Tenant Screening Questions to Avoid

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As a landlord, you have the right to do a thorough process in screening potential tenants. You might have a list of what makes a good tenant in mind. You know, how they must be responsible and pay their bills on time, be stable when it comes to employment, and have a good record from…

tenant screening 3

As a landlord, you have the right to do a thorough process in screening potential tenants. You might have a list of what makes a good tenant in mind. You know, how they must be responsible and pay their bills on time, be stable when it comes to employment, and have a good record from their previous landlords.  But while a careful screening process gives you a great tenant, there are some tenant screening questions you may want to avoid. 

We understand that when you – a landlord or the property manager – meet a potential tenant, you want to learn more about them. And you can do that by asking questions. Too many questions, which some may consider being a bit personal or discriminatory, can lose you a future tenant.  In a previous article, we shared with you the questions to ask when qualifying applicants. Now, we give you the rundown of the most common tenant screening questions to steer away from. 

tenant screening questions to avoid

| Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

Personal Questions

As a landlord or a property manager, you have every right to know the person who will live at your rental property. But you have to be mindful about asking personal questions. A potential tenant may feel uneasy if you ask questions that they deem invades their privacy. 

As a general rule, do not ask questions about their marital status, source of income, age, gender orientation, and religion.

Also, refrain from asking your tenant if they have children or how many children they have. Instead, ask how many occupants there will be since children are not considered as tenants.

With regard to pets, it is your call if you will allow pets into your property. But remember there is a different set of regulations for service pets

Questions that may violate the law

Avoid questions that may seem discriminatory towards a certain class of people. The Federal Fair Housing Act was created to end discriminatory practices related to housing. In this act, it is believed that every person has the right to rent and purchase a home or get a mortgage on a home without fear of being discriminated against. Seven classes are protected by this act: color, disability, race, religion, national origin, sex, and familial status.

Some questions or statements you want to avoid are:

  • Are you bi-racial? White or Hispanic?
  • Where were you born?
  • I’m not confident in renting my property to an immigrant.
  • Are you disabled?
  • What is your first language?


These questions may come out as curiosity questions only that you randomly throw out. However, they can be discriminatory and put you in danger of violating the Federal Fair Housing law.

Arrest Records

Have you ever been arrested before? Do you have any criminal records?

This one question may overwhelm any potential tenant. Always remember that arrests are different from convictions. You can run a background check to determine if your potential tenant had convictions before. It will be up to you if you will still consider the tenant to rent your property. But remember that you cannot discriminate against a person just because they have convictions.

However,  if their conviction may impact them being a good tenant, involving them in drug-related convictions or violence that can put other tenants at risk, then it is your decision if you will accept the tenant or not.

Same Questions for Everyone

When you go through your tenant screening process, you have a standard set of questions to ask your tenants. Don’t go beyond what you usually ask just because they seem like they cannot afford the monthly rent or dress badly. It is also inappropriate to ask more questions if you already have run a credit check and background check, not to mention if you ask additional questions like have they had evictions before or conflicts from their previous landlords only to certain tenants that are Asian, African-American, or because of their religion.

Picking tenants should be unbiased. You should stick to asking the same standard questions to all.


In conclusion

Tenant screening is a demanding process. Every landlord’s dream is to have a very reliable and responsible tenant. And as a landlord, it is your right to be strict when it comes to screening every tenant. However, some questions are simply off-limits. Asking a tenant about their religion, race, politics, or arrest records is a big no-no. You must steer clear of questions that are unnecessary and might get you in trouble in the future or worse, with the law.


Our commitment

Green Ocean Property Management has a standard way of qualifying tenants. We follow a set of proven guidelines and appropriate tenant screening questions to land you the perfect tenant.

We will handle the tedious tenant screening process for you. Rest assured that you will get a tenant who is financially responsible, stable, and had a good relationship with their previous landlords. Committed to remaining professional and unbiased, we stick to our effective guidelines and know what questions to avoid in tenant screening.

Give us a call now and let us help you!

Reach us at hello@greenoceanpm.com or call 617-487-4868. You may also visit our office at 268 Centre St Newton MA 02458.


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