Existing Tenant Questions

14 Replies

Hi All,

First time poster here.  I am currently in the market for another rental property and I have extensive experience dealing with tenants that I have signed to lease agreements.  However, during my current property search I am struggling to find the right questions to ask of existing tenants when walking through a prospective property.

I have a keen eye towards property defect, but when it comes to exactly I should be asking of the current tenants of a property I am interested in: I draw a blank.  For starters, I typically ask how long they have rented the unit and what their feelings are towards the current ownership.

Does anyone have any other recommendations of good questions to ask to the tenants (assuming they are friendly enough to answer)?  My goal is to retain long term tenants in the multi-family properties and I do not want to pry into their business too much if I do end up becoming their landlord down the line.

Thank you in advance and I look forward to contributing my personal experiences everyone as well.

@Andrew Almenar  

"What do you like about this neighborhood?" - I like this question because you're considering buying a house in that neighborhood and, while you may know the neighborhood well (or even if you don't), its great to hear a tenant's perspective.

"What is the feature you like most in your apartment?", "What is the feature you like the least in this apartment". - You may get some pointers on what is good/bad and what some of the maintenance issues.

If you're just walking through, do you really need to disturb the tenants? I would assume small talk about the property is fine, but critical tenant information won't be necessary until after a contract is signed. I'd focus on the asset you're buying; tenants come and go, but you get what you get with the building.

You definitely want to get their perception of repairs needed to the home, which might be different from what you or the seller think it needs.

Repair / Maintenance history and experiences with the current owner is what I like to find out. If the current owner is managing and maintaining the property poorly, I have found that tenants will tell you about all the issues. This gives you info about the deferred maintenance and how to reasonably meet the current tenants needs (assuming you will inherit them). This can aid you in negotiations. I also ask about the neighborhood in general and specifically the immediate neighbors. I don't worry too much about the tenants personally. They will get vetted thoroughly after contract and prior to closing.

You could ask them about future plans to gauge if they plan on sticking around or if they are or could be in transition soon.

Andrew,

As a landlord myself, I too deal with tenants.  As you know, tenants can be a real pain.  Before hiring a property manager, I would ask for income statements, credit, references, deposits etc.  To get a gauge on how long they are going to stay, just ask them.  Because you may want to tie the lease in for two years.  However, this may be tricky because they may transfer out of state with employment ladders among other reasons.  My opinion, your lucky to keep someone there for two years.  Even though I'm a Real Estate Agent In Corona, I still see value in another realtor doing the dirty work!  ;)

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Thanks for the valuable feedback and recommendations all.  I do agree Wendy, asking what their favorite features are of the units can provide good info when considering marketing strategies should the tenant move on as well.  

What do you like best about the house?

What do you like least about the house?

What one thing would you change about the house if you could?

If they can't find anything good to say about the house, I'd take the other answers with a grain of salt...

Originally posted by @Ryan Holtz:

As a landlord myself, I too deal with tenants.  As you know, tenants can be a real pain.  Before hiring a property manager, I would ask for income statements, credit, references, deposits etc.  To get a gauge on how long they are going to stay, just ask them.  Because you may want to tie the lease in for two years.  However, this may be tricky because they may transfer out of state with employment ladders among other reasons.  My opinion, your lucky to keep someone there for two years.  Even though I'm a Real Estate Agent In Corona, I still see value in another realtor doing the dirty work!  ;)

A few words in your post struck me as an indication as to why you may be "lucky to keep someone there for two years."  Considering we too want good tenants to stay in our property for a long time, we have a different approach to customer service.

We don't "deal" with tenants... we "serve" tenants. 

We don't see tenants as "a real pain"... some may challenge us, but they also at times help us discover something lacking in our approach, policies and procedures.

We don't "tie the lease in for two years"... we use month-to-month rental agreements and  provide the best accommodations and customer service we can. The tenants will determine how long they will stay and when they will leave, whether or not we have a longer term lease. Also, with the short term of MTM, we have many more options available to us, for changing the terms of the rental agreement and for encouraging a tenant to move out on their own if the tenancy isn't working for us.

We don't consider landlording to be "dirty work"... we consider it a privilege and we are passionate about it. We have an opportunity to not only provide good housing for responsible renters, but we also have an opportunity to contribute positively to the community. The benefit for us? A sound investment and the joy of realizing we too can make a difference.

Our longest term tenants? 26 years and 24 years (both of which live in one of our multi-family properties). Several more have been our tenants for 5 - 10 years. If we do effective tenant screening, provide a good product at a good value and give great service, we can expect tenants will stay at least 5 years and probably much longer. Our experience? We own and manage our own properties... 15 residential units... with only two evictions in the past 19 years. One of the properties is an 8-plex that we bought with all tenants in place. It didn't take long to establish our new way of doing things at the property. The good tenants  stayed, the marginal tenants learned how to be good tenants and stayed, and the others chose to move on their own.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard:
 The tenants will determine how long they will stay and when they will leave, whether or not we have a longer term lease. Also, with the short term of MTM, we have many more options available to us, for changing the terms of the rental agreement and for encouraging a tenant to move out on their own if the tenancy isn't working for us.

We don't consider landlording to be "dirty work"... we consider it a privilege and we are passionate about it. We have an opportunity to not only provide good housing for responsible renters, but we also have an opportunity to contribute positively to the community. The benefit for us? A sound investment and the joy of realizing we too can make a difference.

Our longest term tenants? 26 years and 24 years (both of which live in one of our multi-family properties). Several more have been our tenants for 5 - 10 years. If we do effective tenant screening, provide a good product at a good value and give great service, we can expect tenants will stay at least 5 years and probably much longer. Our experience? We own and manage our own properties... 15 residential units... with only two evictions in the past 19 years. One of the properties is an 8-plex that we bought with all tenants in place. It didn't take long to establish our new way of doing things at the property. The good tenants  stayed, the marginal tenants learned how to be good tenants and stayed, and the others chose to move on their own.

Marcia,  thank you for sharing your experience.  I know for me, starting out, offering superior service is exactly how I try to differentiate myself from other options tenants may have.  I like to think that my tenants know I don't treat them as another paycheck but ultimately want them to be able to achieve their goals as well.  However, like you mentioned we all have come across some tenants that we wish acted better.  You mentioned you have some other options that encourage some of those difficult tenants to move on their own.  Can you elaborate on that? 

Similar to your 8-plex experience, I am actively pursuing a 1031 exchange to 'upgrade' my 4-plex to another similar or larger property.  With that, I expect to inherit some tenants and learning what has worked best for others would be greatly appreciated.

@Marcia Maynard  Great approach and perspective to being a landlord.  I completely agree.  If only other LLs took this approach, they wouldn't have all the headaches they complain about.  Thank you for sharing your insight.

@Andrew Almenar   You'd definitely be wise to listen to LLs like Marcia and take other LLs, that do nothing but complain about tenants, with a  grain of salt.  Best of luck to you!

@Andrew Almenar  Great question, thanks for starting this thread!

I don't usually do interior inspections/walkthroughs because my investing is all done out of state. I think a great question combo to ask is: 

   What originally made you decide to move into the house/unit in the first place?

   So are you happen with that decision? Why?

@Marcia Maynard  Thanks for sharing your tips and views on how you operate your business. I completely agree as well. We do MTM rental agreements on all our properties and people stay because they want to.

Originally posted by @Andrew Almenar:
Marcia,  thank you for sharing your experience.  You mentioned you have some other options that encourage some of those difficult tenants to move on their own.  Can you elaborate on that?

At first, we try to save the tenancy by meeting with the tenants and explaining our mission, vision and values again. We also re-visit the rental agreement with them and make it explicitly clear what they need to do if they want to stay and what we are prepared to do if they don't abide with the agreed upon terms.  We make more site visits and more frequent inspections until we are satisfied they are back on the right track. Then we show them our appreciation by word and deed.  

If they seriously derail and it isn't working for us we let them know it's time we make a move-out plan. One thing we have available to us in Washington State is the ability to use a 20-day "no cause" notice. This makes it quick and easy for us to move forward. However, if it is an issue on non-payment of rent, we always use the 3-day notice. If they don't move on their own, with the assistance of our eviction attorney, superior court judge, and sheriff, they will be "put out" within 30 days.

Also, take a listen to BP podcast #83 for some more of my ideas.

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