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Part 2 – Choice of Tenant
In my last article in this series avoiding problems when renting property to tenants I took a look at the things you need to sort out and do before property is let to your tenant.
In this article I am going to be looking at what is probably the most important thing of all. This is:
Being very careful in your choice of tenant
This is the single most important thing landlords need to do when renting property. A good tenant will behave in a responsible manner and is more likely to speak to you and be reasonable if problems arise.
When I practised as a solicitor and did eviction work, I saw so many cases where landlords had failed to check tenants properly and had allowed unsuitable tenants into occupation. You need to be so careful and proper checks are essential.
Here are some tips:
- Do not rely just on your credit reference report. Do your own checks too
- Double-check all information provided and do not accept anything as true until it has been independently verified. Con men lie.
- Check out all prospective tenants online – put their name and all telephone numbers provided into Google and see what comes up
- Check them also on social media – but remember that many people have the same name so the John Smith you saw with two bulldogs may not be the same John Smith who told you he had no pets
Incidentally, it is not a breach of data protection (or anything else) to check out prospective tenants on social media or online – so long as you are only viewing open access material and are not hacking into private accounts!>/p>
Follow up references but be wary – they also may not be telling the truth. For example, the current landlord may be desperate to get rid of them
Always take three months bank statements – to check to what money comes in and whether they can actually afford your rent.
Tenants often object to providing bank statements and say they have the right to refuse to do this. This is of course true, they do. But then you in turn, have the right to rent the property to someone else. Someone who has cooperated with you and who you know is in a position to pay your rent.
You also need to:
Check your tenant’s identity
You will (at the time of writing) as part of your new tenant process need to carry out a ‘right to rent check’. However, this is not the same as checking the tenants ID.
The right to rent check is a service you carry out for the government to make sure people have a ‘right to rent’.
However, your ID checks are, although similar, more important (to you) than this. They are to check that the applicants actually are who they say they are and are not (for example) a con man impersonating someone else.
You will need to see ID documentation, ideally a passport, or driving license or something with a photograph on it. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Check that there are no discrepancies in the documentation provided and that all the dates match
- Check that the photograph looks like the person in front of you
- Be suspicious if the paperwork is very crumpled – this may be to disguise the fact that the document is forged
Here are some other points to bear in mind:
People who are ‘desperate’ for immediate accommodation and want you to take them on before doing proper checks should be avoided like the plague. They usually turn out to be nightmare tenants.
Remember it is not your responsibility to house the homeless. If they want to rent your property they will have to wait until you have done your checks.
Be very wary of people who offer to pay large sums of cash up front, particularly if they do not want you to check them out and seem anxious for you to leave them alone during the tenancy.
These are classic signs of criminals looking to convert your property into a cannabis farm. They are far more common than you might realise.
Remember it is better to have a property lying empty than to rent it to a bad tenant. The cost of repairing damaged property and eviction for non-payment of rent is going to be far worse than the cost of leaving the property empty until you find a tenant you feel happy with.
If you feel uneasy about someone – rent to someone else.
If you follow these rules, you should in most cases find that you have decent tenants who will respect you and behave well.
Success is not possible 100% of the time, but in most cases, if you are careful you will avoid problem tenants.
The main thing is to be consistent and NEVER allow tenants into occupation until they have been thoroughly checked out.
Landlord Law members will find further guidance on this important topic in my Landlord Law membership site, via our New Tenant Checklist.
Watch out for Part 3 in this article series, where I will be looking at some other things you can do to avoid problems when renting property to tenants.
6 February 2020.
Tessa is a specialist landlord & tenant lawyer and runs the popular online Landlord Law service.