Whether it’s for a job or a rental property, collecting a previous landlord reference from applicants is a critical step.
There are 5 important questions that current landlords should be sure to ask an applicant’s previous landlord.
A table of contents for questions to ask the previous landlord:
- When did the tenant’s lease begin and end?
- What amount of rent did the tenant pay?
- Did the tenant pay their rent on time?
- How well did the tenant take care of the property?
- Would you rent to the tenant again?
The list above is clickable and will scroll you down the page for further information.
The video below will also cover these questions in a mock phone call.
When did the tenant’s lease begin and end?
This gives landlords a general timeline of how long the previous landlord interacted with the applicant and how recent the information is. Ideally, landlords want a previous landlord reference based on a relatively recent time frame to get the most current information. While any previous landlord reference can help a landlord make a decision, the most recent information is better.
What amount of rent did the tenant pay?
Asking this question helps landlords compare and contrast whether the tenant would be comfortable with the amount of rent currently being asked for in the new place. If there is a big discrepancy, landlords should take extra precautions to confirm that the tenant’s income can cover it.
Did the tenant pay their rent on time, and if not, how many times were they late?
Of course, this answer is a big clue into the most important part of screening a tenant. Landlords can learn a lot from a previous tenant’s records on paying rent, and get a good idea from the previous landlord about how common such incidents actually were. Punctuality with past rent payments is an excellent way to gauge how payments will be timed in the future.
How well did the tenant care for the rental property?
A previous landlord will be all too happy to share stories about any problems encountered with the care and treatment of their rental property. Respecting the property is a big deal to all landlords, and if there were a lot of issues with the tenant about the condition of the rental property after the tenancy, it is valuable information and can help a landlord make a decision on an applicant.
Would the landlord rent to the tenant again?
This is the most important question that a landlord can ask a previous landlord, because it takes the sum of all the interactions, rent payment process, interactions and more and puts it into a single word. If the previous landlord says that they would, it means that the tenant was positive and profitable enough to be considered again. If the previous landlord would not rent to the tenant again, it signals that renting to that tenant is not a good financial decision in the long run.
Landlords that are doing a reference check with previous landlords should make sure that they do a thorough job in their questioning, because what they discover about the applicant can reveal a lot more about how they will behave than even an employment background check or hearing what other references have to say.
Of course, even a glowing recommendation from a previous landlord doesn’t automatically mean that the tenant will be problem-free, but when taken into consideration with a host of other screening steps, it puts landlords in the best possible place to decide whether or not to offer a lease. Gauging renter responsibility is difficult, but a previous landlord reference is the best tool that a current landlord has in figuring it all out.
Landlord Note: The video above is one instructional video on making income verification calls.
We have scripts and two more videos on how to call a tenant’s references. Learn what you should know when calling a tenant applicant’s employer as well.
Smart landlords perform tenant screening on all qualified applicants and often this includes contacting previous landlords for references. The idea is to question the previous landlord and see what their relationship was like with the applicant.
Having such a valuable resource on the other end of the phone is a rare opportunity to get an honest look at the applicant’s rental history. A previous landlord’s insights can really shine the spotlight on how the applicant might be as a tenant. When it comes to tenant screening, landlords should not waste the opportunity to check in with previous landlords.