As a landlord, one of the things I disliked the most was wasting my time on non-potential renters.  This can be frustrating and exhausting for new landlords.  Most other "questions for potential tenant" landlord sites will name the obvious of how to screen a tenant by mentioning "obtaining correct information", "verify information", etc, etc.  Well, that's just great if you have a bona fide prospective tenant!  If not, then you're wasting your time.

Over the years I developed a good sense of how to screen tenants, questions to ask potential renters (beyond the obvious), and a good set of tenant questions that have served me well in weeding out horrible tenants.  These also make for an excellent set of tips for landlords, both new and experienced.  Here are a list of 5 questions to ask renters and how to screen tenants on-the-fly without ever having them fill out an application:

1) Phone calls.  We're all professionals and want to deal with professional and respectful tenants.  A tenant who doesn't respect you probably won't respect your property.  An early indicator (and #1 tip for landlords) of a poor renter is the phone call (see signs of a risky renter)  If your initial call with your renter leaves you wondering if you're dealing with a moron, thug, or just idiot simply hang up the phone and move on.  If a person can't carry on a meaningful and professional conversation you don't want to deal with them!

2) Appearance!  If a tenant shows up with tattoos above the shoulder, question their work history...thoroughly!  I'm sorry but from my experience the higher the tat from the shoulder, the worse prospective tenant this person will make.  I'm not against tattoos as I have two (you'll never know unless I put on a tank top), but if a person shows up to meet you sporting a garish tattoo on their face, you should always have more questions for this potential renter and they should be centered around "How long have you had this job?" followed up with, "I need a verifiable contact at your place of work to verify your work history"

3) In a majory hurry.  One of the questions for potential tenants you'll have to offer when faced with tenants who are in a rush to move in is, "Do you have a verifiable contact from your previous landlord?"  If the answer is anything but "Yes", dismiss these prospective tenants.  They're in a rush most likely due to eviction or possible eviction from their current home.  If the prospective tenant says they were living with family members (and are in a rush), you would be wise to force them to prove this by bringing in two pieces of mail with their name and current address on it.  From there use, the internet to find who owns the home and go from there.  

4) Cash in your face!  If a tenant offers to pay you cash to get into the rental, you don't need any more questions for this prospective tenants except, "Are you serious!?"  No one except wealthy and eccentric people carry around cash and try to influence your decision with regard to a rental situation.  Here's an excellent tip for landlords:  The cash the prospective tenant has in your face could very well be the last cash you see in a long time if you put them in your unit.  

5)  The last question for potential tenants is a doozy for shady tenants.  It's similar to the question thrown at people during a job interview and goes like this:  "What is it the most that makes you want to rent from me?"  A slickster will be hard pressed to think of a good, honest, and thoughtful answer.  Sure, you'll hear "I like the area" or "I like the house" but there's probably more other properties in the area and the house or apartment is not that special allowing you to point this out and reiterate the question.  Once I actually had a tenant reply, "I don't know"  I thanked her and left the property.

If you follow these tips for landlords and follows this list of questions to ask potential renters (as needed), you may very well never get to the stage of having them fill out an application or even go meet them.  Let poor prospective tenants wash themselves out!