not that tenant is capable of paying rent.
Ask what the tenant earns up front. You don’t have to wait for them to fill out an application and provide pay stubs or tax returns. Simply ask about their income and their budget. If they say they’re looking for a rental home that’s $3,000 a month but they only earn $5,000 a month, you aren’t going to feel very confident about their ability to pay that amount every month.
Ideally, your tenant will earn at least three times the monthly rent. Do the math early to figure out whether the tenant who is inquiring about your property earns enough to satisfy your income requirements.
Ask about a Move in Date
Another important question to ask before you journey too far into the application and screening process is when the prospective tenant wants to move in. Your San Diego rental property cannot remain vacant for too long, so if the tenant isn’t planning to move for another three months, this might be a problem. You don’t want to lose potential rental income on a tenant who isn’t ready to move in once the property is ready for occupancy.
It’s also a good idea to be wary of a tenant who wants to move in tomorrow. Ask questions and settle on a comfortable move-in date that meets your needs as well as theirs.
Ask Why the Tenant is Moving
Find out why they’re moving. Maybe they’re looking for something more affordable or maybe they’ve been waiting for the perfect property to become available in the neighborhood they’ve wanted to live in for years. Perhaps they’re downsizing because the kids are out of the house or maybe they’re looking for a home with more space because they have a growing family.
A red flag might be a list of complaints about the current landlord and property. Some complaints are valid, of course. However, asking this question will give you a good idea of whether the tenant works well with landlords or property managers. You’ll learn a lot.
Before you begin the application and screening process, make sure you ask some pre-qualifying questions and provide your prospective tenants with your written rental qualifying criteria.
If you have any questions about tenant screening or any of the San Diego property management services we provide, please contact us at Mercer Properties.