5 Tricky Questions Prospective Tenants Can Ask (and How to Answer Them)

Successfully renting a unit involves answering a lot of prospective tenants’ questions.

It’s normal.

While we’d all want tenants that sign leases on the spot, most are cautious and ask lots of questions.  After all, they’re choosing their next home.

In this article, we’ll go over why preparing answers to questions ahead of time is important, some of the most common questions tenants ask and how to answer them.

Why You Need to Prepare Answers Ahead of Time

How you answer a prospective tenant’s questions can make a big difference in how long your property remains vacant.

There’s a few reasons for this.

First, if you can’t answer a question during a rental visit, it gives the prospective tenant the impression you’re not a serious landlord.  This changes the tenant’s perspective of the rental. If the landlord is disorganized during a visit, what can be expected when emergencies pop up or something needs to be repaired?

Second, preparing ahead of time gives you the chance to spin something negative into a positive.  This is inspired by an effective sales strategy called “positive priming”.  Basically, when someone is in a constant positive state of mind, that person will be more inclined to overlook certain negatives items.  This makes it easier for the seller to close a deal.

Below you’ll find a list of common questions asked by tenants and suggestions on how to best answer them.

#1 – What’s Your Tenant Screening Process?

Before giving details on your screening process, start by reassuring the prospective tenant that your process is based on numbers and facts.  Add that it ensures a best fit for both yourself and the tenant.

When you’re explaining your process, stick to the basics:

  • Basic credit check.
  • Previous landlord reference checks.
  • Employment confirmation and proof of income.

You shouldn’t get in the fine details of your overarching screening process.  For example, how you use proof of pay to calculate affordability. That can confuse the tenant and invites more questions.

Conclude by reassuring the tenant that your screening isn’t based on age, race, religion, marital or family status or gender (which it shouldn’t anyways).

#2 – Although You Don’t Allow Pets, Is It Ok If I Bring My Small Dog/Cat?

Even though it was clearly laid out in your rental advertisement, some prospective tenants still ask that question during a visit.

Most of us are animal lovers and being asked the question in person and on the spot often leads landlords to accept.  After all, a small dog or cat isn’t likely to damage the floors right?

When a tenant springs this question on you, know ahead of time if you’re willing to compromise on the issue.

If you are, have a clear statement prepared.  Topics to include in your answer are:

  • How much extra you’ll charge because of the pet.
  • What the rules are regarding noise, where the animal can be on/off leash and where the animal can relieve itself.
  • The penalty in case of damages.

If you’re stringent on enforcing a pet ban, then your answer should be positively spun.  Explain to the prospective tenant that it’s for the enjoyment of other residents in the area that you don’t allow pets.

#3 – Can I List the Unit on Airbnb When I’m Out of Town?

This question puts landlords in a tough position.  On one end, you want to sign the tenant as quickly possible.  On the other, you heard so many horror stories regarding Airbnb sublets that you don’t want them in your property.

If you don’t want Airbnbs, you can still spin it in a positive way.

Let the tenant know that as much as you like Airbnb and use it yourself, city bylaws explicitly state that hotel-style sharing economy accommodations aren’t allowed without a license (most Canadian cities have some rule of the sort).

If you’re renting a unit that’s part of a condo building, most boards explicitly ban short term rentals, giving you the perfect scapegoat.

#4 – Will I Be Able to Go Month to Month After the Lease Ends?

Before you prepare an answer for this question, ask yourself if the property will need any major renovations in the next few years.

If the answer is yes, then giving the tenant month-to-month flexibility may not be right for you.

When you answer the tenant, spin it positively by letting them know that you take maintenance seriously and plan on renovating.  For that reason, you can’t offer month-to-month flexibility. However, you’d be happy re-signing shorter leases until the time comes to renovate.  Just make sure both you and the tenant have a clear agreement on move-out dates.

If you’re in a competitive market and have a newer property, offering the tenant flexibility is a great way to give your unit a competitive edge.

#5 – Is It Ok If We Don’t Include My Partner on the Lease?

If a potential tenant asks this question, it’s likely because there’s an underlying problem that’s being hidden.

You can ask why that partner shouldn’t be included.  Is it because of poor credit? Bad references? Problems with law enforcement?

Accepting to have a permanent tenant not included on the lease invites potential risks for a landlord.  If the signed tenant leaves, you’re left with an unleased tenant in your property. If that person can show that he/she contributed to the rent, it may be difficult to have them removed.

When you answer the question, use your local Tenancy Act as a pretext for wanting all tenants on the lease agreement.   Explain that it protects both the tenants and the landlord.

Wrapping This Up

Potential tenants naturally ask pointed questions.  Bear in mind that they’re trying to see if your rental is a right for them.

Whenever your answer is no, or not what the tenant may be hoping to hear, try and put a positive spin on your answers.  It may mean the difference between signing a tenant on the spot or having to show the property to yet another tenant.

 

Glenn Carter

Glenn is a real estate writer and investor. Getting his start in single-family home and condo investing, Glenn has since moved on to multi-family investing in the Ottawa area. As a side hustle to his real estate investing, Glenn loves writing about his experience as a landlord overseeing his rental properties and has been featured on VentureBeat, BiggerPockets, Get Paid For Your Pad, and Breakthrough Real Estate Podcast.