Whether you are renting or setting up a home exchange, it’s important to know certain things about your tenant before deciding if they will become your tenant. Who will be staying at your property? What is their background? And will they be good tenants that take care of your home?
One of the benefits of the SabbaticalHomes.com community is that many people on the site have been referred by other academics and scholars and have been members for many years.
Members are motivated to do the right thing when becoming tenants since they will most likely have others staying in their home as well at some point. However, it is still crucial to be cautious, and it can be difficult to determine whether a potential tenant is suitable based on a few short interactions.
Along with contacting their references and confirming that the tenant is financially reliable, here are some key questions to learn whether a potential tenant is trustworthy and responsible – and most importantly, a good fit for you and your home. Many tenants also request references for their potential landlord. Part of the strength of SabbaticalHomes is the respect our members have for each other and the thought that goes into making a match.
1. Why are you moving from your current place of residence? Why are you traveling?
Begin with a simple conversation starter and build from there. Getting to know each other is the first step to making a match.
Understanding the reason why the prospective tenant is looking to move is a great way of knowing whether there were past issues that forced them to look for a new place. Most people on SabbaticalHomes.com will be looking for temporary housing for their sabbatical or project, but it is always smart to make sure that a tenant has not created problems with their previous living arrangements.
One good reason for someone to be looking for a temporary home may be the destination of their sabbatical, for example near a university where they will be working. If their goal is to find a writing retreat, that could be in any location across the globe. If the tenant is looking for a longer-term home in the same location, perhaps the tenant is looking for more space or to move closer to work to avoid a long commute.
Red flag answers will be ones that involve issues with previous roommates or landlords, and indications that they have been evicted from their previous place. Never take the answer here as the truth and always carry out a background check to further understand the potential tenant’s situation.
2. When would you like to move in?
Knowing when a tenant is looking to move in is also another crucial question, as this can quickly weed out any tenants that are not the right fit.
Sometimes, potential tenants will assume the move-in date that’s listed for the property is open to negotiation. As a result, asking this question will quickly identify those that are actually suitable to move into the property.
3. When are you leaving?
This is an important question to ask to gauge an understanding of your tenant’s intentions regarding the length of their stay. This is the time that you can set boundaries and create a common agreement in regards to if your tenant decides to extend his or her stay.
When you create your contract for you and your tenant to sign, it is extremely important to include the specific start and end dates as well as all of the rental or home exchange terms you have agreed upon together.
4. Will anyone else be traveling or living with you?
Gather more information from your potential tenant so that you get a clear picture of their travel plans and accommodation needs.
Having an idea of who will be staying in the property (in addition to the prospective tenant) is an important question to ask. It can quickly let you know if the number of intended inhabitants for the home is even feasible. Does it make sense given the size of the place? And more importantly, is it legally possible or are building codes or laws violated?
Knowing who else besides the prospective tenant will be staying in the property can help inform background checks and references that may be needed for the additional occupants.
Other questions related to this topic can be if they are traveling with young children or need other accommodations in a home.
5. Do you have any pets?
Establish what you are comfortable within your home and be sure to communicate your expectations early. Some buildings also have restrictions on pets and the number of pets in a given home or someone in your family may have an allergy.
If the property in question is not set up to have pets stay or one of your house rules is “no pets,” asking this question early can quickly eliminate any prospective tenants looking to bring their animals with them or can alert them that they may need to find an alternative place for their pet if they are planning a short stay.
If pets are allowed, then this question allows you to discuss any additional security deposits required for having pets live on the property. These deposits could include potential damage and deposits for any additional cleaning needed, and should be noted in any final contract.
6. Do you smoke?
This is an often overlooked, but important question to ask. It will allow you to discuss your boundaries, such as smoking on the porch only or not allowing smoking at all in your home.
Some buildings do not allow smoking and knowing if the prospective tenant smokes can be a good way to eliminate them.
Smoking can also leave stains and a lasting odor, so some people include a separate cleaning deposit related to smoking as well as outlining specific smoking policies in their contracts.
Some tenants may say they do not smoke but are casual smokers or may have friends over who may smoke, so it is always smart to be extremely clear about house rules regarding smoking and to include some details related to smoking in the rental or lease agreement.
7. How are you funding your travels?
A strong indicator of whether a tenant will pay rent on time is if they are employed or have a stable source of monthly income through some other means.
As a landlord, having peace of mind when it comes to this is crucial, and it’s not worth showing leniency. Always ask for employment verification letters that list current annual salary and the duration and type of employment. If the tenant is not employed, ask for at least the past three months of bank statements to evaluate their financial standing.
A guiding rule to evaluating whether the prospective tenant is financially suitable is to ensure that their monthly gross salary is at least three times their monthly rent.
If there are doubts about whether the prospective tenant has the financial means to pay rent for the duration of the lease, include safety deposit clauses such as having the first few months of rent provided in advance.
8. What kind of work do you do, and what is your employment history?
Take some time to understand their professional pursuits. You might happen to know someone in common or be able to connect them to a local resource.
If your potential tenant is a professor at a university, this is a natural time to ask more about what they are focusing on during their sabbatical and point out other related resources like museums or academic libraries in your city.
Some scholars may not be affiliated with a university, but may be using this time to re-energize their career or devote themselves to a writing project. And some may be teachers or professors who have received a grant and are looking for housing in another location for the duration of their fellowship or grant.
9. If a pipe broke inside the home and began to flood, what would you do?
This “what if” question helps you to understand how your tenant might react to potentially stressful home-related situations. If the potential tenant has not been in any situation of managing home repairs, you may decide they are not the right fit for your home depending on the age and quirks of your house or building.
Or, you may decide that tenant is a good fit, but provide more information to them so they have some resources in case they need it. It can be helpful to provide a list of emergency instructions and contacts, possibly a neighbor or handyman who the tenant could call if you plan to be traveling during the same time period.
10. Are you open to a credit and background check?
Understanding a potential tenant’s credit history helps determine if he or she can afford the rental price you are asking and gives you a good idea of their creditworthiness and overall background.
It is appropriate to ask them to submit a credit report during the application process. Check to see if they are willing to consent to this. The credit check will show if they’ve historically always paid any bills on time.
Remember, credit checks will vary from country to country. Some countries in Europe, for example, don’t even require credit checks to be performed. You want to make sure that the questions you are asking your prospective tenants concerning credit checks are in line with regulations in your region.
Additionally, ask if they are open to having a background check performed on them. This check will show if the prospective tenant has had any past criminal records or been evicted from any previous rentals.
Asking consent for both of these checks can quickly eliminate any prospective tenants that are not open to this since refusal could indicate that they may have some credit or background history that makes them unsuitable candidates.
If the prospective tenant does provide consent, be sure to get this in writing and outline clearly the credit and background checks you are going to perform, as well as the information you will need from them.
Related: Experian Credit Check
*SabbaticalHomes.com has no relationship and would receive no financial gain if you use Experian for a credit check. SH.com members are responsible for performing their own credit checks on potential tenants, and this is one service that members can use.
11. Can I have a copy of your passport?
A copy of identification is helpful to verify the legitimacy of your potential tenant. It is the law in some countries, such as Italy, to provide a passport to a potential landlord if you are a foreigner.
Additionally, most airlines require a passport number to book an international flight. Similarly, it is fair for you as a homeowner to request to see a passport in order to confirm that a tenant is eligible to come to your country and stay in your home.
If you are renting your home to a potential tenant, you should also be prepared to provide a copy of your own passport and be prepared to have the tenant request to run a background check on you as well.
Ideally, both parties have had several conversations prior to exchanging important documents like a passport so that you are fairly far in the process of negotiating your terms together.
12. Can you provide any references?
It is important to check references to verify the details you have collected about your potential tenant. Along with the previous credit and background checks, asking the prospective tenant if they can provide references is important in ensuring you have carried out the necessary character inquiries on him or her.
Asking for a reference from their previous landlord will allow you to easily understand what sort of tenant this applicant was in the past. For example, did they pay their bills on time and take care of the place well? A landlord reference can provide strong contextual information on whether the prospective tenant is a good fit to take care of the property.
Some good questions to ask the previous landlord are:
- Was rent paid on time?
- Any complaints from neighbors?
- Any damage to the property?
- Do you know why the tenant is moving out of their current place?
- Would you rent to him/her again?
- Anything else I should be aware of?
Similarly, asking for an employer reference can allow you to evaluate the character of the tenant, such as their work ethic, reliability, and trustworthiness. How they perform and behave at work can be a good indicator of how they will treat the relationship with their landlord too.
13. Will you need parking or access to any other amenities?
Asking if they require parking or other available amenities is a good way to understand the prospective tenants’ expectations of what they are looking to receive.
Some tenants may assume parking is included, so it is good to have this clarified early. Similarly, if the property comes with additional amenities such as a building gym or pool – it’s useful to outline whether these are included in the rent or require additional fees.
14. Can you provide emergency contact information?
It is always a good idea to have your contact’s emergency contact information, in case a situation comes up in which you must reach them.
15. Any questions or concerns?
The last question to ask a potential tenant is if they have any questions or concerns. Keeping open lines of communication is key. Take time to answer questions your potential tenant might have for you and be sure to ask any questions that have come up for you as well.
It can also be a good moment to elaborate on the next steps if the tenant does not have any questions at that point.
At SabbaticalHomes.com, the dialogue prior to arranging a rental or home exchange sets the tone. Asking these key questions to a prospective tenant can quickly help eliminate any candidates who are not the right fit for you, and will give you the framework to get to know more promising potential clients.
It also allows you to outline expectations from the start rather than assuming the potential tenant has read the property details thoroughly and has applied them with a good understanding of what they are looking to live in.
This exercise familiarizes you with your prospective tenant and develops a personal relationship with him or her. This is what ultimately makes a successful arrangement.
Related: Finding the Perfect Match
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