Questions to Ask Tenants When Renting to Them

questions to ask rent applicants

Screening new tenants can be daunting. It’s sometimes difficult to know what kind of person is applying to rent a property.  

At Singlekey, we help landlords deal with common anxieties every day. So if you don’t know where to start, we’ve compiled a list of basic questions and information needed to get the ball rolling.

The Top 7 Topics to Ask Rental Applicants When Interviewing Them

1) CAN YOU PLEASE PROVIDE SOME PERSONAL INFORMATION?

Name, birthdate and current address are key. You’ll need these if you are doing a credit check. You may also want to ask for a social insurance number, however, the applicant is not legally required to provide this. The credit check can be completed without it, as long as you have the birthdate.

2) CAN YOU LIST YOUR PREVIOUS LANDLORD REFERENCE AND DETAILS?

It’s important to speak with prior landlords to find out how the applicant was as a tenant. Did they look after the property? Did they pay the rent on time? Why did they leave? Was there any noise or other problems? How was the cleanliness of the home? And for the final question: Would they rent to them again? 

Previous landlords sometimes are not very forthcoming, but if you ask them this last question it will tell you a lot. If the applicant has had multiple landlords over the past few years, it’s a good idea to look at a minimum of the previous five (5) years’ history.

3) WHAT ARE YOUR EMPLOYMENT DETAILS AND REFERENCES?

Confirming employment is critical. How long the applicant has worked there, how much they earn and any personal details you can collect about the person will help in the decision-making process. 

Verifying an applicant’s ability to pay the rent is vital so ask for pay stubs, or a copy of the last income tax statement. If they are moving to the area to start a new job, ask for a copy of the employment letter or contract.

4) CAN I SEE SOME IDENTIFICATION?

While this is a small step in the process, it’s absolutely necessary. A landlord must confirm the person is who they claim to be. If a copy of their driver’s license is taken with the application, it must be destroyed once the application is processed as landlords are not permitted to keep it on file. 

The key is to avoid having someone with a fake identity on a Tenancy Agreement which leaves the landlord with no recourse if the tenant skips out on rent or causes a lot of damage.

5) WHY ARE YOU MOVING?

Maybe they want to be closer to work or family, or they have outgrown their current home (or want to downsize). But watch for red flags such as having issues with other tenants or the landlord.

rental applicant questions

6) MIND SHARING SOME FINANCIAL INFORMATION?

A lot of these details will come up on the credit report, but asking about things such as bankruptcies, earnings, debt load and other financial obligations gives the landlord an idea of how much money is going out each month above and beyond the rent.

Rent is often the first thing the tenant doesn’t pay if they are experiencing financial hardship.

7) I JUST NEED A LITTLE MORE GENERAL INFO, IF THAT’S OKAY?

As the application progresses, find out if they have a car or require parking and how many people will live in the home. 

If there will be more than one adult living in the home it’s a good idea to process an application on each adult and ensure they are all listed on the Tenancy Agreement. Do they smoke or have pets? If yes, then the tenant should be advised of the landlord’s smoking and pet policies for the property. Asking about any criminal history should be handled delicately and with professionalism.

Don’t Forget to Check Secondary Resources

Aside from all of the above questions and information a landlord may look for, there are also other resources to allow landlord’s to review the suitability of an applicant. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other public records all provide insight into the type of applicant being considered.  

Reviewing tenant applications is complex and can be time consuming. Decisions should be made based on the information obtained and from the landlord’s perception of who would be best suited to the home. 

That said, caution should be used to ensure each application receives fair consideration and the decision is not based on any discriminatory criteria under Human Rights legislation. These include race, color, sexual orientation, marital status, disability and many more. 

Make sure to check with the provincial authority governing the community where the home is located for full details.

Take the Stress Out of Renting, Try Singlekey

No matter how many questions you ask, there’s always the risk of missing important information that could sway your decision. To assist in the screening process, Singlekey offers services tailored to each landlord’s needs. 

Contact us for more information today.