For landlords and property managers, meeting with prospective tenants in person serves two purposes. It allows applicants to view the property and ask any questions they have. It also lets landlords learn about potential renters and see if they're a good fit for the property.
Coming up with a consistent process for interviewing applicants will save you time and help you avoid accidentally engaging in discriminatory rental practices.
Step 1: Meet in person
Meeting the tenant at the property is an ideal situation. There may be times when you won't get to meet your tenant in person, like in situations where the tenant is moving from out-of-state. Both the landlord and applicant benefit from talking in person. The applicant can ask questions and can see exactly what the property offers. The landlord can get a good feel for an applicant's personality and can ask them questions in person.
Plus, there are non-verbal cues that you miss by only communicating through email, text, and phone. In person, you may be able to tell if an applicant isn't telling the truth or isn't really interested in the place.
Step 2: Get to know the applicant
Ask questions, just be sure that they are the right questions. The following questions can give you valuable information and alert you to issues that may come up in a screening report:
- Why are you moving?
- Do you have any pets?
- How many occupants will be living at the property?
- Will you be able to pass a criminal background and credit check?
- Can you provide the move-in costs upon signing the lease?
There are some questions that you should not ask., for instance any questions that could violate the Fair Housing Act, which protects renters against discrimination based on certain categories. The categories protect under the act are race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, and familial status. Be very familiar with Fair Housing Act before going into the application process.
Step 3: Follow up after the interview
Speed up the application process and reduce vacancy time by communicating with tenants after the interview. Tell them how to fill out the application and what fees are associated with it. If the application is online, make sure they have the link. Let them know how to complete a credit and background check (Which we highly recommend).
Modify this process to fit your needs, just be sure to be consistent will all of your applicants. Do you have an open house first? Collect information from your prospects and follow up with them one on one, or send them the link to your online application. Have an applicant who's moving from out of state? Consider using a service like Skype to interview them over the internet.
Good luck filling your vacancy!
Need more tenant screening tips? Get your copy of this Free Tenant Screening Guide