Tenant Phone Interview Guide

APARTMENT:                                                                                             DATE:



This is the 1st phase of the telephone interview.  Simply ask the questions and get the answers.  Don’t respond too much except to ask for clarifications, examples, and explanations.

  1.       What date would you like to move in?

            The apartment won’t be available until …  Is that acceptable to you?

  1.       How many people will be living in the unit with you?

Know the local board of health occupancy restrictions.

  1.       Do you, or any of those living with you, smoke?

Potential Disqualifier, if you do not allow smoking on your property, and the answer is YES.

  1.       How many vehicles will you need to park?

Is space available for all those vehicles to be parked legally and safely?

  1.       Do you have a reliable source of income?

This is not a simple YES / NO question.  Look for answers that inspire confidence, such as: “Yes, I’ve been working at … for … years”, or, “Yes, I’ve had my own business doing … for … years.”  NO answers should be immediately followed by words to the effect of “… but I’m approved for Section-8”, or some other confirmation that the interviewee has some subsidy that ensures steady rent payments.

  1.       The rent is __________.  We require that your monthly take-home pay (after taxes) be at least 3-times that amount.  Can you meet that requirement? 


  1.       Can you pay the 1st month’s rent, the last month’s rent, and the security deposit?      [$________________]

Potential Disqualifier.  Even if you will not require 1st, Last, & Security, the fact that an applicant does not have enough money on hand to cover this cost might be a warning sign.

  1.       Do you consider yourself a good credit risk?

                        [If YES, ask for some examples?]
                        [If No, ask for an explanation.]
There might be a reasonable explanation for the interviewee not considering themself to be a good credit risk.  Is the explanation credible?

  1.       What will your past landlords say about you?

Look for words and phrases like: “paid on time”; “neat”; “no troubles”; etc.

  1.       What pets do you have?
  • Will you allow cats and or dogs, and how many?  Snakes?  Lizards?
  • If a dog, what kind / weight?
  • If they have a pet, ask if it is a service animal.
  • If they have a service animal, ask for the doctor’s name who prescribed / authorized the animal, and contact information.  Let them know that you will call the physician who prescribed it, and you will call back.


  • Most insurance companies commonly blacklist the following breeds of dog, or any mixed breed with a genetic relationship: (SOURCE: Psychology Today, 27 May 2014)

                        Pit Bull Terrier                                   Staffordshire Terrier
                        Rottweiler                                          German Shepherd
                        Presa Canario                                  Chow Chow
                        Doberman Pinscher                                    Akita
                        Wolf-hybrid                                        Mastiff
                        Cane Corso                                       Great Dane
                        Alaskan Malamute                           Siberian Husky
Check with your insurance agent.

  1.       Why are you moving?


  1.       Do you plan to keep a waterbed?

Will you allow a waterbed in your apartment?  One gallon of water weighs 8 lbs.  A queen-size waterbed needs close to 200 gallons of water; 1,600 pounds.  Will your second floor bedroom support that weight?  Do you want to deal with a leak?

  1.       Do you own a vacuum cleaner?

            If YES, what kind?
            If NO, are you willing to buy one?
There’s no law saying a tenant must have a vacuum cleaner.  If they have one, who knows if they’ll use it.  This is one of those questions that can only give you a gut-level feel for the quality of the prospective tenant.  Considered by itself, a NO answer is probably not enough to turn down an applicant during the phone interview, but it is enough to keep your guard up as the application process goes forward.

Now it’s your turn to do most of the talking.  By now, you’ve achieved some sort of comfort level with the applicant.  If you’ve decided against the applicant, tell them politely but firmly that you cannot consider them and provide the reasons why.

If you have a level of confidence that this applicant is worthy of consideration as a tenant on your property, the following items must be communicated to the applicant. 

  • Politely explain that you would like to show the apartment to the applicant, and have them fill out an application if the apartment is acceptable to them.  Also explain that when they submit the application, a criminal background and credit check will be performed. 


  • Schedule an appointment to tour the vacant apartment at a time that is convenient to both of you.


  • Provide the address and the instructions on where to park and where to meet.
  • Remind the applicant that when they arrive, you will need to see a state or federally issued photo-id.

Remind the applicant that you must receive a confirming phone-call or text message at least one hour before the appointment.

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