How to screen tenants before viewings

Sniff out time wasters: if you don't want to allow pets in your rental property, ask prospective tenants if they have any even before a viewing

Sniff out time wasters: if you don’t want to allow pets in your rental property, ask prospective tenants if they have any even before a viewing

If you plan to do your own viewings, it helps to ask the prospective tenant a few screening questions over the phone before they view. This will not only give you a better feel for the tenant, but it will also save your time and theirs: you can avoid wasted viewings by highlighting any deal breakers early on.

Some good screening questions to ask your prospective tenants are:

  • Why are they moving, and why are they interested in viewing your property in particular?
  • Are they already familiar with the area or is it completely new to them?
  • How long a rental contract are they looking for, and what sort of break clause would they be comfortable with?
  • Are they sharers, a couple or a family unit? Will there be children living at the property?
  • What kind of job stability do they have?
  • Do they earn sufficiently to cover the rent themselves? Do they receive benefits, or help from a guarantor?
  • Do they have pets? If so, what type of pet? (A goldfish might cause ever so slightly less damage than a pit-bull terrier.)
  • Do they smoke?

It’s unlikely that you will be able to cover all these points in your initial conversation, but you can at least ask the ones that are most important to you and then leave any remaining questions for the viewing. Even this initial conversation can give you a good gut feeling for the type of tenant they might be.

If there is something obvious about the location that could put tenants off, for example, if it’s far from public transport, it sometimes helps to set their expectations with a light remark. However, if the flat is lovely inside yet there’s a power station next door, you’re better off saying nothing and leaving them to weigh up the pros and cons for themselves.

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