Checking landlord references is critical when vetting potential tenants. For one, you need to verify that they are who they say they are -- and that their application is accurate.
You also want to learn more about how they act as a tenant. What were their rent-paying habits? How did they get along with their neighbors? Did they maintain the property? These are all important to know before making your decision.
Are you currently looking to fill a vacancy at one of your rental properties? Make sure you follow up with each applicant's landlords -- and ask these six important questions.
1. Did they rent to ____, and over what time period?
You first want to verify that the tenant actually rented that landlord's property and for how long. You should also ask about the rent the tenant was charged (is it comparable to what you're charging?) and whether their initial application actually reflected the tenant's habits.
Did they put "no pets" but then were caught with a cat on-site? Did they say they had a job when it was apparent they were unemployed? Try to feel out any red flags you might need to watch for.
2. What condition did they leave the property in?
This is a big one. What did the property look like after move-out? Was anything damaged? Did they clean the place or leave tons behind? Get the full scoop.
You should also ask about the condition of the home anytime the landlord went in for repairs. Did the tenant keep the place neat and orderly, or were there messes all over? This can give you a lot of insight into how they treat their properties.
3. Did they pay their rent on time?
Always ask about the tenant's rent-paying habits. First, you want to know if they ever missed a payment. If so, how many times? How late were they in those instances? Did they communicate about the issue or just leave the landlord high and dry?
You should also ask about their payment method (check, cash, digital, etc.) and the consistency of their payments. Did they always pay on the last Friday of the month, or was it spottier? This can help you assess how reliable they are.
4. Did they get along with the neighbors?
This one's incredibly important if you've got a multifamily building and tenants are packed closely together. How did the tenant get along with their neighbors? Did the landlord ever receive complaints about them or their unit (smells, loud noises, etc.)? Were the police ever called to the property on their behalf? These questions can all give you a good idea of how well they'd fit into your building or community.
5. Why did the tenant leave?
Find out why the tenant left the old property to begin with. Were they kicked out? Did the rent go up (and if so, how does that new rent compare to yours?) Did they lose their job or change industries? Whatever the reason, you want to make sure it's not indicative of a larger problem that could impact you.
6. Would you rent to them again?
This is the No. 1 question you need to ask: Would the landlord rent to them again if given the opportunity? Why or why not? If the landlord wouldn't rent to them again, get to the bottom of why. What were the biggest problems, and what do they wish the tenant had done differently?
The bottom line
Thorough tenant screening is vital to your investing business -- particularly if eviction moratoriums are still in place in your area. Need more help vetting potential tenants? Follow this tenant screening checklist or use these tenant screening tools.