They say we decide whether we like someone or not within seconds of meeting them. Often, without even realizing it, and before we’ve even shook their hand, we know whether we are going to get along or not.

First impressions can be surprisingly accurate, and if you’re a landlord, you’ve probably experienced an instant like or dislike of a potential tenant more than once. But while gut feel can go a long way towards choosing the right tenants for your property, it’s not the only thing you should be relying on. At the very least, you should be asking these five questions as part of a tenant credit check before you short list anyone.

1. Why Are You Moving?

Most people work for work, school, or family reasons. If a tenant doesn’t have a good reason, or avoids the question (or eye contact for that matter) that’s a big warning sign that something might not be right. Question them a little more if you don’t get an answer you can believe. The last thing you want is someone who’s running from criminal activity or something worse taking up residence in your property!

2. How Many People Will Live with You?

Most normal people assume that if you’re renting a three-bedroom condominium to a family, there will be two parents in the master bedroom, and a child in each room. Maybe one extra child sharing with another, if one room is bigger. However, not everyone sees it that way. Some people will cram two kids into each room, and then a few family members in the basement, with one on the couch for good measure!

Not only do you not want your rental property to be overcrowded because it will increase wear and tear, but that might well be against fire codes and other bylaws in the area. Make sure you state how many people are allowed in the property!

3. When Are You Moving?

You might be willing to be flexible on moving dates for the right tenant, but if they’re moving months after you need to fill your property, or far too early, then it’s probably not a good fit. Keep their tenant credit check information on file if they seem like great tenants though. You never know what might happen in future!

4. What Do You Earn?

This can be an uncomfortable question for new landlords, but it’s not an unreasonable one. If someone earns too little, they probably can’t afford to rent your property and pay their bills, and at some point, they’re going to be late with one of those.

Don’t write them off immediately though. Sometimes, a single tenant may earn too little, but they may share the rent with a romantic partner or a roommate. Find out what their arrangement will be, and what their collective earnings will be before you make a decision.

If anyone refuses to share information for a tenant credit check, however, take them off the list. This is not an unreasonable question in this situation, and if they won’t answer it, they probably don’t make enough to afford the rent.

5. Do You Have References… and Can I Call Them?

This is another big question, and an important one in deciding who you rent to. You want to rent to someone who has at least one previous rental relationship, and who was a good tenant. Track record is a very good indicator of behavior going forward.

If a tenant says no to reference checks, find out why. They might still have a compelling reason why you can’t. In that case, decide whether you will accept personal character references or references from employers instead.

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