Checking employment references is an important part of the screening process for potential tenants. After all, you want to ensure that your tenants can pay the rent, and this is typically dependent on employment.
When you frame the conversation properly, talking to the employer of a potential tenant can give you insight into more than just whether they are likely to make payments on time.
Know What You Want to Learn
Before you start the conversation with a potential tenant’s employer, make sure you have your goals in mind. The most obvious goal is confirming that they are employed and make enough to afford rent and utilities, plus other cost of living expenses.
You may not think of it at first, but checking employment references can also give you an idea of the applicant’s personality. It is also a chance to confirm that the applicant was honest about other information on their application. After all, if a potential tenant lies on their application, there is no guarantee they will be honest in the future, whether about pets, guests staying for extended times, or damage that requires immediate attention.
Get Permission From the Tenant
Before contacting current employers or performing most other steps of the screening process for tenants, you need to get written permission from the tenant to do so. Most landlords simply include this as a clause in the rental application. If you do not have it as part of the application, you will need to have the applicant sign another document giving you permission to talk to employers and other references and to run a credit check.
Who to Talk to for Employment References
When checking the employment references for your tenant, you do not necessarily want to talk to the supervisor. While they can provide extra insight because they interact with the applicant regularly, they may also be influenced by their personal relationships. For example, if they get along well with the applicant, they may embellish the positives to help them get the rental. On the other hand, if the applicant frequently butts heads with their supervisor, that supervisor may embellish negatives.
The best way to get a neutral opinion is to talk to the HR department instead of a direct supervisor. If you do opt to talk to your applicant’s supervisor, remember to take their statements with a grain of salt and think about how they may be influenced by bias.
What to Ask
The questions you ask your potential tenant’s current employer should help you confirm their salary, verify the information on their application, and give you an overall sense of their personality and whether they are likely to cause issues on your property. Consider the following questions:
- When did you hire the tenant? How long have they been working for you?
- How much does the tenant make? (What is their salary? If they are paid hourly, what is their hourly rate and how many hours do they usually work?)
- What position does the tenant hold?
- Has the tenant been promoted? Is he on track to be promoted at some point?
- Do you plan on continuing to employ the applicant?
- Does the applicant get along well with coworkers?
- Has the potential tenant caused any issues at work?
Keep in mind that not all employers will be willing to answer all of these questions. Some, for example, will not share the salary. In that case, you can verify your potential tenant’s income via pay stubs or another method.
Always Ask the Same Questions
As is the case for other aspects of evaluating and screening potential tenants, make sure that you stick to the same list of questions for every applicant’s employer. Changing the questions based on the applicant can leave you open to a potential discrimination suit.