01 July 2022

Can landlords choose their tenants? What information should a landlord ask for? These are both excellent questions. As a landlord, you are allowed to find the best possible tenant to occupy your rental. This means that the questions you ask potential tenants are crucial in making the right decision for your property in the long run.

As a starting point, the best tenants will usually have the following:

  • A monthly income that is at least three times the rent
  • A clean eviction report
  • A good credit score
  • Positive reference checks from past landlords
  • A consistent employment history

While verbal agreements are legally binding, it’s always best to obtain a lease agreement in writing, one that is signed by everyone involved. This document clearly sets out all the terms and conditions of the rental as well as the rights and responsibilities of the tenant and the landlord. Over and above these usual rental agreement basics, here are another 7 things landlords should always ask tenants – because the more you know upfront, the less time, money, and effort they may ultimately cost you.

1. Do their timelines work with yours?

This should be one of the first questions to discuss with potential tenants. If the property won’t be available for the tenant and the agreement won’t match each other’s timelines, then you’ll save yourself (and your prospective tenant) the time and hassle of going through the rest of your screening questions.

2. Have they ever been evicted?

It is to be expected that most people will be hesitant to answer truthfully about this if they have indeed been evicted before. However, if a prospective tenant has been evicted before, this will at least give them the chance to (at the very least) explain the circumstances that led to the eviction.

3. Is the first-month rent and security deposit affordable?

This is one of those questions that will only require one answer and that is, “yes”. If any prospective tenants display hesitancy when asked about the affordability of the deposit, this could indicate that they are not in a financial position to honour the rental agreement you have in mind comfortably. You will want to settle on a tenant who is able to afford this and doesn’t try to negotiate to pay it off later or in instalments with the rent.

4. How many occupants will move in?

The industry standard is that a landlord shouldn’t be allowing more than two people per bedroom. That is why this is such an important screening question. What landlords will also often want to know is whether any of the occupants are smokers and whether they are expected to smoke outside or cover the cost of the extensive property damage that smoking inside your unit can cause. Again, you might not get an honest answer when you screen prospective tenants for smoking, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

5. Do they have any pets?

Whether you have a pet-friendly unit or not, this question still applies. It’s always good to know what types of pets (and how many) are going to be occupying your space. If you don’t allow pets, then an affirmative answer already disqualifies the tenant from your selection. However, if you accommodate pets, this is a great time to discuss any ground rules about keeping furry friends on your property.

6. Have they ever broken a rental agreement before?

In some cases, a prospective tenant may never have had an eviction, but because they broke their rental agreement, they were forced to end the lease early. This may be understandable though. For example, in the case of a new construction or unruly neighbours. However, without significant reason, this could be considered a red flag.

7. Do they have a range of good references?

A complete tenant screening is one of the most crucial steps in finding a good tenant. Good and honest people have nothing to hide and will be able to give you plenty of references from past landlords and even colleagues. Apart from calling the tenant’s prior landlord, also try to call the landlord prior to that. They have nothing to lose (because presumably, the tenant is no longer on their property) and it is likely that they would be more revealing in regard to the tenant’s history.

Of course, all of this can be handled for you if you contact your nearest RE/MAX office for assistance with managing your rental agreement and screening your prospective tenants. Reach out to one of our sales associates to find out how they can make your life easier.

Send to a Friend