As every Orlando landlord knows, screening potential tenants are of utmost importance. Most problems during a lease can be traced back to the screening process. If the process isn’t done the right way, problems will almost always arise during the tenancy.
To avoid tenancy problems, you need to ensure that the renter screening process is thorough. Tenant screening questions assess the renter's likelihood of fulfilling lease terms. Lease terms include paying rent on time and taking care of the property.
Typically, a well-done rental advertisement attracts a smorgasbord of applicants. To save time weeding through such applicants, it’s important to prescreen them. Prescreening tenants will help you weed out the ones who are not likely to rent the property.
One effective way of prescreening your potential tenants is through asking certain questions. In this article, we will look at the questions to ask potential Orlando tenants and the questions you cannot ask.
Top 5 Questions to Ask Potential Orlando Tenants
- “When do you plan on moving in?”
This is the first question that every landlord should ask a potential Orlando tenant when they first call or e-mail you. Check to see whether their timing is reasonable or unreasonable.
Reasonable timing, for example, is after 30 days. This is because most Orlando landlords require tenants to give them a 30-days’ notice before they move out.
Unreasonable timing, on the other hand, is when a tenant wants to move in almost immediately. It is possible that the tenant is currently facing an eviction. However, special circumstances do exist. For example, a sudden job transfer or domestic abuse.
- “Can you pay for the full first month’s rent and security deposit upon signing a lease?”
Move-in costs include the full first month’s rent and security deposit, as well as any other fees. If a renter is hesitant to make a commitment or wants to make partial payments, consider it a red flag. Continue looking.
On the contrary, if a renter is willing to pay everything in full at move-in it likely means that their finances are in order. You’ll expect to have an easier time collecting the monthly rent from them.
- “Do you currently have any pet?”
Asking this question to prospective tenants will qualify or disqualify a tenant immediately. If you have a No-Pets policy and the tenant has a pet, stop further rental questionnaire.
If the renter adheres to your No-Pets policy, then continue with your pre-screening questions. Let them know what your pet guidelines are. Usually, pet guidelines dictate the type, number, breed, and weight of the pet.
In addition to this, use this opportunity to tell the potential renters whether or not you charge a pet deposit. If you do, don’t forget to tell them the specific amount. This will help avoid confusion during lease signing if they make it to that point.
- “Do you think you can pass a background and credit check?”
A background check helps landlords know whether the renter has a history of evictions. When looking for a new renter, the reasons for conducting a background check are numerous.
One reason is, it helps reduce the risk of an eviction. The second reason is, you get to confirm the information of the applicant. Another reason is, you get to protect your property as well as the neighborhood.
A credit check, on the other hand, will help you verify the tenant financially. You will be able to see the loan amounts, accounts up for collection, and bankruptcies.
- “Why do you want to move?”
If you ask this question to a prospective tenant, and they say “my landlord terminated my lease,” or “my landlord and I just don’t get along,” you may want to investigate. Find out more details from the landlord.
That’s why it’s important to ask potential renters for their former landlord’s contact information. You can look up questions to ask previous landlords.
Look for legitimate reasons for moving such as getting closer to their friends, family, or work; or moving to a better neighborhood, town, or house.
Questions You Cannot Ask Potential Orlando Tenants
By the same token, there are certain questions that landlords cannot ask potential Orlando tenants. These are questions that are either unfair or are ones that violate the Federal Fair Housing Act.
For the rental application to be fair to all applicants, you need to ask the same exact questions to all of the possible renters. If you fail to do this, you risk being accused of tenant discrimination. Try creating a tenant questionnaire form in advance.
For instance, it would be discriminatory if you only performed credit checks on tenants of a certain ethnicity. While there is nothing illegal about performing credit checks, it’s wrong if it’s done selectively.
Another example is asking different questions depending on how well potential tenants have dressed. It would be discriminative to ask people who are not necessarily well-dressed, questions about their criminal convictions or eviction history, but overlook such questions when it comes to well-dressed people.
Questions that violate the Federal Fair Housing Act could also land you in legal trouble. The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination on the basis of specific characteristics. For example, on race, children, and disability.
In terms of race, it is illegal to ask a renter questions regarding their race. According to the act, a tenant’s race shouldn’t be used as a qualifying standard in an Orlando rental application.
For children, it is illegal to ask a tenant questions about familial status such as, “How many children do you have?” This is because familial status is a protected class under the act.
Simply put, it’s illegal to ask it. You are, however, allowed to inquire about the number of occupants who will be living in your Orlando rental property.
Also, with regards to disability, it is illegal to ask a renter questions like, “Do you have a service animal?” The prospective renter may interpret this to mean you discriminate against disabled persons. That being said, if you don’t allow pets, you can ask the renter about the pet’s certification status.
As every Orlando landlord knows, the purpose of tenant screening is to select the right tenant for their property. While it’s important for the process to be as thorough as possible, it’s equally important to ensure that no tenant is discriminated against.