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The Roommate Screening Process

If you want to find a roommate, then there is a careful screening process that should be followed to ensure that you find a quality match. A careful landlord will check a variety of components before signing on a new tenant. This includes a quality application form which will address the basic statistics of your applicant as well as the interview and general observations. The application form is vitally important because this will be your opportunity to obtain the information to not only screen your applicant but also find the potential tenant should problems arise in the future. You can find an example of a quality application here. A lot of people who are new to the idea of renting out space may find themselves at a loss for what kind of questions to ask their applicants. Of course the point of the interview is to find out how good of a match the roommate is for you as well as what kind of risk they may pose to you. A new roommate that can't pay the bills or doesn't have the respect you require for personal space can make your position as a landlord not only uncomfortable, but costly. A list of ideas for interview questions can be found lower on this page. There are always more questions to ask but these will provide a few ideas on important topics to cover. You will want to get a good feel for the applicant's personal habits as well as their stability financially. Pay attention to the subtle nonverbal clues while asking these questions as well. The way a person dresses and keeps their hair can speak volumes. What are their mannerisms like? Does their style of conversation match the story that they are giving you? And always remember to let them talk for a while. They'll tell you what is important to them if you just give them a couple open ended questions and a few minutes of free space to talk about their interests. When you have garnered all the information that you can about your potential tenant. Close the interview politely while expressing an interest in the applicant but not committing yourself. Never provide them with a promise or tell them that you will not select them due to a qualities with the exception of perhaps smoking and pets. You could end the conversation with a statement along the lines of "Thank you for stopping by. It was a pleasure to meet you. I have several people looking at the place and rent the room on a first come first serve basis. Let me confirm what the status is with the other people who have already looked at the room and if they have not taken it, then I will contact you to let you know it is definitely available."


Applicaton Qustions:

Full Name
Phone Numbers
Social Security
Driver's License Number
Proof of Employment
Credit Check Authorization
References (last two places of residence)
Family Contacts

Be careful with regard to Race, Sex, Familial Status, Medical Conditions, National Origin, Religion, or Handicap as these issues are protected by the Fair Housing Act.

Interview Questions:

Applicant's reason for moving
Their planned duration of stay
Do they have family in area
Do they have friends in area (be careful when asking about familial status)
The person's habits in regards to people staying overnight
How often do they have out of town visitors
Review the applicant's employment (employer, years employed, location, hours, satisfaction with employment)
Discuss the person's cooking habits (food style, aroma, frequency)

Explain to the applicant the rules and lifestyle of those people living in the home already (people will select themselves away from your place if they sense an incompatibility which will save you from evicting them or replacing them after a problem arises)


Non-Verbal Clues:

Type of Attire: Is the person dressed neatly? Did they take the time to put themselves together before presenting to the interview?

Manner of Speech: Does the person sounded educated when they speak? Is there a glimmer of alertness behind their eyes that seems incompatible with their overall presentation? These things are subtle and difficult to read, but help nonetheless.

Car Evaluation Test: An excellent way to assess a someone's personal habits and hygeine is to take a look at their car. Is it clean? Is the body damaged? This is a chance to determine if they hold a sense of pride and ownership in regard to their belongs. Look inside the care and see if there is clutter or even trash littered about the interior. Or is it spotless? Outside of the person's dress, the car is your only way to look into the applicant's life and see how they live before they move in.


The Fair Housing Act:

Be careful as is it is against the law to perform any of the following:

Refuse to rent to or sell housing
Tell potential tenants housing is unavailable when in fact it is available
Show potential tenants apartments or homes in certain neighborhoods only
Advertise housing to preferred groups of people only
Refuse to provide potential tenants with information regarding mortgage loans
deny potential tenants a mortgage loan or impose different terms or conditions on a mortgage loan
Deny potential tenants property insurance
Conduct property appraisals in a discriminatory manner
Refuse to make certain modifications or accommodations for persons with a mental or physical disability, including persons recovering from alcohol and substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS-related illnesses
Fail to design and construct housing in an accessible manner
Harass, coerce, intimidate, interfere with anyone exercising or assisting someone else with their fair housing rights
Discriminate based on Race, Color, National origin, Religion, Sex, Familial status (families with children under the age of 18, or who are expecting a child), or Handicap (if the potential tenant or someone close to the tenant has a disability).



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