Verifying rental history- and the only question you really need to ask

Property Manager with AmeriTeam Property Management SL#3200658

Verifying rental history- and the only question you really need to ask


Verifying rental history- and the only question you really need to ask


An essential part of any application process is a reference from your prospective tenants' current (or previous) landlord.  But exactly how do you go about getting that?  What are some good questions to ask?  And is it true that everything can be summed up in one question?


Each Realtor/Property Manager is free to handle things as they see fit, of course- and as we all know, policies and procedures will vary from one office to the next.  It's critical to point out, however, that questions asked in the process of verifying one's rental history be consistent within that one office- meaning that what you ask of one prospective tenant's previous landlord, you ask of every prospective tenant's previous landlord.  It's the best way to steer clear of those pesky lawsuits and Fair Housing violations, you know.


A good list of questions might include the following:


"What was the monthly rent amount John was paying?"

"How many residents were in the property?"

"Did John pay on time every month?  If not, did you ever have to serve him with a Notice to Vacate or commence eviction proceedings?"

"Did John have any pets?  If so, did they cause any damage to the property or generate any noise complaints from neighbors?"

"Any complaints from neighbors about John?  Any issues or complaints from the HOA with respect to his tenancy?"

"Did John give you any sort of Notice to Vacate that your lease requires?"

"Is John a family member of yours, or have you ever been related to him in any way?"

"Have you completed your move-out inspection of the premises?  Did John keep the place in a good condition?  If so, did he leave it in a good condition- and do you anticipate he'll be receiving his security deposit back?"

Would you rent to John again?"


The main idea here is that while it doesn't apply in every single case, past behavior is often a good indicator of future behavior- and there's a great chance that however your prospective tenants behaved in their last place is going to be the way they behave in your place.


It's important to know the financials and whether you can reasonably expect your applicant to pay their rent on time each month.  It's important to know whether they did any damage to their last place- a red flag that you might not want to risk putting them in your place.


Doing a good job in vetting your prospects involves obtaining a solid, impartial rental reference as well- thus the question which establishes whether they've been renting from a family member who might not be the best at offering an unbiased assessment.  While references from family members are at times unavoidable, you should take their position into account when evaluating the entirety of your prospects' application and weigh things accordingly.  You'd also look to get a reference from another previous landlord if at all possible.


Lastly, you guessed it:  "the only question you really need to ask" is that last one, "Would you rent to John again?"


Taking everything else into consideration, that one question should be the bottom line in terms of whether ol' John might be a good fit for your place- or whether Mr. Doe needs to hit the road and find another place to live!


Verifying rental history- and the only question you really need to ask


Posted by
Property Manager

Licensed Florida Realtor
AmeriTeam Property Management
845 N. Garland Ave., #200
Orlando, FL  32801
205-445-4755 cell/direct
407-901-3636 x103 office
407-901-5147 office fax
Turning vacant into occupied, and "houses" into "homes"SM

Comments (9)

Fred Griffin Florida Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

    "Would you rent to John again?" is the perfect question.  I know employers who ask that question of the former boss - "would you hire Jane again if she applied for a job?"

Feb 07, 2015 11:56 AM
Dennis Burgess
AmeriTeam Property Management - Mid Florida, FL
Orlando Property Manager and Realtor

Hi, Ambassador Fred:  Thank you for dropping by, and for your comment.  I've been tempted to go rogue and lead off with that question, and truth be told I've probably done so in processing the roughly 4,000 applications which have come my way in the last 14 yrs.

The conversation will go in different directions regardless the answer, if you think about it.  If the landlord answers "yes", you can feel fairly confident the rest of what you hear will be positive and/or complimentary.  You'd expect to hear that rent WAS on time, pets DID behave and that the tenants DID keep their place in a decent condition.

Should the landlord answer "no", however, you've got an altogether different ballgame on your hands.  In those cases, I typically don't have to prod a landlord for the reasons behind their answer- folks are usually more than happy to explain why they're glad to have a renter out of their place!

Funny thing, though: in a way, you have to look at applications with the same skepticism you'd afford Yelp reviews.  Terrible, ranting 1-star reviews may very well paint a picture of an experience that's a bit exaggerated- and the same for flowery, glowing 5-star reviews that might embellish things in the other direction.

I've seen both sides at times when my fine-tuned app processing Spidey senses just didn't feel right about what I was being told.  As odd as it may seem, a private owner with a great tenant might actually give them a poor reference- hoping I'll decline them and they'd ultimately stay where they are.  Likewise, a landlord with a bad tenant might provide a stellar reference- simply wanting their tenant to vacate and find a home anywhere BUT where they are!

Feb 07, 2015 01:14 PM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

It is a good question and generally the one at the conclusion of our reference interview.  Perhaps we should move it to the beginning of the call.

Feb 07, 2015 02:39 PM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Dennis, we have a lot of landlords in this area who give tenants glowing recommendations to get rid of them. 

Mar 16, 2015 10:49 AM
Carlton Peacock
May 20, 2015 12:53 PM
Dennis Burgess
AmeriTeam Property Management - Mid Florida, FL
Orlando Property Manager and Realtor

Hi, Bob:  Thank you kindly for dropping by, and for your comment.  I've been away for a while, but hoping to get back here regularly once again soon!

I have that question last as well- but as with nearly everything else in our world, things don't always go according to script.  Through the course of answering other questions, owners will often "steal the thunder" from that last question by answering it (or something similar) ahead of that question's appointed time...

If the answer's a good one, I don't have a problem with their breaking from the script!

Jun 04, 2015 06:07 AM
Dennis Burgess
AmeriTeam Property Management - Mid Florida, FL
Orlando Property Manager and Realtor

Hi, Patricia:  Thank you for stopping by, and for your comment.  I have that- as well as the exact opposite from time to time.  Someone giving me a great review on a tenant whose been anything but one could surely hurt me in that I could take a chance on someone while relying on that former landlord's reference- only to have them stiff me for rent as they've done others in the past.

The good thing (for lack of better words) about that, though, is that a ton of folks with poor credit have great rental histories- placing less weight on the reference if it's a good one.

Conversely, instances of folks having stellar credit and a poor rental history are few and far between.  Once I've gotten a great credit report, I'm all but expecting a great rental reference to accompany it- so I believe an owner looking to keep a tenant by offering me a poor reference would have a greater impact on things.

Jun 04, 2015 06:44 AM
Dennis Burgess
AmeriTeam Property Management - Mid Florida, FL
Orlando Property Manager and Realtor

Hi, Carlton:  Thank you for dropping by, and for your comment and kind words...

Jun 04, 2015 06:51 AM
UI UX Studio Delhi

Hi, extremely nice effort. everybody should scan this text. Thanks for sharing.

Mar 22, 2018 01:57 AM