One of the best ways to accomplish your goal of bringing in high quality tenants is to talk to their employers. They will have a great feel for how your potential tenant handles themselves in various situations, and you’ll have the opportunity to verify important information such as their income.
How Important Is it to Follow Up With Applicant’s Employer?
Some of the most important questions that you need answers to can only be found from your tenant’s employer! While you should ask those same questions on your application, there’s no guarantee that your applicant will be truthful. You need verification straight from the source.
With the cost for an eviction running at least $3,500, it should be your top priority to find applicants who are the least likely to cause you problems.
In addition, you want great tenants to stay for a long time. With average rent prices surpassing $2,000 nationwide, you should do everything in your power to prioritize applicants who appear likely to stay for a while. Otherwise, vacancies will destroy any profit you were planning on.
Talking to your applicant’s employer can help you get a feel for your applicant, as well as find out if they’ve been truthful on the application.
Beware of Fake Employers
It’s unfortunately very easy for your applicant to give you the phone number of a friend who can pose as their manager.
There are a couple of ways to avoid this:
- Go to the company’s website and call the company’s main line, then ask to be transferred to the name listed on the application.
- Verify the reference’s name on the company website. This won’t work in all cases, but many will have upper-level employees listed.
- Ask “do you have any job openings?” They’re expecting a call from a landlord, not a job seeker, and the question may throw off an impostor.
- Ask specifics. The more specific questions you ask that an employer would know the answers to, the harder it is for someone to fake the answers.
None of these are foolproof, but using a few of these together can lessen the chances of this happening to you.
11 Questions to Ask a Rental Applicant’s Employer
Here are the most common (and useful) questions to ask an employer:
- Who Am I Speaking With?
- What is [Applicant’s] Annual/Hourly Salary?
- Does [Applicant] Have a History of Missed Work?
- Would You Recommend [Applicant] to a Landlord?
- Does [Applicant] Have a History of Write-ups or Disciplinary Issues?
- How Long Has [Applicant] Been Employed?
- What is [Applicant’s] Job Title?
- Does [Applicant] Have a History of Being Late to Work?
- Why Did [Applicant] Leave? (Previous Employer)
- Do You Like Working With [Applicant]?
- Anything Else I Should Know?
1. Who Am I Speaking With?
Before you ask any questions about your applicant’s information, be sure that you’re talking to the right person. You don’t want to talk to a close work friend who’s going to vouch for anything the applicant said.
Ideally, talk to a direct supervisor, or the company’s HR. One issue you may come across is that in larger companies, HR may not know your applicant personally. In these cases, you may ask to talk to both HR and then the applicant’s direct supervisor.
2. What is [Applicant’s] Annual/Hourly Salary?
Your number one concern about a tenant is to find out if they make enough money to pay the rent each month. If they don’t earn a sufficient amount, then you skip the rest of their application and move along.
If they’ve been untruthful about how much they make, that’s also a big enough red flag to move to the next applicant.
Some employers have complicated pay structures (e.g., bonuses, stipends, commissions) and HR may have a different number on file than what your employee earns. Make sure to clarify the numbers so you don’t turn down a great applicant over a miscommunication.
3. Does [Applicant] Have a History of Missed Work?
This gives you more information about the reliability of your tenant. If you want to know if they’re going to follow the rules of your lease agreement, knowing their habits at work is a good start.
If someone can’t make it to work consistently, can you trust them to mow the lawn, shovel the snow, take care of utilities, and call you when maintenance issues arise?
4. Would You Recommend [Applicant] to a Landlord?
While you’re within your right to ask this question, an HR representative doesn’t have to answer. It’s also possible, especially at a large company, that they may not be able to answer this question because they don’t personally know the applicant.
However, if they’re willing and able to answer, this type of question can unearth important nuggets when determining your applicant’s character.
5. Does [Applicant] Have a History of Write-ups or Disciplinary Issues?
The more responsible your tenants are, the more success you’ll have as a property manager. If they have a history of acting out or getting into trouble at work, it’s likely the same will happen with the property.
6. How Long Has [Applicant] Been Employed?
In a perfect world, you’ll find applicants who have a stable job history as this usually indicates more security and earning potential.
On your application, you should ask for a detailed job history. Confirm this with their employer(s) so that you can rest assured they’re not prone to job-hopping—which could be a sign they’re generally restless and may move out quickly from your unit.
7. What is [Applicant’s] Job Title?
Then, also ask:
- What are their job responsibilities
- Is it a full-time position or part-time?
- Are they a contract worker or w-2 employee?
This can tell you a couple of things:
- Are they responsible? If they have a job with a lot of responsibility, they are more likely to be responsible in other areas of their life. This could be a department manager, a doctor, or a social worker, to give a few examples.
- Do they have a job title that transfers to other employment? You want to know if there are other opportunities for employment if your applicant loses their job. For example, someone in digital marketing will likely have plenty of opportunities in a moderately high-paying field. Someone who’s an artist that lucked into a good gig may have trouble matching that salary with their next employment.
8. Does [Applicant] Have a History of Being Late to Work?
If they don’t respect their employer who pays them, will they respect you and your property?
9. Why Did [Applicant] Leave? (Previous Employer)
If your applicant has had multiple jobs in the past five years, be sure to reach out to all their previous employers. After all, they may be a terrible employee, but their current work hasn’t caught on yet.
Talking to a previous employer can help you uncover longer patterns of bad behavior, as well as if they were fired and why.
Many states have specific laws detailing what a former employer may say about your applicant. Check this list to see if your state restricts what they are allowed to divulge about your applicant.
10. Do You Like Working With [Applicant]?
We’re uncovering more about their character here. You want tenants who are going to handle the responsibilities you assign them. You want them to be communicative, respectful, and easy to work with.
The people they work with for 40+ hours a week will have a great feel for this.
11. Anything Else I Should Know?
An oft-forgotten question that can give you some great answers. This catch-all will help you unearth anything else that the reference hasn’t mentioned up until this point.
Don’t Discriminate When Choosing an Applicant
While asking these questions can help you put together a good picture of your applicant’s character, you cannot deny their application for any reason you decide.
The Fair Housing Act set forth a list of protected classes. If your reason for denying an applicant falls under any of these protected classes, the applicant can sue you for discrimination.
These protected classes are:
- National origin
- Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
- Familial status
- Disability (This includes drug addiction. Illegal drug use is not protected)
In other words, if you find out information from an employer that causes you to want to deny their application, be sure that the reason doesn’t fall under one of these protected classes.
For example, if their employer says that they don’t like the person very much, you can’t use that as your primary reason for denying an application. If your applicant also had some questionable items in their credit report, maybe the employer’s negative review can be what pushes you to a decision to move on to another applicant.