5 Best Questions to Ask Prospective Tenants

Your rental listing is working, and people are now calling you interested in your property. What do you do next?

Well, you probably understand just how important it is to have a qualified tenant occupy your Jacksonville, FL rental property.

There are so many more benefits in doing so.

First and foremost, the right tenant will take care of your property as if it was their own. Secondly, they will pay their rent on time every month. And thirdly, they will cause fewer issues.

As any successful landlord in Jacksonville, FL will tell you, a good screening process can make all the difference in the success of your rental business. However, for the process to be successful, you need to ensure that it is in line with the Fair Housing Act.

This means that every potential tenant must be given equal opportunity. For example, asking a potential renter what their national origin is or if they have a service dog is discriminative.

So, how do you safeguard yourself against potential bad tenants while adhering to the Fair Housing Act? Well, by asking the right questions.

5 Best Questions to Ask Potential Tenants in Jacksonville, FL

1. When do you want to move in?

The goal here is to check whether the timing is reasonable. If the potential tenant answers, “right away’, continue looking, as something may be off. For all you know, they could be facing an eviction.

Generally, when they tell you “a month or two from now” you know you are dealing with a responsible tenant. This is because Florida landlord-tenant law requires that tenants give their landlords reasonable notice prior to moving out.

This is usually 30, 60 or 90 days, depending on the terms of a lease agreement.

Also, they aren’t leaving their search until the last minute.


2. What is your reason for moving?

While it may sound rather obvious, it’s definitely a question worth asking a potential renter.

Now, there are a number of reasons why someone may want to move to another residence. The renter, for instance, could be looking to downsize after a divorce or separation. A tenant may also want to upsize after getting married.

Other reasons could be to live closer to a new workstation, or they just relocated from out of town.

That said, if the tenant is moving because he or she is suing their landlord, you might want to ask a few more questions. If their story doesn’t check-out you’re probably better off continuing the search.

3. What is your income?

Disputes between Jacksonville, FL landlords, and their tenants aren’t uncommon. But, do you know which dispute is most common? Well, it’s those that are related to rent!

The last thing you want is to rent to a tenant who has trouble paying rent. This question should be one of the first on your list. Remember, rent is the lifeblood of the rental business. For your rental business to be successful, its collection needs to be reliable and consistent.

The only way to know whether a tenant can afford rent is by getting of sense of their monthly income. Generally speaking, you want to look for a rental applicant that makes two to three times the monthly rent.

Suppose you charge $1,000 a month as rent. In such a case, look for a tenant making at least $2,500 a month.

Just asking them about their income isn’t enough. The tenant may have large amounts of debts sitting on their shoulders.

The only way to check the full financial status of a tenant is by running a credit check on them. This requires their approval, though.


4. Can you pay all move-in costs upon signing the lease?

This is an important question to include in your rental questionnaire. The chosen tenant must be able to pay the security deposit and first month’s rent prior to moving in. Whichever their reason, never accept partial payments. It’s a recipe for disaster. Always insist on being paid the full amount.

Allowing partial payments will most likely lead to rent-related issues in the future.

5. How many pets do you have?

Americans love pets. In fact, up to 68% of U.S. households have a pet, according to a survey conducted by the National Pet Association.

If you have a “no pet” policy and the tenant has a pet, move on. There would be no need to waste both of your time. However, if you accept pets, then take the tenant through your pet policy.


5 Questions Not to Ask Potential Tenants in Jacksonville, FL

Remember the Fair Housing Act we mentioned above? Well, according to this act, there are certain questions that are strictly no-no. The following are some good examples of questions you should steer away from.

* Disability

By asking a question like, “is this your service dog?”, your tenant may assume that you don’t rent to people with disability. Disability is a protected class under the FHA. You could, however, ask whether the animal is certified.

* Race

Whether black, brown, or white, a tenant’s skin color is none of your business. Race is a protected class under the fair housing rules.

* Children

By asking an applicant if they have children, they may take it to mean that you don’t rent to tenants with kids. What you could ask them instead, is how many occupants there will be.

* Religion

Again, religion is a protected class. Whether a renter is an atheist, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or a Christian, it’s doesn’t affect your choice. It shouldn’t be a qualifying standard.

* National Origin

Asking a prospective renter what country they were born is not recommended. As innocent as it may seem, national origin, just like religion, familial status, race, and disability, is a protected class.

There you have it. Five great questions to ask prospective Jacksonville, FL tenants, as well as what not to ask. A good screening process can be the difference between a successful rental business and one that is struggling.

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