Are you embarking on your first real estate investment endeavor? Did your long-term tenant just move out? Or have you had the absolute worst luck with tenants and feel like you are asking the wrong questions? Whatever the case may be, Gold Standard Asset Management (GSAM), Los Angeles’ Top Rated Local® property management team can help. In today’s blog, we are going to cover some top questions to ask prospective tenants to help you make the best decision when it comes to approving a tenant for a smooth income property experience.

How long do you plan to live here?

As an income property owner, you want to try and minimize your tenant turnover. Each time a tenant moves out, you are faced with additional cleaning, maintenance, and marketing costs, the loss of rent if the property remains vacant, and other unexpected costs associated with checking out a tenant. Not only does it cost you money, but the whole process of checking out a former tenant and finding a new one is time consuming. That being said, when you are interviewing a prospective tenant, a good question to ask is, “How long to you plan to live here?” By asking this question, you will gain a better understanding of their future plans and weed out any short-term tenants — saving you time and money.

Have you ever been evicted?

Legally, there are only a few reasons why you can evict a tenant — nonpayment of rent, a lease violation, property damage, illegal activity, and lease expiration. With that in mind, asking prospective tenants if they have ever been evicted will help you as the property owner to better understand their lifestyle, tendencies, and behavior. While this question helps you screen for undesirable tenants, it also gives desirable tenants who have fallen on hard times in the past an opportunity to explain their previous situation.

Have you ever broken a lease?

As mentioned above, tenant turnover can be quite pricey. As an income property owner, you budget and rely on your current contracts the cash flow they provide. So, when a tenant breaks their lease, it can be extremely stressful to have to find a new renter, let alone deal with legal issues — if it comes down to that. Therefore, this is a great question to ask prospective renters, as it will give you an opportunity to test their honesty and help you become aware of any patterns or history of breaches of contract before you rent to them.


When would you like to move in?

Even if your income property has been vacant for a while and you are dying to get your vacancy filled, be hesitant to rent to anyone who says they can move in right away. While it may seem like a relief to finally have an inquiring tenant, the wrong tenant can cause a whole lot more distress. Due to the fact that most Los Angeles rental properties require at least a thirty day notice, it’s a red flag when a tenant has the ability to move in immediately. This could be a sign that the prospective tenant has been evicted or does not plan ahead, which could hurt you in the future. On the other hand, a tenant who wants to move in in a couple months might not be ideal for you either, as you want your income property occupied as often as possible. Successful property management is all about timing!

Do you currently have the security deposit and first month’s rent available?

Briefly above, we mentioned that a tenant who does not plan ahead was a red flag. As an income property owner, it’s vital, especially if cash flow is tight, to have reliable and dependable tenants who pay on time regularly — a top sign of financial responsibility. To do so, however, one must have the skill to plan ahead. A tried-and-true way to determine if a prospective tenant is financially responsible and plans ahead is to ask them if they have the means to pay the total move-in amount right then and there. If they do, this is a good sign that the tenant is financially responsible and plans ahead — an ideal tenant for you.

What pets do you have?

Whether you are a pet lover who welcomes all animals or you have a strict no animal policy, asking, “What pets do you have?” versus “Do you have pets?” will come across more friendly and accepting — giving prospective tenants the opportunity to answer honestly and without fear of being denied because of their pets. If you do allow pets, knowing how many and what kind of pets a prospective tenant has will help you make the call on whether or not to accept them. On the other hand, you can save both yourself and the applicant time if you don’t accept pets by finding out they do have pets right away.

Do you smoke?

If you allow your tenants to smoke, this question doesn’t really apply to you, but it is worth considering the effects cigarette smoke has on an income property. Not only does cigarette smoke leave a lingering smell on everything from the floor to the walls, but it can also cause cigarette smoke damage, such as causing yellow-brown spots on walls and other surfaces of your income property.

How did you hear about us?

Last, but not least, another great question to ask potential renters is how they heard about your property! This question is not for narrowing down a potential tenant, but rather to help you better understand what marketing strategies are working and what’s not. Find out where people are hearing about your vacancies and use the feedback to adjust your marketing strategy.

Asking the right questions when screening prospective clients is well worth the time. We hope these questions help give you a better idea what to ask applicants during the screening process to avoid costly issues with your renter.

Tired of managing your income property on your own? Let GSAM do the hard work for you. Contact us today to learn more about our Los Angeles property management services.