"No Comment" to my landlord screening questions

19 Replies

This is my first time screening a tenant. I got the responses below to the my questions. Is this typical responses to screening questions? I'm just curious and do you have any suggestions? The property management didn't comment to most of of my screening question,

Did the tenant consistently pay rent on time? Cannot Comment due management policy

Did the tenant maintain the rental property well? Were there any major damages or maintenance issues? Cannot Comment due management policy

Did the tenant have any pets? Cannot Comment due management policy

Were there any complaints from neighbor or other tenants? Cannot Comment due management policy

Why did the tenant leave? Cannot Comment due management policy

Would you rent to this tenant again? Why/why not? Cannot Comment due management policy

ro

Ever called a last employer of a candidate in the corporate world? Same types of responses. In the litigious world we live in there are only problems that occur from oversharing. I do find it surprising that they didn’t respond about rent payments being on time.

@Rommel Pascual I have never run into that.

You could lookup who the actual owner of the previous property is in the public records and ask them. I bet they know the answers.

Also a good background check will tell you most of what you need to know. It will list any evictions, criminal, and credit to see how well they pay their bills.

If you meet with a prospective tenant in person try and get a look inside their car. If it is dirty and full of trash then this is likely how they also treat a rental property.

Did you call or did you send a questionnaire that was accompanied by a signed authorization from the prospective tenant to disclose info?  If they are totally uncooperative, which because of possible litigation is understandable, search of l/t court for your location will show if there was action(s) against them.

If the prospect is still living there, ask to do a home visit to see exactly how they live.  If they balk at that, think red flag.  @John Underwood makes a good suggestion about the car which I found works well also. 

One thing we do often, is CALL the previous or 2nd past landlord/manager.  If they balk at answering any of your screening questions, tell them, "ok, I understand you cant answer those questions...  but let me ask you this:  would you rent to them again?"

Silence, laughing, grunting or a HELL NO!  will tell you what you want to know.

Marc Winter, Real Estate Agent

I would consider the questions unanswered. Truthfully I don’t think I want to hear the convoluted multi subject woe is me story that is sure to follow. 

Whenever I hear

See here is the thing

Well actually....

The management company...

Can you work with me on the deposit

Can you make this one exception this one time .....

I know I will relatively quickly be in a long “ why things are the way they are for me ” story induced coma. 

I wouldn’t waste the time to give a answer because he didn’t give you one either. 

This tenant is most likely a problematic tenant. There is. I reason it to answer at least the majority of those questions 

Ask for a copy of the rent records.  That will show you when they pay, and YOU can determine whether that is "on time" or not.  It will show you repair deductions, so you can get an idea of whether the tenants were constantly breaking door knobs, doors, faucets, etc or whether the repairs look more like non-tenant caused problems like electrical or roof issues.  These records provide you a lot of info, and do not require the management company to give you opinions about the tenant that for legal reasons they would not want to give you.

One last thing, they are a private company that, as far as I know, has no legal obligation to provide you with any info at all.  So the fact that they responded at all should be appreciated.  If they are super nice, they may provide you with the rent records, and that is what I would try to get if I were you.

Max Gradowitz, Attorney

I assume this is a question you asked the previous landlord/manager for an application.

I've never had anyone say they can't comment, but they usually play it pretty close to the vest and will say something like "they are in good standing." But don't expect a complete history of their tenancy.

Thank you everyone for all the responses. I was able to get a secondary response from the property manager with a little more details to my questions. This particular property management team is new  and has just taken over the apartment where my prospective tenant stays. All the reference checks out so I'll be having a new tenant! Hopefully everything goes well. Wish me luck.

They’re problem tenants. No comment isn’t a good sign

Just my guess, but some pre-screening would most likely have saved you a lot of time here. 

With specific and qualifying questions in my ad that must be answered when responded to, I can whittle 30 inquirires down to 3 very fast.  From those 3, I can check FB, criminal and sex offender registry in 2 minutes. If that all checks out, they will receive a reply from me.  And we haven't even scheduled a time to see it yet.

It's unfortunate we get this mgt policy BS that doesn't help us qualify a tenant. I hate it, too.  I know the mgt co's that force me to sign stuff and put all ?s in writing. When they call looking for a reference I make them to a bunch of extra stuff, too.  Unless I really liked the tenant in question.  Then the delay only hurts them. It's the good tenants and applicants that get hurt by the red tape delays and stonewalling.

You must have a signed authorisation form by any applicant before you can do any screening. If you do not have it you can not pull a credit report which I am guessing you did not do.

"Wish me luck."   The only luck, if any, that exists in business is bad luck, all else depends on strict business practices......proper and thorough screening.

Previous landlords cannot defame a Tenant. They can only say if they paid rent on time or not. That is all. This is why they say no comment to most questions.

@Rommel Pascual - there are some threads here about tenants that trash your property, they aren't pretty. Be sure to go in with both eyes open. It is possible that the 'no comment' response is because of no experience for the property management company, but at the same time is it a red flag you want to rule out before taking these tenants on.

Lots of good suggestions mentioned here- checking out their car, their current apartment, etc.

Good luck!

@Rommel Pascual I have seen similar in the past and it seems to fall into four different buckets. Usually if you call them, they may be willing to share more "off the record". 

1. They don't have any records. Not necessarily a problem, either means they keep bad records or the tenant never lived there.

2. They have negative information and don't want to share it. Worst case situation, but often on the phone they will say more.

3. They are afraid of sharing negative information for fear they could be sued if their reference results in you not renting to them. I have had some companies that only share payment history, because any other question could be considered subjective. I

4. The don't want the tenant to leave, so not cooperating with you might prevent a vacancy for them. Lazy landlords will occasionally try to sabotage their tenants efforts to find a new place. I had a landlord tell me she only releases a reference after 30 days notice is given and last months rent is paid. 

@Matthew Rodriguez Previous landlords are permitted to make statements of fact. They may inform you if their tennat was demanding, difficult, arrogant, filthy etc. You are not restricted to only commenting on rent payment. If asked "would you rent to this person again" you darn well better answer honestly.

I am very forthcoming when a landlord calls and above all advise as to whether they should or should not rent to any individual...in my opinion. I believe it is my responsibility to insure that any landlord fully understands the type of individual they are screening.

"I had a landlord tell me she only releases a reference after 30 days notice is given and last months rent is paid."

That is a logical policy to have. I always ask landlords if my applicant has given proper notice and if they are breaking their lease. If they have not given notice or are breaking a lease I reject their application.

To me this feels like a no-brainer.  They didn't give you clear positive signals about this potential tenant so I'd take the results back to the applicant, show them the answers, and let them know you can't in good faith move forward with their application process due to an incomplete reference.  

A little off topic, but I used to work for an employment agency (for the agency) and made 100s of calls for job references.

Many employers will only state black and white facts, ie if the employee worked there, the time frames, their salary and title.  I could see the same being true for some LLs and PM companies.

My all-time favorite response checking a job reference?  Said in an absolutely incredulous tone by this person's former boss, "Candidate A actually gave my name as a reference?!?"  These were usually pretty boring, rote kind of calls.  But I almost fell out of my chair laughing at that one!

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