Landlord’s Initial Phone Interview with the Prospective Tenant

In response to your vacancy ad, the prospective tenant would call you on the provided phone number. This is called a pre-screening call. That first contact is a very important opportunity for you in your quest for the right tenant if you recognize it with the right mindset.

I’ll explain why and how you should prepare yourself for that initial contact.

It’s Important to Optimize your Approach for the First Phone Interview

Understand the difference between pre-screening and screening process. Pre-screening is mostly a verbal communication. Your purpose is to determine more or fewer qualifications of the prospective tenant at this stage. You would get a chance to check the tenant’s credentials thoroughly later on.

Your stance should be based on your own position. Not every landlord has an upper hand when it comes to finding a new tenant. I’ll quote some example –

  1. You have mistakenly expected higher rent than the market value. Because of that, now for 2 months, your property is vacant and you are anxious to rent it out quickly.
  2. Your property is not in the best of the condition. And you are not in a position to renovate, fix or paint it at this moment. You still want to rent it as quickly as possible.
  3. The location of your property is not the best. So it won’t attract the best of the tenants.

All the 3 circumstances warrant careful approach when you have the first contact of the prospective tenant. Based on how strong your position with your property, you have to optimize your approach and choose your pre-screening question. Meaning, if your property is excellent in all respect, you may choose to take a non-compromising approach and look for the tenant with the best credentials and vice verse.

tenant's phone pre-screening questions
tenant’s phone pre-screening questions

How Important this Initial Contact is for the Landlord?

Think about this. If you don’t give a due importance to this first contact over the phone, you’ll not be prepared. Your thought process would rise for the purpose and your focus would be to just get the tenant in somehow. You may end up scheduling a showing appointment with the wrong candidate without asking any screening questions. Let’s say, at the meeting, the prospect tells you he is looking for a short-term lease of 3 months. Or he may tell you he does not have a job right now. You are not looking for such tenant, right?

Because you did not ask pre-screening questions, now you are at loss in 2 ways.

  1. You wasted your time and energy in meeting with an un-qualified prospective tenant.
  2. Your search of the right tenant is delayed by that wasted time. And you also have to deal with frustration resulting from this ordeal.

Do you see my point why it’s important to prepare yourself for that first call?

Related Article: Who are Long Term Tenants? How to preserve them?

List of Phone Screen Questions for the Prospective Tenant

Again I want to emphasize that you may customize the list based on your less or more compromising position.

6 Most Important Pre-Screening Questions

  1. Why are you moving?
  2. Are you employed with a verifiable employer? or What are your income sources?
  3. How soon you can move?
  4. Are you able to sign a yearly lease?
  5. Are you able to give the previous 2 landlords reference?
  6. How is your credit? Are you ok with your credit as well as a criminal and background check?

These 6 questions qualify as top priority pre-screening questions. For an example, if the tenant is not able to move for another 45 days, it’ll be non-qualifier. No need to waste any more time. If the prospect says she can only give the previous landlord reference, you may have to think twice. Sometimes the landlord may lie and give a good reference to get rid of the bad tenant.

There may be many other things which you can talk in the pre-screening call. The purpose should be limited to qualify the prospect for the showing appointment.

Landlord’s Non-compromising Policy

It’s prudent to announce the things which you are not going to compromise on with the prospective tenant. It is also important to communicate it with the urgency rather than casually.

These are the examples.

  1. The landlord has a very strict ‘no-smoke-inside’ policy.
  2. No-frequent-guest policy ( Tenancy laws may affect this policy)

Conclusion: Qualifying and screening of the tenant should be given the highest priority.


I hope you like this article. Please share your precious views in the comment section at the bottom of this page.

Happy Landlording!


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