Picking the right tenants can mean the difference between an incident-free tenancy and problems further down the line. From background checks to meeting face to face, landlord and NLA adviser Sally Blunt considers the steps landlords can take to find tenants who are a safe bet.
- Take your time
Don’t be rushed into getting tenants for your property. Choose carefully, even if it takes longer than you would like. Finding the right people now can save a lot of time and mistakes in the long run.
- Think about your market
Different tenants will be suited to different properties. For instance, if you have a four-bedroom house, you will be looking to rent to a family. Think about your market and the types of people or groups of people that will be interested in your property. You don’t want to waste your time or the time of potential tenants by showing them around a property that is not going to be suitable for them.
- Look beyond a tenant’s current employer and former landlord
I’d always recommend that landlords do a formal background check using an official referencing service like NLA Tenant Check. You have to be sure that prospective tenants are financially viable and can afford the rent. Many landlords make the mistake of thinking that they only need to speak to a tenant’s current employer and former landlord, but a reference check encompasses much more than that. It will confirm the person’s current address and whether they are registered on the electoral register; it will look at previous addresses and validate bank accounts; and it will establish whether tenants have a history of debt or money issues.
- Confirm their employment status
A background check shouldn’t just confirm where the individual works; it should also find out what type of contract they are on and how long they have been working for their current employer. If they have only been there for a couple of months and are on a probationary period, there could be a small risk in letting to them.
- Carry out immigration checks
Right to Rent is now an important part of finding new tenants. The law requires landlords to check tenants’ passports and that they have the legal right to live in the UK before granting a residential tenancy. This will also provide further validation of their identity.
- Follow up on your references
Remember that, as a landlord, you have access to all the information that tenants provide to the referencing company. For example, if you get a reference back and it says they have passed but they might be a moderate risk, you can contact the company and ask more questions. If there is a risk – for example, if someone has just started a new job – you may then consider using a guarantor.
- Meet face to face
Even if you are using a letting agent to find tenants, you should always have a face-to-face meeting with them as soon as you can. If you are managing the tenancy, it’s important to introduce yourself as you will be dealing with the tenants from that point onwards. You can also find out more about that person, their long-term plans and what they are like to communicate with. If the agent is managing the entire tenancy, or if you live a long way away from the property, then this might not be practical or necessary.
- Find your tenants on social media
Many landlords don’t think to check tenants’ social media profiles, but it’s very easy and the majority of people are now present on some kind of social media platform, whether it’s Facebook or LinkedIn. It can help to give you a better picture of what the individual is like.
- Follow your instincts
We’ve had first-hand experience on the Advice Line of landlords taking on tenants who didn’t have the required income and therefore couldn’t afford the rent. In a limited number of cases, we’ve also seen people posing as somebody else. Always follow your instincts; most of the time your first impressions will be right.
You do not need to be a member of the NLA to use NLA Tenant Check; however, full members will receive discounted prices. Find out more at www.nlatenantcheck.org.uk