What to ask an applicant's landlord
February 13, 2012 6:57 AM   Subscribe

What should I ask my potential sublessee's current landlord? I've never been a sublessor (or landlord or even gotten random craigslist roommates) before and could use a little guidance.

The situation is not complex. We're trying to sublet our apartment and have some people who are interested. To me, their income is sort of borderline for affording our place (rent is $900. They're bringing in 2000-2500/month after taxes between the two of them.) I want to rent to them, because we really need to find someone ASAP, but I want to make sure I'm not being stupid about this, so I think I should check out their references and call their current landlord. Since I have never done such a thing before. I'd like to get some input on what exactly I should be asking about. Is it simply a matter of saying something like this?

"Hi Mr. C. My name is juliapangolin and 2 of your current tenants, A and B, have applied to sublet my apartment. Do they pay their rent? Great. Have they burned the place down? No? Thanks so much for your time!"

Or is there something more I need to say to get the information I need?
posted by juliapangolin to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
That income's not at all borderline in my view, though this may depend on the market. In fact that would be downright comfortable in the city I live in, where people routinely put in 50% or more of their income towards rent.

In my opinion the only questions you need to ask are what you're suspecting: did they pay the rent on time, how are they as tenants, any problems that would make you hesitant to rent to them again. That's it, really.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:16 AM on February 13, 2012

What you are seeking is a very standard thing, often called a Rental Verification Form. Typically you would have the tenants fill out a portion of the form authorizing their current/previous landlord to release payment information. Then you give that to said landlord and they will fill it out and fax/email it back to you.
posted by lohmannn at 7:49 AM on February 13, 2012

Pay less attention to their current landlord, and more attention to landlords two or more apartments back. If they're horrible, the current landlord may say anything he can to get rid of them.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:01 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: IAALL and when I call or get called to check references, it goes something like this:

"Hi, this is cmoj, calling in reference to a [former] tenant of yours, A."
"Oh, hi. Yes."
"I was just wondering how they were as tenants. Did they pay rent on time"
"Oh, they were late once or twice, but communicative about it."
"Okay. Did you have any other issues with how they left the place or anything"
"Would you rent to them again?" This always gets asked because a landlord always personally likes and wants to keep genuinely good tenants and it's hard to sound enthusiastic about someone you merely don't want to screw over. Also, if they were horrible tenants for some other reason, it's a lot easier to say, "No, probably not," than to have said before, "A was a real asshole most of the time."
"Yeah, definitely."
"Thank you. Have a good day."

If their any of their references are through an apartment complex or large management company, they won't know them personally and might want you to send them a fax or something requesting the info because they'll have to go into files. In these cases, unless they were evicted or something relatively extreme like that (in which case the tenants would have to be really dumb to list them as a reference) they won't know much of anything useful, so unless it's their only reference, I skip that.
posted by cmoj at 9:59 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to be a landlord. Cmoj is right.

- timeliness of rent. On time, or a bulletproof payment plan that they stuck to. When you meet w/ new/prospective tenants, emphasize that the rent is due, in full, on _date_.

- noise. If you read ask.me, noise issues are rampant. My rental app included "Do you own/play any instruments." Bad electric guitar is on the Geneva Convention prohibited as torture list. I learned this the sad, hard way.

- damage.

- animals. Tenants lie. Tenants who have prohibited pets lie. Pets cause damage. People will put the cat box on the wood floor. The cat will pee next to the box. The floor will need lots of work. Dogs will claw doors when the postman comes. The door will be ruined.

- neighborliness. "Were they good neighbors?"
posted by theora55 at 9:46 AM on February 14, 2012

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