Checking References

The first time I screened prospective tenants, I wasn’t quite sure what to ask their references. I did some research on what others ask, and added some ideas of my own. I also found in Every Landlord’s Legal Guide that there are legal restrictions on what type of information you’re allowed to ask.

Some people I talk to are very talkative, and immediately volunteer shining reviews; in that case I don’t feel its necessary to go through the whole list of questions. Some people will ask me to fax a signed release (their application). And then, there was the guy who couldn’t get it through his head that I was a LANDLORD asking for a reference, not a TENANT… Usually getting references aren’t a problem, though 😉

For obvious reasons, I put the most weight on a person’s rental references. Here’s my list of questions that I ask a prospective tenant’s former and current landlords:

  1. Does he/she habitually pay rent on time?
  2. Do they abide by the house rules and non-monetary agreements made by the landlord?
  3. Do they get along with neighbors?
  4. When did he/she move in, and when will she be moving out (if known)
  5. Did they give advance notice when moving out? (if applicable)
  6. When he/she moved, did she leave the unit in good condition? Was full security deposit refunded? (if applicable)
  7. If they applied today, would you accept her?
  8. Any issues with pets?
  9. What type of unit (studio, 1-bdrm, 2-bdrm, etc.) and amount of monthly rent?
  10. Does tenant pay by personal check, money order, or cash?

I generally just verify that they are employed, that the monthly income listed on the tenant’s application is correct, and ask them if they have any other comments about the prospective tenant.

Banks are usually pretty restrictive in what they’ll tell you; I just verify that the prospective tenant does indeed have an account with them, and that it’s in good standing.

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2 thoughts on “Checking References

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  2. This is a great blog. Buying a duplex is a great way to build wealth. I have four of them as well as having flipped some. Recently I wrote a book and developed a software excel spreadsheet to guide people through buying a duplex or other multifamily property, living in one unit and having your tenants make your mortgage payment for you. This post on what to ask your tenants is very good, but I also include information on tenant screening services, how to find great tenants for little to no money, and how to make sure they pay the rent on time. I am not some real estate ‘mogul’. I’m just your average guy with some real estate on the side to fund my retirement.

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