How should I answer common tenant questions?
We speak to hundreds of tenants every year. If you are going to mange your own rental property here is a list of common rental questions you will be asked.
A big chunk of the rental process every landlord has to go through is answering questions. Sure you get to ask questions, too, but prospective tenants usually have a long list of questions that require answers. Some may be very easy like, “how much is the rent?” while others need to be answered carefully.
We’ve listed out some of the common questions we are frequently asked along with answers you might want to consider next time you come across them.
- “I know pets aren’t allowed but is my small dog okay?”
The answer should be plain and simple since pets are pets no matter the size. But if you’re like many landlords who are animal lovers at heart, carefully consider the pros and cons. If you’re uncomfortable with having pets in your property, a straightforward answer will do. However, if after the interview process you feel comfortable with the idea of a pet in the property, make sure you require additional security, agree on certain ground rules and revise the lease to cover the pet.
- “Are you the owner?”
Half the time, this question isn’t asked out of curiosity. Potential tenants ask this question because the owner can grant them special privileges and exceptions. If you’re a firm landlord then this shouldn’t be a problem since every request that contradicts the lease can be answered by a simple, “no.” Otherwise, you should adopt the title, “property manager.”If they know you as the property manager, it would be easier for tenants to understand that you can’t make decisions on certain requests. It’s not lying. You’re just leaving out details that they don’t necessarily need to know.
- Can we set a different due date?”
This one is easy. The answer is always NO. Having different due dates for your tenants can be problematic especially if you have more than one tenant. Having to track payments on different dates is already bothersome, try following up when the payment is delayed. It will give you the headaches! Setting the due date on the first of the month is standard practice and you’ll be thankful for sticking to that schedule. This question is also a red flag. If a potential tenant can’t stick to a certain schedule, it’s indicator of how they handle finances.
- “I can pay _ months upfront. Can I move in right away?”
This is another red flag. If a potential tenant offers to pay months in advance it’s usually for reasons that will potentially be problematic for you later on. It usually means that something in their background will affect their chances so they are hoping money will help their chances. A good response would be:”We don’t accept prepaid rent but we’ll be glad to have you fill out the application and once we’re done processing your application we’ll let you know if you can move in as soon as possible.” They will most likely move to the next landlord and hope the tactic will work.
- “Can I pay my deposit in installments?”
Unless you enjoy running after deposit payments, the right answer would be: “We have a strict policy on security deposit. It has to be paid in full prior to moving in. Maybe you have friends or family that can lend you the funds?” Most of the time, if they really like your rental property, they’ll be able to come up with the security deposit.
Not only does it put you in the position of priority but it also tells them that you are strict with your rules and that you’re not someone they mess with.
- “Will you accept a short-term lease?”
There are many considerations before you answer “yes” or “no.” Vacancies and turnovers can be very expensive for a landlord so you should seriously consider these factors. But if the rental market is slow, you can try to charge more the privilege. This should compensate for the short term lease.
- “My boyfriend/sister/cousin wants to live with me, but I don’t want them on the lease. Is that possible?”
The best response would be:”Anyone over 18 living in the rental property should fill the application, pass the screening process and be included in the lease.”
What if the tenant on the lease decides to move out and the boyfriend/sister/cousin stays? That means they can stay since they are legal tenants BUT you don’t have any contract with them. Imagine how problematic that is for you? You can’t kick them out because they are legal tenants but they’re not liable for anything since you don’t have a contract with them.
So back to the question. The answer is a big NO.
- “Can I take possession in a month or two?”
This one is a trick question and needs serious consideration before answering. If for any reason you know that the property will sit vacant for a month or two, by all means say yes to the tenant. But since this is a rare case you have to weigh whether the tenant is worth the trouble. If it’s a yes, split the difference. At the end of the day you have to maximize your income.
Here’s what you can say:”We can only hold the unit for ____ weeks; however, we require a deposit to do so. Would that be okay?” If the tenant really likes your property, chances are they will pay the deposit.
- “What can I do if I don’t meet all the requirements?”
When potential tenants ask this question, it’s usually because they already know that they won’t meet all the requirements so they’re asking so they can come up with a back up plan. If it’s a lack of rental history, you can ask for additional securities or a co-signer. You can always ask for additional requirements to satisfy the following:
1. They have no criminal records
2. They have no bad credit history
3. They have the capacity to pay the rent
- There will be times when you don’t know the answer to their questions. That’s completely fine. Let them know that you’ll have to look into it first. It’s better to research first and be sure of your answer than to answer right away and regret it months or years later.
If you would like any further information on how to answer incoming tenant questions please contact our office we would be glad to help!