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How to effectively screen renters with a tenant questionnaire

tenant questionnaire
By Marina Lovejoy-Black, Last Updated September 18, 2023

Renting out a property can be an incredible source of income and provide long-term stability for both you and your tenant. However, landlords can sometimes end up having a tough time with their tenants, which often results in arguments and evictions.

According to recent surveys, the top landlord concerns about tenants are:

  • Payment problems
  • Prior eviction history
  • Prior criminal history
  • Fraudulent information on application 
  • High maintenance 
  • Moves frequently

The best way to avoid renting your property to an undesirable tenant is by screening them using a tenant questionnaire (otherwise known as renter questionnaire). The questionnaire covers all of the important details about a potential tenant’s background, allowing you to reduce your pool of applications down to only serious and trustworthy individuals.

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tenant moving in

What questions should I be asking in a tenant questionnaire? 

Collecting enough information to be completely confident in your tenants is, of course, vital. However, it’s important to be careful not to take things too far and scare off amazing potential tenants with an entire booklet of questions. 

We’ve come up with the perfect concise and clear roster of questions that’ll get the job done as efficiently as possible for both parties. 

Basic Information

Short and sweet! This section will help you get a better understanding of both the motivational and logistical aspects of this potential tenant’s big move. 

  1. What are your motivations for moving?
  1. How long have you been living in your current residence?
  1. When are you able to move into your new residence?

Household Information

Of course, if you’re going to consider taking on a tenant, you’re going to need to know exactly how many people they’re bringing and the needs and habits of the entire household.

  1. How many people will be living with you in the residence?
  1. Does anyone that’ll be living with you smoke?
  1. Do you have any pets?
  1. How many parking spaces are required?
house for rent

Background Information 

The answers provided to these questions will aid in delving into the individual’s background, providing you with that extra layer of armour against difficult tenants.The more you know, the better informed you’ll be when it comes to selecting the tenant that will end up occupying your residence.

  1. Will you agree to a background and credit check?
  1. Are there any issues I should know about before I run a background check on all adults that’ll be occupying the residence?
  1. Can I contact your employer and former landlords?
  1. What is your monthly income?
  1. Have you recently filed for bankruptcy?
  1. Have you ever been convicted of a relevant crime?

Rental Details

Time to seal the deal! This final stage will give you an idea of the individual's means and capabilities when it comes to all things fees and future payments.

  1. Are you familiar with our rental application process?
  1. Will you be able to pay the application fee?
  1. Will you be able to pay the security deposit when you sign the lease?
  1. Have you ever broken a lease agreement?
  1. Have you ever been evicted?
  1. To the best of your knowledge, could anything interrupt your ability to pay rent?
  1. Do you have any additional questions?
keys in door

What qualities does a perfect tenant have?

Amazing! You’re ready to get going with your renter questionnaire and start screening your tenants much more efficiently than ever before!

However, before you start sending off your questionnaires, it’s vital that you have a deep understanding of the qualities to look for in an ideal prospective tenant in order to make the whittling down process just that bit easier. 

Monthly income of three times the rent cost

For most landlords, this rule is one that won’t ever budge, as it helps protect both the landlord and the tenant. 

By following the monthly income of three times the rent cost’ rule, landlords give themselves the best opportunity to find a tenant capable of paying the rent reliably and consistently without jeopardizing any other financial commitments. 

In turn, for the tenant, this ensures that they have the means to live comfortably with the remainder of their salary and aren’t struggling to fund their living expenses due to the rent cost absorbing the majority of their earnings. 

A clean eviction history

The average eviction cost in the US is usually upwards of $3,000, which is huge in comparison to the cost of an eviction report, which will run you just $8. 

Evictions don’t often surface in background checks, so it’s important to look into it separately. Selecting tenants with a clean eviction history is often a stellar preventative measure and can help steer you away from those who could possibly become repeat offenders. 

Good credit score

Along with income total, credit score is used to determine a renter’s ability to pay the due amount every month. 

A good credit score from a landlord’s perspective tends to be around 700 or above, so it’s best to select tenants within that range.

Positive reference checks from past landlords

Positive references from previous landlords can go a long way towards reassuring you that the potential tenant is the real deal.

A positive reference is usually the icing on the cake on a rental application and will help you make your final decision when it comes to selecting the ideal renter from the shortlisted, qualified candidates.

Steady employment history

This one is often towards the top of the list for many, as it’s more than reassuring to know that a renter has held stable and consistent employment in the past and won’t suddenly lose their job and be unable to pay the rent. 

Which tool should I use to create my tenant questionnaire?

When you’re ready to create your tenant questionnaire, you’ll need to find a tool to help you out. 

Unfortunately, a lot of standard tools, such as Google Forms, have a multitude of limitations that are likely to make the process incredibly time-consuming and difficult for everyone. 

That’s exactly where Content Snare comes in, making the process easier and allowing you to collect all of the information you need without any obstacles. 

Content Snare makes the information collection process a breeze for both yourself and your clients. You can create tailored requests from scratch to send to your clients or, to make things even simpler, you can browse through and use one of the pre-made templates from the gallery.

The process couldn’t be quicker and, with zero learning curve, you can send your first request off in minutes and let your clients start filling in their information. Your clients benefit from a smooth system allowing them to leave and return to the questionnaire without losing any data, meaning that there’s no ticking time bomb over their heads, which makes clients feel a lot more at ease. 

With its automatic email reminder feature, Content Snare delivers polite reminders to your clients regarding their progress and deadlines, making sure you get your content on time. Those days of working your way through endless email threads just to communicate with clients and collect their information are well and truly over!

We hope this post will be able to help towards the creation of the tenant questionnaire that finally puts an end to any renter catastrophes you may have been experiencing.

Are there any extra pieces of information you might need from a tenant that we haven’t included? Let us know in the comments below!

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Marina Lovejoy-Black

Marina is a bilingual writer, graduate and dedicated member of the Content Snare team. She acquired her passion for writing through years of extensive blogging experience, during which she created both casual content for her readers and promotional content for a variety of household names for sponsored campaigns. A technology aficionado, Marina now spends her time helping customers and prospects get the most out of Content Snare.