Rental Basics in Chicago>Question Details

Trulia Chica…, Other/Just Looking in Chicago, IL

What questions do you as the landlord ask of references of your future tenant?

Asked by Trulia Chicago, Chicago, IL Wed Nov 7, 2012

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Brendan Ross’ answer
With respect to personal references, they are not very effective in producing any valuable knowlege that you, as a landlord, can use in your decision-making process. You probably should not even ask for personal references in the first place. No one will list someone as a reference that has anything bad to say about them.

That leaves us with employers and previous landlords. Of employers, make sure that you verify:

- date of hire
- current salary or hourly rate
- if hourly, average hours/week worked
- whether continued employment is expected, and if so, for how long (are they a contract worker?)

Of previous landlords:

- lease start/end date
- rent amount
- did they pay their rent on time
- any complaints or other issues
- would you rent to them again

If you talk to the right person and ask the right questions, anything negative about the applicant should rise to the surface pretty quickly. I would like to second Deb's strategy of asking for a manager (generally) rather than asking for the supervisor listed on the application. Same principle as with personal references applies - usually the applicant will list their favorite supervisor or buddy in the company.
9 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 8, 2012
Perfect answer! (-: Thank you!
Flag Tue Feb 9, 2016
Seems these are not the answers to your actual question "what to ask the references".

For the landlords (I'm much more interested in the past landlord if the current is 2 years or less) I ask the basics: Did they pay on time? Did they take care of the unit? Did they bother other tenants? and Do you expect to return the security deposit in full? And my favorite last question is Would you rent to them again? I always look up on the tax records the owner of the property to be clear that I am talking with the owner.

Job references? Get those pay stubs with the year to date earnings on them if you can. I never ask for the person the application says to ask for, not at first. I try to get an HR department or ask for a manager THEN ask if they do work there, how long, how much they make, if they expect continued employment.

Hope that helps. I do work with rentals and if you need help finding that tenant let's talk.

5 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 8, 2012
This is stupid. Just because you check on an owner's tax records, does not mean the tenet is still not telling the truth. Sometimes, their friend who gives the fake landlord reference IS the owner of the house.
Flag Mon May 19, 2014
Our application includes credit check, income, employment/income verification, rental history, permission to speak with previous landlord and criminal history.

Erik Sachs
RpV Realty LLC
Cell 773/368-5515
3 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 7, 2012
I often ask open-ended questions. You'd be surprised by how quickly and easilly landlords will open up to you if you just ask an open-ended question and let them talk! For example: "What can you tell me about this person?". Simple question, but it leaves things wide open for the landlord to share all kinds of info about the tenant! Josh Perkins, Your Castle Real Estate, Denver, CO
2 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 16, 2014
To ciovica12: Property managers need to know what kind of a person they are renting to. Living in a multifamily building necessarily opens a few doors into your personal life, if those personal issues cause problems for other residents or the manager. I think you, as a renter, would like to know that your neighbor is a good person whose personal habits and friends are not going to make life miserable or unsafe for you, your family, or your fellow residents. Managers learn as much as they can about a prospective resident in order to not only minimize problems, but to protect their other residents. Would you like to live next door to a suspected drug dealer or sex offender?
Flag Tue Sep 22, 2015
...or, "Would you rent to this tenant again?"
Flag Tue May 19, 2015
Oh, that's nice! The next time I rent, I will make sure I don't rent from Castle Real Estate. I think someone should tell your potential tenets that their prior landlord and you are very likely discussing personal, possibly discriminatory information about them.
Flag Mon May 19, 2014
In addition to references, I want to see their monthly budget.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 8, 2012
I agree. When interviewing a potential tenant I want to know what percentage of their income is used for housing. This gives me an indication of how financially stable they are.
Flag Mon Dec 21, 2015
Their monthly budget is not your business. Renters are not children.
Flag Mon May 19, 2014
It's not just questions however factual data on paper that proves that the tenant has a good history of paying their bills (full credit check), Employment documents such as check stubs/ tax returns/ employment verification from their current employer, prior landlord history and references, and background checks. All the data provided should always be double verified to ensure that the facts or true.

Sohail A. Salahuddin | Group Founder

Innovative Property Consultants Group | Sales and Leasing

Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty

425 W. North Ave. | Chicago, IL 60610 

O: 312.335.3230 | C: 312.437.7799 | F: 847.805.6030

"Locally Known, Globally Recognized"
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 7, 2012
I always get massive amounts of people looking at a rental house I have off a semi-busy road. You would be shocked at how many of them actually have felony drug trafficking, aggravated assault charges. Clovica12 has obviously not had to evict a tenant for the problems these questions will clarify. No one wants to go through a lengthy eviction. It pays to take the time and get someone in my property that will not cause problems to neighbors, property and pay on time. I've just posted what can happen when any of these things are neglected by the landlord.
This woman was a caregiver at a rehab facility I was in so, I only checked job references. After finding my house in horrible condition I did a background check to reveal the husband had multiple violence offenses/arrests. This would have been nice to know prior because of all the damaged doors, broken windows.
Flag Wed Mar 2, 2016
I disagree with Ross's answer. You wouldnt believe what previous/current roommates would say.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Mar 26, 2016
As Brendan mentioned, references will always give the applicant a glowing review.

As for paystubs, confirm employment period and salary with the renter's HR dept, and make sure that you are talking with the actual owner of the home or apt that the renter is currently renting (a realtor can help you confirm ownership).

The easiest way to rent out properties is to hire a broker like me who charges a minimal fee.. :-)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 9, 2015
how long does te tenant have to cash the deposit refund check?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 1, 2015
What can you say or proove to show me that you will pay your rent on time and care for the property,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 17, 2015
When verifying an applicants rental references it is important to stick to the facts and always ask the same questions of every landlord.
1. identify the name & position of the person providing the reference
2. Verify if the applicant is on a term lease, month-to-month or verbal agreement
3. Move in/Move out dates
4. Monthly rental amount
5. Was proper notice given?
6. Where they asked to vacate? If so why?
7. Any late payments, NSF's, noise complaints?
8. Notices served? How many?
9. Any pets? If so, what type, how many? pet damage?
10. Other damage? If so, nature & cost of damage?
11. Other balance owing? if yes, why & how much?

Remember to verify with current & previous landlords. Obtaining rental references can be a time consuming part of the tenant screening process. If you tenant screening provider offers this service it may be worth while to add it to your services. is an innovative tenant screening solution that offers this service with their tenant screening reports. The investigative work is thorough and accurate! They attempt to verify all references listed by applicant as well as any additional rental addresses found on the applicant's credit report. Very valuable service!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 14, 2015
I recommend staying away from asking the question "would you rent to them again?" This can open the door to fair housing claims.
Flag Thu May 14, 2015
1. What is/was the length of tenancy with you? ______________to ________________

2. What was the amount of rent? $___________________

3. Did Tenant(s) leave with good standing? Yes No Please Explain:__________________

Have any the above listed tenant/former tenant ever:

4. Late on rent payments? Yes No Please Explain:____________________________

5. Threaten not to pay rent? Yes No Please Explain:______________________________

6. Bounced rent check(s Yes No Please Explain:___________________________________

7. Had problems/issues with neighbors or other tenants? Yes No Please Explain:________________________________________

8. Have they ever been disrespectful towards manager/landlord? Yes No
Please Explain:_________________________________

9. Damaged property? Yes No Please Explain:__________________________________

10. Damaged Landscaping? Yes No Please Explain:_____________________________

11. Had any issues with the lease/agreement: Yes No Please Explain:_________________

12. Would you rent to them again? Yes No Please Explain:________________________
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 7, 2015
So your applicant has filled out the rental application containing written questions, but when it comes to calling up a person that they've listed as a reference or employer or former landlord, what do you discuss with them once they answer?

Of course your applicant would not list someone who they know would give them a bad review, so maybe just asking about how responsible and tidy the tenant is, and how well they got along with the neighbors or basically what we want to know. Of course this doesn't tell us much except you kind of get an impression of who their friends are, and if someone wants to bring up a character flaw, they have their opportunity.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 12, 2014
For people renting in my Chicago multi-unit, there references should be expected to answer the following:

1. Has Mr. or Mrs. Such and Such ever served as Governor of Illinois or discussed spending time with either current or former governor of Illinois?

2. Does Mr. or Mrs. Such and Such know the correct lyrics to 'Blinded by the Light?"

3. Can you elaborate on what Mr or Mrs. Such and Such does with their pet monkey?

4. Does Mr. or Mrs. Such and Such watch and or talk about the television show "Glee?"

5. How many times has Mr. or Mrs. Such and Such complained...about the weather, their job, their relationship, their family, their life?

Anybody answering No/None/Nope to all five questions should be considered tenant material.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 13, 2014
I ask for Employment verification and history - with a Supervisor/Manager reference to contact, credit report/check, background check including a criminal report and eviction notification. In addition, I sometimes will request proof of funds through a bank statement or W2.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 12, 2014
Was denied rental because of my rental references. What is rental reference?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 11, 2014
An example would be a statement about your rental history from a previous landlord.
Flag Tue Feb 11, 2014
You have to do your due diligence with respect to verifying income, credit and past landlord references. Pay attention to the details when you meet with them. Untimely go with your gut instinct. If that voice deep down in you is trying to tell you there is something off about the tenants then listen to it!!! Trust me I have been there.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 8, 2012
Had a 3 family home for 17 years and rarely had any problems with my tenants. You have to go with your gut feeling and the way that the interview goes, see how they dress and the car they own is it clean or real dirty in the car. Do they seem to be easy to communicate with ect. Its not as hard as it may seem. Its a numbers game try to interview as many as poss. thats all. They must have a job and been working on that job for 2 or more years , then you know that they don"t jump jobs alot ,thats important as well. Good Luck, JB
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 7, 2012
The standard application asks basic questions, but as far as contacting the 'references, I rarely do it because they are not likely to say anything bad or they would not have been put down as 'references'. Even past landlords might not be honest for fear of getting in trouble or if they want the tenant out they are not going to say the tenant is a bum are they???
I want to be sure the #'s work and I want to get a good 'feel' for the tenant. That has worked for me for many years.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 7, 2012
Our agents interview all tenant prospects and follow a screening outline to assure that all persons requesting a showing are qualified, capable and ready to enter a rental transaction. basic questions include, inter alia, client move date, rental range, apartment requirements, parking, pets, employment, income, credit, prior landlord history, etc. We have found that effective screening results in clients actually touring only those properties they desire and are qualified to rent and the results delivered o out landlords are more effective.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 7, 2012
I ask for employment history, credit check, rental references, etc. i think most people ask for that with the application.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 7, 2012
Some landlords require applications being filled out by the tenants - asking about
their current employment, residence, income and assets. The tenants have to agree to
submit such info. Also, the credit report is being asked for (again, with the agreement of the tenant).

Of course, if the tenant does not agree to provide the info - the landlord does not have to accept the offer.

If the condo association/landlord has rules re. how many people can reside in a condo/apartment,
then the landlord may ask about kids (how many), but they can't discriminate.

Hope this helps,

Irina Karan
Beachfront Realty, Inc.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 7, 2012
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