Checking landlord references is an important part of any screening process. When you’re reviewing a tenant’s application, you will likely conduct the credit check and the criminal history check first, and if those things check out, you’ll verify employment and income. Then, it’s time to consider the applicant’s rental history.
There are a few important questions to ask when you’re talking to current and former landlords. We suggest that you do a little extra research to ensure you’re talking to a landlord or a property manager. Tenants with terrible rental histories have been known to provide the names and numbers of friends and family members to prevent you from talking to their actual landlords.
Discuss Rental Payments
A former landlord can tell you if your prospective tenant paid rent on time. Be sure to ask if rent was ever late, and if the landlord ever had to serve a Notice to Vacate or begin eviction proceedings. A late payment once or twice in a history of otherwise on-time payments is usually okay. You can ask if the tenant paid a late fee and was cooperative if rent was uncharacteristically late. If the landlord tells you that rent was always late, you’ll want to reconsider renting your home out to this applicant. That’s a tough habit to break, and you don’t want to be chasing down late rent every month.
Ask about Property Damage
Normal wear and tear is something that most tenants will create in the homes they rent. It’s expected. However, property damage beyond regular wear and tear is something of concern. Ask the landlords you speak to if there was any damage left behind. If the tenant had a pet, find out if the pet did any damage. You can ask if the tenant received his or her full security deposit back, or if deductions were taken. If there were deductions, find out what they were for and if the tenant disputed them.
Find out if the Lease was Followed
Lease enforcement is an important part of being a landlord, so ask if the tenant did a good job of fulfilling the rental agreement. You can ask if there were any unauthorized residents at any point or if the landlord discovered that the smoking or pet policies had been violated. Ask if proper notice was given before the tenant vacated.
The Most Important Question
The one question you absolutely must ask during landlord reference checks is this: Would you rent your property to this tenant again? If the landlord says yes, that’s obviously a great sign. If the landlord says no, find out why and decide if those reasons are things you can live with.
These are just some simple tips that can help you decide what to ask a landlord when you’re conducting reference checks during the screening process. Make sure you take this step so you can be certain that you’re placing a tenant who will perform according to your expectations.
If you need help with any part of the Austin screening process, please contact us at AustinVestors. We’d be happy to assist you.