Updated March 2022
Screening is an essential part of your business as a rental property landlord, but what you do during screening is even more important. One of the most important aspects of screening is knowing what to ask a tenant’s employer when you are verifying their income, job, and other facts.
Doing this ensures that you are setting both the tenant and your business up for success. By taking some time to verify that the prospective tenant can truly afford the property, you can avoid a lot of potential trouble down the line.
However, knowing what to ask employers and how to go about calling for this type of tenant employment verification can feel overwhelming. Where do you get started on this aspect of tenant screening? Learn what you need to know today with this straightforward guide from RentPrep.
Table Of Contents: What Questions To Ask A Tenant’s Employer
Tenant employment verification isn’t possible without knowing what, who, and when to ask the right questions. Where should a landlord begin this process? This table of contents will help you navigate to where you are stuck in this process.
- How Tenant Employment Verification Works
- What To Ask A Tenant’s Employer
- Employment Verification Video Guide: Learn More With RentPrep
- What Questions Are Off-Limits?
- Tenant Screening: Beyond Employment Verification
- FAQs: What Questions Can A Landlord Ask An Employer?
- Conclusion: What Can A Landlord Ask Employers?
Not all landlords are familiar with how to do tenant employment verification. This process isn’t complicated, but knowing the proper steps to take and the right questions to ask employers when making calls is essential.
Starting with the basics, let’s first run through the key things that all landlords should know about verification.
Tenant employment verification is the process of confirming that the tenant is employed and making the amount of income they reported on their rental application.
This can be done in a few different ways. Some landlords ask for bank statements or copies of W-2 tax forms. Others call the manager or HR department provided by the tenant, to speak with the employer directly for confirmation. Both techniques can be valuable, but the times when they are used varies.
The key takeaway when using either method is that you want to determine if the tenant is employed to the degree they initially reported. This will confirm whether or not they are a truthful individual while also showing they can afford to rent your unit.
Some landlords hesitate to call a potential tenant’s workplace because they don’t want to cross any privacy boundaries. It is vital to ensure you are not overstepping, but the provisions for working around this should already be part of your screening process.
Your rental application should have a section requesting signed consent for running a background check. Make sure your applicant has signed that before making any verification calls.
The background check can, and should, include making verification calls to the tenant’s employer as well as other listed references. By providing their consent to this check, the tenant agrees and understands that you may make these calls.
Many employers will want to see written consent from the tenant applicant before releasing employment details. The signed consent form from the rental application should be enough proof for the employer to give you the verification you seek.
Ideally, you will start the verification process right away once you receive a completed rental application. The sooner you get a unit rented to a reliable tenant, the faster you’ll be making profits for your business.
The best time to start calling employers during the screening process is after you have confirmed these basic things:
- The application is filled out completely
- The applicant has indicated they will be willing to follow unit rules (i.e., pet rules, etc.)
- Self-reported income information is a fit for your property
Once you have done these three things, you can move forward with the employer call screening. We recommend doing employer verification before a full background check. If a red flag arises during the employer verification, you can make a decision without processing a background check. Small time-saving practices like this can add up in the long run.
The simple answer is no. Employers and HR departments are in no way obligated to release information about their employees, and they may refuse to do so for legal reasons. Companies often try to protect themselves from potential privacy issues, and releasing employee info could fall into this category for some businesses.
In most cases, even employers with strict policies will at least verify employment dates. This makes it possible to confirm whether or not the tenant is employed where they say they are.
Even a straightforward answer of “yes, they work here” is all you need to achieve that confirmation. After all, that is an integral part of the screening process.
Now that you understand the importance and basics of completing tenant verification, it’s time to think about what to ask a tenant’s employer when you get on the phone.
Thinking ahead about what questions to ask the employer of a potential tenant is very important. Otherwise, you could end up asking inappropriate questions and wind up alienating the applicant altogether.
Remember, the company might ask you to contact them through a specific channel with documentation before providing any information. Be prepared before you make contact to record this information and act according to their company’s policies to get the information you seek.
When reaching out to a tenant’s employer, you will likely need to call a specific phone number or message a particular email address. Doing a quick search on the company before calling can save you time, as many large companies often have this information listed online.
If contacting a small or local company, you may be able to simply call the number the applicant provided and talk with their employer directly.
Think about what you want to say before you make the call. Writing down a short and simple script can make the process easier. Consider saying something like this when you make your initial call:
- “Hello, is this [reference name] I’m speaking to? I’m calling to verify some information about [applicant’s name], who applied to rent a property I own. Could I ask you a few questions?”
At this point, the reference will either agree to answer your questions or redirect you to the right contact point. From there, continue the process until you can ask your questions for employment verification.
The critical thing to keep in mind as you ask questions is your goal: What exactly do you want to know and why? Communicate this clearly to the reference so they understand the purpose and can confidently give the information you’re looking for.
Consider saying something like this after you have introduced yourself:
- “I’m calling to do a routine employment verification as part of our tenant screening process. We’d like to know [applicant’s name]’s job title, date of hire, employment status, salary/hourly wage, and if there is anything else that you think we should know about [applicant’s name].
Feel free to adjust that script to fit precisely what you need to know, but remember to keep the requests very clear. You can split these questions up individually if you prefer, but keep the content along those lines.
It’s also important to be prepared to tell the contact why you are asking for these specific points. Verifying income, for example, is critical to ensure that the tenant can afford the rent. Verifying employment length is suitable for establishing the stability of an applicant, while checking their job title ensures they were honest on their application.
Looking for some additional questions to ask when verifying employment for rentals? Look no further!
There are many ways to approach any call to verify employment. Try additional questions to see what is most comfortable for you. The following questions can be part of any call script you put together:
- Opener questions…
- Can I speak with the supervisor?
- Can I have your name, please? (HR)
- Applicant-specific questions…
- Is this the current employer of [applicant’s name]?
- Is the applicant a full-time or part-time employee?
- What is the applicant’s title at the company?
- What was their hire date?
- What is their hourly or annual salary?
- If they want proof of the applicant’s consent…
- How do you prefer I send you the signed rental application?
- Do I need to send that to the attention of anyone in particular?
- Do you require any other form I need to fill out?
- Follow-up questions…
- When will you be able to get that back to me?
- I emailed you a release yesterday and am wondering if we could complete the verification over the phone now?
Remember that many companies may only give limited information. It’s common for employers only to disclose the applicant’s employment status and their dates of employment. However, there’s no harm in asking for more information.
We’ve now covered a comprehensive guide on how to make tenant verification calls. Below is one of the videos of our CEO Steve White showing you exactly how to call a tenant applicant’s employer.
In addition to thinking about what questions a landlord can ask an employer, you also want to know questions to avoid asking when doing this type of outreach. Some questions are simply inappropriate, and it would be wrong for you to cross those boundaries.
Avoid asking anything that isn’t directly related to the applicant’s job and employment status. Asking about their relationships, home life, pets, and anything outside of work is inappropriate.
It’s OK to ask an open-ended question such as, “Is there anything else you’d like to share about this employee?” However, you should never push an employer to give you information beyond the scope of the applicant’s employment.
Though tenant employment verification is a big part of the screening process for many landlords, it’s not a requirement. You can verify employment and income through other means as well:
- Review W-2s, 1099s, or bank statements
- Ask to see recent pay stubs
- Ask for an offer letter or official letter from their work
- Run a complete credit or background check
Of course, going through these steps can be complicated. One way to save time and be more efficient in your tenant screening process is to hire a high-quality screening company.
Here at RentPrep, we have created screening services designed for the efficiency, accuracy, and ease that landlords need. Our income verification service, in particular, is great for landlords who struggle with the process of employment verification.
Don’t let frustration with phone calls and lengthy email processes keep you from ensuring that you choose the right tenant.FAQs: What Questions Can a Landlord Ask an Employer?
The primary questions to ask a tenant’s employer should focus on the potential tenant’s employment status, position, and income. Asking questions that have nothing to do with their job is likely inappropriate, and most landlords don’t find this a helpful tactic.
Primarily, you should ask about the following:
- If the applicant is employed with them
- What the applicant’s position is
- What the applicant’s salary or wage is
- What the applicant’s employment dates are
With this information, you can confirm that you were given accurate information and that the applicant has the necessary income to support living at the rental.
Leasing agents, who often do tenant screening work instead of the landlord, will ask the same types of questions. These questions focus on confirming employment status, position title, and income. If you take a closer look at the landlord questions to ask employers above, you can get a complete rundown of those questions.
Some tenants will worry about what a landlord can ask their employer, and applicants may even ask about your tenant employment verification process. Do you actually call the references they list?
Potential applicants should be reminded that when they give consent for the background check aspect of the application, this includes permission to call any listed references to confirm provided information. It is a well-known best practice for landlords to contact references.
The best questions to ask a tenant reference depend on the type of reference you are contacting. Most rental applications include the option for tenants to include landlord, employer, and character references.
When speaking with an employer, you want to verify the applicant’s employment, wage, and job status. If you call a previous landlord, ask about rent payments, communication, and any other rental-related topics. You may also want to confirm the address and tenancy length to ensure you are talking to the actual landlord.
The most intimidating reference to check is often the friend, family, or character reference. Personal contacts will be somewhat biased, but they can also provide a more vivid picture of what the individual is like.
When talking with this type of reference, it’s best to establish how they know the tenant and for how long. Then, ask more open-ended questions such as what the tenant enjoys doing for fun and their overall character.
Being overwhelmed by the employment verification process isn’t unusual. Many landlords find this process tedious, and they often are unsure of what questions to ask a tenant’s employer.
Now that you’re equipped with the right tools, you can make the employment verification process work for your business. If you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team to see what we can do for you.