Top Questions to Ask Prospective TenantsWritten By PropertyLoop March 15, 2021
Finding a good tenant can be one of the most arduous yet rewarding responsibilities of a landlord. Of course, this cycle of fresh tenants is the backbone of every property owner’s financial outlook but shouldn’t by any means be treated like a typical transaction. Ideally when advertising your rental property for new tenants, you will be in the fortunate position of choosing from a diverse range of potential renters and with these current strangers looking to make your rental their home, its essential each is vetted thoroughly. Remember, your interaction with potential tenants during their property viewing isn’t about making a hard sell, it’s about understanding the needs of the renters and assessing if they will be a good fit for your property. Whist a methodical tenant referencing process can give a very black and white perspective on which tenants to rent to, if a landlord knows what questions to ask a potential renter, they could save time finding their ideal good tenant.
Questions to Ask Pet Owners
More than half of all adults in the UK are owners of pets, yet only 7% of landlords and property owners willingly accommodate tenants alongside their furry companions. Traditionally there has been a lot to deter pet owners from the rental market, with increased security deposits being charged to safeguard against any damage to the property and its furnishings caused by a pet. However, recent changes to the rental landscape mean that property owners historic hesitancy towards tenants moving in with their pets can no longer take the form of a blanket ban on tenants with pets; instead appealing against this on a case by case basis.
Now of course landlords and property owners are right to try and safeguard the condition of their investment, and are equally wary of problem tenants. With the announcement of the new Model Tenancy Agreement in January 2021, renters are able to move into a property with their pets providing they first pass a “responsible ownership test”. Whilst the nature and format of these tests have not yet been standardised, it is ultimately down to the discretion of the landlord to determine if a pet is well behaved. It is advised that landlords assess is the animals are trained sufficiently enough to respond to basic commands, have been vaccinated, treated for fleas, and have been micro chipped.
Naturally as a landlord you will want to gain as fuller insight into the tenants and their pets before they move into the property. Just as you would obtain a reference for a tenant, the same can be done for pets. How the pets behaved in previous rental properties is an invaluable indicator of what to expect once the tenant and their furry friend have moved in. Knowing if there was any damage caused by the pets at their previous address, if there were any complaints and how they were resolved, and how the tenants intend to look after the pet if they are vacant for extended periods of time are all essential questions for landlords to ask their pet owning tenants.
It is always recommended to meet the potential tenant and their pet at their current accommodation in order to practically asses how the pet behaves and if the tenant is a responsible owner.
Opening the doors of your rental property to pet owners is hugely beneficial to landlords, not only increasing the appeal of their rental to a new and ever increasing demographic but, due to the difficult of relocating with animals, also encourage longer tenancy periods.
Questions to Ask Students
Renting to students can be a very appealing prospect for landlords. Similarly to landlords reluctant to accept pets into their property, similar concerns of excessive damage and disregard for the property is what steers some rental owners away from letting to students. However, the landlords that do open their doors to this young clientele can enjoy a consistently high demand for rental space in university hubs and longer tenancy periods thanks to the academic year.
Asking if the tenant plans to remain in the property during university holidays can also help you negotiate mutually beneficial times for maintenance, property inspections and showing new tenants around the property. As students typically vacate their rental properties during this time to visit family it is opportune time for the landlord to conduct the above. However, it is also not unheard of for student to sublet their rooms during this time also, therefore it is important to establish that tenants seek your permission before doing so as this could be in serious breach of their tenancy agreement.
Whilst this would most commonly apply to international students, right to rent checks must still be completed. This should be included in any tenant referencing conducted by a letting agent, however if this is an issue and the tenant fails the referencing checks both the landlords time and money has been wasted.
Generally accepted as accustom for every student tenancy agreement, due to the almost certainty that most students will fail the credit checks in referencing, a guarantor has become required for the tenancy agreement to proceed. A guarantor is someone who will be legally required to pay any outstanding rent if the tenant fails to do so. Because of this obligation the guarantor is typically subject to the same rigorous financial checks as the tenant. As the tenants are ultimately students, their guarantors tend to be a family member or friend. This however, can sometimes be an issue for international students as the tenant’s guarantor is usually required to be a UK citizen.
This can be a difficult landscape to navigate if the tenant is moving into a property under a shared tenancy agreement. For students renting accommodation through a shared tenancy agreement there is no individual obligation to pay the rent, instead this is a responsibility shared by all who occupy the rental property equally. This means that a guarantor wouldn’t just be responsible for paying any accumulated rental arrears and repair costs for a single tenant, but rather for the rent in its entirety.
With this is mind it is essential to ensure that any student that you wish to let to is able to provide a dependable guarantor, willing to be assessed and sign an obligation to cover any overdue amounts.
When renting to students it is also advised to remind them to take out their own, individual contents insurance policies if they wish for their personal belongings to be covered, as landlord contents insurance only applied to the landlord’s furnishings in the property and not the tenant’s possessions.
Other Essential Questions to Ask Prospective Tenants
Whilst referencing your tenants before they move into your rental property can provide essential details about the applicant and their eligibility for your property there are some simple questions that will help landlords determine if they should be wary of a potential problem tenant.
Why Are You Moving?
Asking your tenant why they are moving from their current accommodation could be a huge indication of the coming rental dynamic. Have they a trail of poorly maintained landlord relationships, have they left a wake of property damage. Red flags to look out for here are tenants that cite arguments with neighbours and past landlords as their reason for moving, whilst we are not advising property owners to instantly side with other landlords and assume a stance of exclusive tenant liability in the breakdown of previous relationships, but to simply be cautious.
When Will You Move in?
Typically a tenancy agreement will require at least 30 days’ notice prior to its termination. Initially potential tenant that is overwhelmingly eager to move in could be a welcome sign, however, this could be an indication that they are abandoning an existing tenancy, or is currently going through the eviction process.
Of course, this doesn’t ring true each and every time and this eagerness could be due to a sudden change in circumstance for the tenant, such as a new job, reduced pay or any other of life’s unforeseen challenges.
Questions Tenants Should Ask Landlords
Meeting with your tenants is the perfect opportunity to ask what they are looking for in their ideal tenancy. It is likely that the potential tenants will come armed with questions about the condition of the property, the cost of monthly bills, noisy neighbours and the local amenities close by. As the property owner you should be prepared for all of these lines of enquiry, but use this as a chance to see what type of tenants you are attracting and if that falls in line with your ideal tenants.
Questions Landlords Cannot Ask Tenants
There are however a number of things a landlords is unable to enquire about in order to determine which potential tenant will be successful. Termed “protected characteristics” and if a landlord decides not to proceed with the tenancy based on these, it is considered unlawful discrimination. These protected characteristics encompass, age, gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, marital status, disability and religious beliefs.
Let PropertyLoop Help You Find Great Tenants
When advertising your rental with PropertyLoop, landlords can enjoy complete freedom in finding their ideal tenant. Unlike many other online and high street letting agents, we do not charge a fee for every tenant that you wish to reference, after all being unsure of a renter, only for them to turn out to be a problem tenant months into the tenancy agreement will be a far more expensive pursuit, with restoring the rentals condition, eviction process and re occupying the property possibly taking months.
Additionally, we endeavour to provide landlords with a comprehensive evaluation of their chosen tenants, allowing them to make an informed decision on who they wish to rent to. PropertyLoop’s reference checks meticulously asses a tenants entire renting history; whereas most letting agents are content with gaining a reference from the tenants most recent landlord, we provide a clearer picture, obtaining a reference from each of the potential tenants previous landlords.
Of course landlords want confidence in the financial security of their rental property; whilst asking for a guarantor from every tenant is impractical; our affordability checks will give property owners the same peace of mind. When referencing a potential tenant PropertyLoop will assess their current employment status, their credit history and perform a background check. We also take additional measures to authenticate the identity of each tenant, with our technology assessing their government issued identification, official documents and contact information, ensuring that landlords don’t have an unexpected surprise further down the road.
Despite one of the single most widespread pieces of advice within the industry being to not rush the tenant finding process, their approach to helping landlords only expedites this problem, making it a matter of if landlords can afford to continue vetting their potential tenants, or simply take a chance. As mentioned, PropertyLoop doesn’t place a monetary premium on helping landlords to find the perfect tenant. We understand how important finding the right tenant for your property is, and how much of a headache problem tenants can be.
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