Tenant Screening Questions You Should Ask Potential Tenants

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Accepting a tenant into your property can be a lengthy, involved process. Then, after getting the rental property ready, setting the price and advertising your rental, you must narrow the applicants down to a single renter. And what if you choose the wrong one? You don’t want to get stuck trying to cope with a difficult tenant and asking the right tenant screening questions can help.

The more applicants you have to choose from, the greater your chances of finding the right tenant for your property, but there are risks too: you don’t know who any of these people are, and must properly assess them all.

Why Screening Matters

By screening tenants with a set of targeted questions, you can reduce not only the risk of choosing a bad tenant, but also the mental and clerical effort of assessing every tenant who applies.

Tenants will apply through various avenues, and by using a questionnaire or online survey, you can be sure all tenants will be routed to the same range of questions. You can use their responses to remove undesirable tenants from the pool, giving you a more refined set of tenants to choose from.

Key Questions to Ask

Regardless of the method of screening you choose, before welcoming a stranger into your property you should ask questions to gauge their suitability as a tenant. Renting to a bad tenant can cause property damage in the future.

Here are the top questions you should consider as a landlord:

1. Do you agree to a credit or background check?

These checks require written consent from the tenant before they can be performed; and if you wish to get a good idea of a tenant’s finances, you should definitely ask.

This question is typically included as part of the privacy statement on the application form, allowing the tenant to give written consent by signing the form.

2. How long have you lived in your current residence?

If a prospective tenant has rented from another landlord for a long period without issue, there is a high probability that you’ll also have no issue with them as a tenant.

On the other hand, a tenant’s answer to this question could reveal them as a trouble-maker that you shouldn’t rent to. Allowing you to avoid tenant conflicts.

3. Are you currently employed?

Asking about a tenant’s employment status is another way for landlords to ensure they’re financially stable and make enough money to pay their rent reliably.

A property’s affordability will always be an important factor for all parties and, ideally, a tenants rent would not be more than 30% of their monthly income — though this shouldn’t be the sole decider of a tenant’s suitability.

4. Why are you planning to move, and when?

If a tenant has an urgent need to move, or is in a rush to assume residency, you should make sure it isn’t due to eviction or a conflict with their old neighbors or landlord.

Their reasons could be harmless, but it could be a sign that they’d cause undue stress for yourself and your existing tenants. This question could help you to spot a nightmare tenant.

5. Have you ever been evicted from a property?

A yes here shouldn’t end a tenants chances outright: even if there is a past eviction, the fault might be with the previous landlord, or have been due to a change in ownership.

The goal here is just to get a more complete idea of the tenant’s history, to assess whether they’re a good fit for yourself and any existing tenants or neighbours.

6. How many people will be living in the property, who are they?

Different kinds of tenant bring different benefits and issues. Some tenants will rent alone, others will rent with their family or friends. Sometimes though, a tenant will turn your property into a gathering place for strangers and undesirables.

Setting limitations on the number of occupants can help to prevent overcrowding and other issues, such as complaints from neighbours or unauthorized subletting.

7. Do you or other intended tenants smoke?

Smoking is a common habit, and you must consider the impact on property upkeep and other tenants. Not everyone can tolerate cigarette smoke.

If other tenants are asthmatic or have breathing conditions for example, renting a unit on the property to a smoker can cause serious trouble.

8. Will there be pets on the property?

If your tenant is a pet owner (or plans to be) you might need to include extra responsibilities in the tenancy agreement. You should ask about the pet’s temperament and their care requirements.

The thought of pets on your property may make you uneasy, but pet-friendly rentals have several advantages. It can be a good idea to meet pets too, to get an idea of their suitability first-hand and ensure they’re in good health and well taken care of.

9. Can we talk to your previous landlords or employers?

Direct communication with people who know the tenant can be an invaluable resource. Ensure that you take your time to ask them important questions relating to the prospective tenant’s reliability and attitude.

10. Do you have any questions for us?

You shouldn’t be the only one asking questions. Good tenants will ask questions to ensure that you and your property are a good fit for them and their needs as well.

Accommodating questions in and open and forthright way can show renters that you have nothing to hide, and make it easier for them to answer your questions in the same spirit.


The benefits of making your property available for rent are undeniable, additional income for example, but it can also be a problematic undertaking. Introducing strangers to your property, and your life, can be scary. There are ways to avoid trouble though, and it’s worth considering the advantages of hiring a professional property manager.

Successful tenant screening questions are a vital strategy when seeking quality occupants, and helps to minimize potential risks. By asking the right questions you can verify the quality of renters and increase your chances of finding the best tenant for your property.

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Marla Coffin

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