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Top 3 Things to Ask Your Prospective Tenant’s References


There is a lot of excitement that occurs when a prospective tenant wants to view your vacant Maryland rental property; the hope that this will be a quality tenant is strong. After all, a high tenant turnover rate can wreak havoc on your annual profit, which is why placing tenants in your property as quickly as possible is so important.

However, a bad tenant can cause even more problems than a vacant property when it comes to wasted time, headaches, and of course, lost money. Thus, one of the most common property management tips is to thoroughly screen all potential tenants. Every single time.

Today we are going to examine the reference check portion of tenant screening. Hopefully by learning some of the top things to ask your prospective tenant’s references, you will find high quality tenants that want to lease your property long term and with great care.


Top Reference Questions for Prospective Maryland Tenants

Just because a potential tenant seems great on their written application does not mean they are the type of high quality tenant you or your Maryland property management company are seeking.

That’s why consulting with your prospective tenant’s references is crucial. This way you can be sure the tenant you are about to place in your investment property is worth it.

1. Previous Landlords


Speaking with your prospective tenant’s previous landlords is one of the most important things you can do when placing a tenant in your rental. And remember, if you only speak to the tenant’s current landlord, you may not get a true idea of what your tenant is like; they could be a bad tenant that the current landlord just wants to get rid of. It’s best to speak with references that no longer collect rent from your prospective tenant.

Here are some of the key things to ask any previous landlords:

  • Was rent paid on time and in full? This will help you determine how responsible your prospective tenant is. A tenant that pays rent on time and in full every time is someone you want to place in your property. This means very little hassle or risk of eviction proceedings.
  • How much was the monthly rent? Understanding how much your tenant was paying previously in comparison to what you are asking for now will help you better gauge their financial situation.
  • Did the tenant take care of the property? You do not want to place a careless tenant in your property that will not maintain things over the course of the lease term. After all, you spent a lot of money on your investment property and damage is the last thing you want to deal with.
  • How did the tenant communicate with you? Excellent communication is a great quality to have in a prospective tenant. Your property management company will need to be in contact at times when it comes to routine inspections and maintenance, and dealing with a tenant that refuses to discuss anything can be stressful.
  • Would you rent to this tenant again? This is the big one. If a previous landlord hesitates to recommend a tenant to you, you may want to rethink their application.

Other important questions to consider asking include:

  • Did the tenant have roommates that contributed to the monthly rent?
  • Are they or have they ever been evicted from the property?
  • Did they have any pets?
  • Did neighboring tenants ever make complaints against the tenant?


2. Employer References


If you want to ensure that your prospective tenant can pay your required monthly rent on time, another reference to speak to is the tenant’s employer(s). A conversation with his or her employer may also help you determine what kind of personality your tenant has and whether this is someone you or your Maryland property management company want to deal with. Moreover, it will help you verify the details your tenant puts on their application regarding employment.

Not sure what to ask?

Here are some good questions to have on hand when contacting your potential tenant’s employers:

  • What was the tenant’s original date of hire?
  • What is the tenant’s current salary or hourly rate?
  • How many hours per week does the tenant work (if paid hourly)?
  • Will the current employer continue to employ the tenant?
  • How does the tenant get along with co-workers?

Another point of contact you may want to get in touch with during this part of the screening process is the HR department of the tenant’s employer. You would hope that a supervisor would not embellish the truth for a “buddy,” but it does happen. This means your prospective tenant’s reference may not be entirely truthful when it comes to hours worked, personality, and even salary. However, speaking directly with those in charge of such matters can help corroborate what your tenant has placed on their application.


3. Personal References


Talking to friends and family of a prospective tenant is another great way to get a better idea what kind of person your tenant may be once leasing your Maryland rental home. Those closest to the tenant can provide useful information despite the bias that may exist.

Here are some things to consider talking about with a tenant’s most personal references:

  • How long have you known the tenant? If the reference has known the tenant for years, they are apt to know a lot about the tenant’s overall character. This information can help you determine whether the tenant will pay your required rent amount on time, cause problems with neighbors, or even damage your property.
  • What is the tenant’s lifestyle like? Again, knowing the prospective tenant for some time, and in a more personal way, a friend or family may lend insight into what kind of person your tenant will be over the course of a lease term. Does the tenant travel a lot? Have lots of parties? Stay home alone? Drink, smoke, or have a ton of pets? These are all great things to know ahead of time.
  • Would you recommend this tenant to a landlord? This is the ultimate (although again, biased) question. Knowing whether a personal reference would actually recommend a friend or family member to a landlord can help solidify your decision to place them in your property.

Although not entirely foolproof (after all, who would put a poor reference on their rental application?), the truth is that you never know what people are going to say. Even though there is bound to be some untruth and bias at times, contacting your tenant’s personal references is still something we strongly encourage.

Thorough tenant screening is a very important aspect of the rental property business. Placing a bad tenant in your property can mean lots of stress, missed rental payments, and a possible trip to the courtroom. That’s why requiring multiple references, and actually looking into them, is so helpful for avoiding problem tenants.

If you are looking for a solid way to place tenants in your Maryland rental property, contact Bay Property Management Group today and see how we can help you with the process. We serve multiple Maryland & Pennsylvania counties including York, Lancaster, Cumberland and Dauphin & nearby counties.

Additionally, we can help with all things property related so that if something bad does pop up and a tenant ends up giving you trouble, you can feel confident that it will be handled swiftly and legally.