Tenant screening questionnaire?

9 Replies

Does anyone use or has anyone considered a tenant questionnaire much like an employee questionnaire?  (Random internet sample)

I have had tenants making ten times rent who have trashed the place and I have had very marginal tenants who have been among my best.

I am moving into a market where much of the tenant pool will be marginal and am considering ways from distinguishing the good from the bad when they all have low income and limited credit history.

Landlords have suggested looking at how they keep their car, or asking "Do you consider not paying rent stealing?".  I think a questionnaire that gets at their moral compass might be a very interesting tool.

Thoughts?  Question ideas?

Thanks.

@William Hochstedler I uploaded both our Rental Criteria and Tenant Screening Questions into the BP File Place to share with the BP community. They have served us pretty well. I'm always open to improving our methods. 

The concept of screening with a moral compass tool is intriguing. I think it would be easy to do during the showing of the property, in a more casual conversational manner so the prospective tenant would be more candid with their answers. Also, for moral compass type questions an in-person interview would be best so both the verbal and non-verbal communication can be observed.  I'm with you on this one brother! Thanks for the idea.... it's worth exploring!

Marcia Maynard, Fischer Properties | Podcast Guest on Show #83

@Marcia Maynard

Your tenant screening doc is excellent.  I really like when we call your references, "what kind of recommendation will they give you?"

It's more of these qualitative responses that I'm getting at.

Perhaps throw in some tenant IQ questions like what is the most common cause of mold? Bedbugs? Ants? Mice? Etc.

Originally posted by @William Hochstedler :

@Marcia Maynard

Your tenant screening doc is excellent.  I really like when we call your references, "what kind of recommendation will they give you?"

It's more of these qualitative responses that I'm getting at.

Perhaps throw in some tenant IQ questions like what is the most common cause of mold? Bedbugs? Ants? Mice? Etc.

We rent to some folks who don't have experience in taking care of a house or an apartment and figure that if they don't know this stuff then it is okay as long as they are willing to learn. We ask questions upon move-in of this nature, not during the tenant screening phase. One of the questions we ask during their move-in orientation... "What would you do if you had a grease fire in a pan on the stove?" Then we follow with some information for them.... "Did you know when you buy a cooking pan in the United States it comes with a free fire extinguisher?"...pause... "It's called a lid." And then add more information for them on home fire safety. We cover other strategies for taking care of the home in our rental agreement and property rules, which we discuss in detail.

Back to your idea of the moral compass questions....I'd like to expand on that. Asking the prospective tenant... "What would you do if _________?" I hope some other BPers will chime in here. I'd like to see us develop a list of good questions that we could use to weed out trouble makers, yet still help us maintain a vibrant community of diversity.

Marcia Maynard, Fischer Properties | Podcast Guest on Show #83

Interestingly, this just crossed my desk:

http://www.extension.umn.edu/family/personal-finan...

Apparently, University of Minnesota Extension has a program where they offer a course to potential renters.  Extension has member landlords that will offer rent discounts to certified "good renters"

Certainly interesting, but I'd like to see if it really helps.

Would you be willing to fill out something like that?  Think about it.  

I, and anyone I know would be appalled if you handed me such a personal questionnaire.  I would run out the door.

You'll only end up with desperate applicants willing to play your game to get into your rental.  And they will just lie.

Seriously, think of how you would react or any of your friends or family.

And if you started asking me little quizzes about lids on my pans being fire extinguishers, I'd be seriously offended and think, "How patronizing!"

What landlords forget is to put yourself in an applicant/tenant's shoes. 

However, if you gave me a print out on how to put out fires, etc., I would not be offended. If you required me to carry renter's insurance, I'd have no problem with that.

You don't need to know about a tenant's morals.  You need to know if they will pay the rent and take care of your property.  The credit and background reports and income verification and previous references should tell you all you need to know.

@Sue K.  

I've never been a fan of those moral compass type employee questionnaires and we would never use such a questionnaire in our tenant screening.

However, we do query our tenants about basic household operations and provide them with an orientation (here is the main cut-off for the electrical; here is how you shutoff the natural gas; here is water shutoff; here is the fire extinguisher & here are the dates upon which you can go down the street to the fire station to learn how to use one .... ).  We have several student rentals and while these kids are all going to university to learn, most of them also need a course in household 101  {We have actually had a tenant call us when the fire alarm went off rather than the fire department ... and that was after she tried to reach her mother}

Medium greenapartmenthires 1024x1024Roy N., Louer Louer Ltd. | 1.506.471.4126

Originally posted by @Roy N. :

@Sue Kelly 

I've never been a fan of those moral compass type employee questionnaires and we would never use such a questionnaire in our tenant screening.

However, we do query our tenants about basic household operations and provide them with an orientation (here is the main cut-off for the electrical; here is how you shutoff the natural gas; here is water shutoff; here is the fire extinguisher & here are the dates upon which you can go down the street to the fire station to learn how to use one .... ).  We have several student rentals and while these kids are all going to university to learn, most of them also need a course in household 101  {We have actually had a tenant call us when the fire alarm went off rather than the fire department ... and that was after she tried to reach her mother}

 LOL, well you can't fix stupid!  I think a walk-through showing how to turn off water, etc., is normal and not insulting.  I did that, too.  But, you can't anticipate every possible scenario.  The best you can do is good risk management in your screening, give them basic info, and have insurance, really.

I've had rental property for about 12 years now and I'm shocked at all the issues I've heard of from reading on BP the last few months and from networking with other landlords more recently.  I guess I'm either very lucky or I'm good at getting an impression on someone if they will be a problem later or not.  I'm not saying I haven't had issues but nothing that bad.  I never rent to someone without meeting them and having them walk through the property with me.  I always stress this is NOT a party house, and I would rather have an empty house than a problem person.  I have a standard application and let them know I do not do a credit check but the background is very important to me because it is a family neighborhood, this is one of the best ways I do NOT rent to problem people.  It's always obvious to me when they do not want to fill out the app that they have some type of problem.  When someone does check out and it's time to sign the paperwork I stress that I try to be very easy to work with BUT they have to do the same for me.  I let them know I can make exceptions every once in a while on rent being a few days late IF they have good communication before hand.  I also always tell them they can text/call/email me with any problems about the house; I'd rather know about a leak and fix.  My ideas are if you treat someone with respect and nicely they will be the same with you.  Something new I am starting is leaving small thing of soap, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, salt, and pepper for them.  This costs me so little but it makes their move in much nicer.  If they are happy they won't cause problems and will pay rent on time or early!