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Top 5 Questions to Ask Potential Seattle Tenants [and What Not to Ask]

question-ask-potential-renters

It’s every landlord’s dream to get a good tenant. A good tenant is drama-free, clean, honest, creditworthy, respectful, responsible, and above everything else, is able to pay rent without issues.

Getting a good Seattle tenant is not easily a walk in the park. As a landlord looking for a new tenant, you need to do a lot. You need to verify the prospective renter’s creditworthiness, check their criminal and rental history, and more. Needless to say, the tenant verification process can be rather time-consuming.

To save time, you need to ask the right questions. The right questions will help screen the good renters from the bad immediately. In this article, we’ll discuss 5 questions landlords can ask potential tenants as well as questions landlords cannot ask.

 

5 Good Questions to Ask Prospective Seattle Tenants

tenant-screening-questionnaire

1.  “What’s your reason for moving?”

Tenants may want to move for various reasons. For example:

  • Moving due to changes in their relationship status.

Those getting married may be looking to move to a larger place, while those undergoing a separation or divorce may be looking to downsize.

  • Moving because they want to be located in a different neighborhood.

They may want to switch school districts, want to experience a new location or they may feel their current neighborhood has become unsafe.

  • Moving due to issues with neighbors.

For whatever reason, they may feel unsafe around a neighbor or may have noise complaints.

  • Tenants may move due to maintenance issues.

They may be tired of dealing with pest problems, leaky roofs, or clogged drains.

  • A renter might have to move because they are dealing with a job relocation.
  • If a tenant is looking for more space or less space they may also choose to move.

When asking this question to potential renters, you want to look for legitimate reasons for moving. Watch out for things like moving because of an eviction. A renter who has broken a lease term once is likely to do it again.

 

2.  “When do you want to move in?”

This is another question that you need to ask your potential Seattle tenants. It will help you learn more about them. Since most landlords require a 30-days’ notice to end a tenancy, a prospective tenant wishing to move in immediately may signal something suspicious.

That being said, there are certain situations that can cause a tenant to move in a hurry. For example, domestic abuse, a sudden job transfer, or a pay cut.

Otherwise, always look for someone who starts their search at least a month before moving in. Such tenants are likely to be responsible.

 

3.  “How much money do you make every month?”

When screening tenants, one important thing to look for is the tenant’s income. The income will show you whether or not the tenant will be able to pay rent without issues.

Generally, look for a renter whose income is at least thrice the monthly rent. That is, look for a person who is making no less than $3,000 a month if the monthly rent is $1,000.

Checking the renter’s income is, however, half the story. You will need to also check how much debt they have. To get such details, you need to run a credit check on them. This will, however, require the renter's consent.

 

4.  “Will you be able to pay the first month’s rent and security deposit upon move-in?”

In general, before exchanging keys, you should make sure that you have received the full first month’s rent and security deposit, as well as any other fees. A good example of a fee is a pet deposit fee.

When screening potential Seattle tenants, always make sure they have enough money up front to cover all initial fees. If a tenant seems hesitant to make a commitment, chances are their financial situation isn’t good.

Such a tenant is likely to cause problems if you permit them to move in and then pay the money later.

 

5.  “Do you currently have pets?”

Last but not the least in the rental questionnaire, ask the tenant whether they currently have pets. This can be a huge time saver. This is because if you have a “no pet” policy, it will immediately disqualify such a tenant.

However, if you allow pets, make sure they agree with your policies. Such policies may have guidelines that dictate the type, size, and weight of the pet allowed. Also, make sure they know the repercussions of not adhering to the policies imposed upon the rental or lease agreement.

For example, let them know that they risk being fined or even being evicted if they act contrary to the rules.

 

Questions Landlords Cannot Ask Potential Seattle Tenants

man-hand-holding-phone-coffee-cup-table

As a landlord, there are also certain questions that are illegal to ask potential tenants. Generally speaking, these are questions that that touch on Fair Housing Rules. The Fair Housing Act is a federal act in the U.S. that shields tenants from housing discrimination.

Simply put, the Act prohibits discrimination based on certain specific characteristics. In Washington State, for example, such characteristics include disability, familial status, national origin, sex, religion, color, race, sexual orientation, marital status, or gender identity.

Essentially, what this means is that you can’t ask potential Seattle tenants questions such as the following:

  • “Are you gay, divorced, or married?” 

    This is a question that touches on the renter’s familial status. Familial status is a protected class under the Federal Fair Housing Act.

  • “What is your first language?” or, “Where were your parents born?”

    Both questions are discriminative as they seek to know the renter’s national origin.

  • “Do you think you would fit in? There aren’t a lot of temples around here.”

    This question assumes a tenants spiritual and religious beliefs. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, a tenant’s religion should be none of your business.

  • “Your skin is dark. Are you sure that you’d feel comfortable around here?”

    You shouldn’t use a tenant’s color as a qualifying standard. It’s illegal.

Besides the Federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to ask a prospective tenant whether they have ever been arrested or not. You could, however, ask them whether they have been convicted of a crime.

Also, make sure you are up to date on the Washington State landlord-tenant law before carrying out any tenant screening questions.

 

Asking the right questions to prospective tenants will improve your chances of landing a good tenant for your Seattle rental property. On the other hand, asking the wrong questions can land you in legal hot soup. Hopefully, with this guide, you will be able to do the right thing and prepare you for questions to ask possible renters.

06-28-2018
Tenant Screening
06-28-2018

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