What the Heck is Pre-Screening and What Type of Questions Should I Ask?

Posted By: Tiffany Van Buren Housing Provider Tips,

The ad you’ve been running since November is finally getting some attention! You’ve received five emails and need to determine your next step. Rule one is to strike while the iron is hot; don’t allow inquiries to go stale. Whether you send an email or pick up the phone, make sure to do so within 24 hours of receiving the query. The inquiring party could lose interest in your property or get a poor impression of you if you delay your response. 

Hopefully, you’ve included your screening criteria in your marketing ad. Sometimes (though not always) this will prevent you from having to field inquiries from under-qualified parties. Regardless, asking a set of pee-screening questions is a best practice before scheduling in-person showings or going through the process of paid tenant applications and screenings. Although you cannot legally prevent a person from applying for a property -- qualified or not -- you can tell them if the answers they provide do not meet your screening requirements, and this might dissuade them from needlessly spending the money to apply, only to be denied (on a legal basis for denial, of course.)

What questions do you ask in a pre-screening? Here are some examples:

  • Are you currently renting?
  • Have you ever been evicted?
  • How long have you lived in your current home?
  • Does your current landlord know you are planning to move?
  • Can you provide landlord references?
  • Why are you looking for a new place to live?
  • What move-in date are you looking for?
  • What is a rough estimate of your monthly income?
  • Have you filed for bankruptcy recently?
  • How many people would be living with you?
  • Do you or any of the people who’d be living with you smoke?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Are you familiar with my screening criteria?
  • Will you be okay with paying our ($) application and screening fee if you fill out an application?
  • Would you be able to pay the security deposit upon lease signing?
  • Do you have any questions for me about the screening criteria or application process?

Asking these questions allows you to get a better understanding of the person who’s interested in your property, and it lets them know you conduct your business professionally. If a person is reluctant to answer questions, don’t move forward with them; move on to the next one.

Pre-screening is not foolproof; people do lie from time to time. Always run your prospective tenants through a bonafide screening, such as Intellirent, which is free to our members and charges your prospective tenants $30 per applicant. The pre-screening is a best practice to help weed out time wasters and lookie-loos, and help you learn more about your potential next tenant.