Whether you’re renting out a property for the first time or have been a landlord for years; or letting a house in the suburbs or a modern city-center apartment; it’s likely you’ll have similar concerns. And chances are those concerns revolve around one thing – your tenants.
Zoopla asked landlords to name the biggest worries about renting out a property, and, unsurprisingly, the three most common responses were all related to tenants.
- Finding suitable tenants (cited by 56% of respondents)
- Tenants looking after the property (55%)
- Tenants paying the rent on time (47%)
However, it’s possible to ease these headaches before you encounter them by finding out more about prospective tenants before you allow them to move in or working with Chancellors to help you find suitable renters.
Referencing and credit checking will do some of the legwork for you, but there’s much to be gained from simply asking the right questions. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the ten rental questions to ask tenants and explained how they’ll help you to find better, more reliable renters with Chancellors.
What does the ‘ideal tenant’ look like?
Every landlord wants good tenants, but they might disagree on the specifics of what makes a tenant ‘good’ in the first place. If you don’t know what answers you’re looking for from prospective tenants, it becomes much harder to establish what questions you should be asking.
While you might wish to add to this list, the most essential characteristics in a tenant are as follows:
- Monthly income at least 5 times higher than the rent you’re charging
- Good credit score
- Steady history of employment, without regular upheaval
- Complimentary references from previous landlords and current employer
A lot of these difficulties can be removed by working with Chancellors as we offer a Tenant Monitoring service, which provides monthly ongoing credit monitoring of you tenants throughout the tenancy. This helps us to reduce the risk of issues arising from tenants who have a deteriorating financial status that you may not be aware of when they first view the property or even over the course of their tenancy.
What rental questions should you be asking?
Once you understand exactly what you’re looking for, you can plan out your list of rental questions to ask tenants. As above, you may wish to expand the following list, but we believe each of these questions is essential to helping you lay the groundwork for a positive landlord-tenant relationship.
1. Why are you moving?
This simple question can be key to unlocking a host of useful information about your prospective tenants and their past behaviour. In many ways, it’s more useful than asking outright whether they’ve previously been evicted, had rows with their neighbours, or fell out with their landlord.
There are far too many positive reasons for moving house to list here, but some of the most common include:
- Moving to a new area
- Looking for more space
- Wanting a house with a garden
- Cutting down the length of commute
Of course, you shouldn’t take these answers as gospel. However, legitimate their reasons for moving may sound, be sure to seek verification from their current landlord.
2. How long have you lived at your current property?
Despite all the negative stories we hear about unruly tenants and greedy landlords, the fact remains that people typically stay in their rented properties for much longer than the length of their original tenancy agreement.
According to the latest English Housing Survey, the average length of a tenancy in the private rental sector stood at 4.1 years in 2017-18, up from 3.9 years in 2016-17. If a potential tenant has moved around significantly more than this, there’s a fair chance that they’ll do the same in future.
However, be sure to dig down into the reasons they’ve moved around so much. Perhaps their career previously forced them to relocate frequently, but now they’ll be staying in one place for the long term.
3. When are you looking to move?
On the one hand, you probably want the answer to be “as soon as possible”. If you’re looking for new tenants, it stands to reason that you’re facing an empty house in the not-too-distant future, and you don’t want to be left without anyone to pay the rent for an indefinite amount of time.
However, on the other hand, potential tenants who are desperate to move in tomorrow should be treated with caution. They may have entirely legitimate reasons for their haste, but equally, it could be a sign that they’ve broken their last rental agreement – or may even have been evicted. Again, do your background checks to find out,
4. Do you have pets?
This one’s pretty simple. If you don’t want tenants with a pet, just ask this question upfront to rule out unsuitable candidates.
However, while we’re not here to convince you otherwise, it’s worth noting that 49% of UK adults own a pet, so you’re significantly limiting your base of potential tenants by refusing to allow pets.
Because Chancellors is part of the Dogs Trust’s Lets With Pets scheme, we can talk you through the practicalities of offering pet-friendly rentals.
5. How is your relationship with your current landlord?
When asking this question, you should be less interested in what your prospective tenants say, and more interested in how they say it.
Most often, they’ll either say the relationship with their current landlord is fine, or air some minor grievances about slow repairs or lack of communication.
What’s more useful is the body language. We’re not saying you need to be an amateur psychologist, but if they seem uncomfortable when answering this question, it could be an indication that they have something to hide. This isn’t a definite red flag, but it’s at least a sign that you should dig a little further.
6. Have you ever broken a rental agreement?
It’s fair to say that if a prospective tenant has broken a rental agreement in the past, you should have cause for concern. While not a definite sign that you shouldn’t rent to them, it at least shows that you need to probe deeper. For instance, if unruly neighbours forced them to look for a new place to live, this isn’t necessarily an indication that they’d make a bad tenant. Whatever they say, you should verify their answer with their current landlord to get a full picture of events. It’s worth keeping in mind, Chancellors operates a Rent Guarantee Scheme as part of our standard Landlord Property Management Services – so if your tenant does not pay the rent, we will.
7. Will your employer or former landlord provide references?
This is very much an open-and-shut question. If a potential tenant is happy to provide references, it means they’re fine with you verifying their employment status, income, and behaviour in their current property. In other words, it’s less likely they’re trying to keep something from you.
If they aren’t prepared to offer references, this is a definite red flag, and we’d advise against offering them your property.
8. What is the most important feature/area to you in a property?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but asking it can help you find out more about their personality, likes and dislikes – and whether or not your property will be suitable for them.
9. How many properties have you viewed in the area so far?
Again, there isn’t necessarily a right answer here. But if they’ve looked at a lot of local properties, it’s a good sign that they have a genuine affinity for the area, and that they’re looking to live there for a while. In short, it indicates that they might be open to extending their original tenancy agreement down the line.
10. Where do you currently work (and do you like it)?
It’s not difficult to find out where a prospective tenant works. If they’re serious about moving into your house, they’ll give you the details anyway as part of the referencing process. By asking this question, you’re looking for more than just the name of an employer; you’re trying to gauge how happy they are at work. If they enjoy their current job, it’s less likely that they’ll storm out on a whim and then struggle to pay their rent.
Managing your property with Chancellors
Of course, finding a good tenant is more than just asking ten questions. If you are a landlord choosing to deal privately with a tenant, you enter into a contract with legal requirements and possible penalties for non-compliance, which can entail fines or even imprisonment. Chancellors can take care of all of these responsibilities on your behalf via our managed service.
Chancellor’s database currently has over 60,000 people looking for a property*, so it is likely that we have a suitable tenant for you who’s already on our books. We also advertise properties on more than 40 online portals so your property gains as much exposure as possible.
If you’d prefer to enjoy the benefits of being a landlord without the hassle, why not take advantage of Chancellor’s Property Management service?
At Chancellors, we have dealt with the needs of landlords for many years, therefore you can rest assured that your property is in good hands. With the help of a range of trusted specialists, we work to ensure your property is maintained to the highest standard and that the tenancy is successful for both you and the tenant.
As part of this service, Chancellors take ownership of a number of your landlord responsibilities, communicating with you and your tenant the whole time. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Ensuring you comply with ever changing regulations, including gas, electricity and furnishing safety.
- Arranging periodic property inspections to review any actions needed
- Taking care of any repairs and maintenance, keeping in touch with you with costs and progress.
- Looking after your property if/when it becomes empty, including cleaning and garden maintenance and dealing with post
- Organising and carrying out any necessary refurbishments during or between tenancies.
For more information, visit the Chancellor’s Property Management service page or get in contact now.
Are you trying to let a property? Chancellors can make your life easier. Find out more by reading our Guide to Landlords.