Fri 02 Aug 2019
1. Ensure your reference checks are thorough enough
This is really crucial. It may be a pain and will likely come with a cost, but the referencing process is so so important in successfully letting a property. Ideally, we would recommend an agent undertake this for you. You may think as an agent I’m biased, but let me explain…
Firstly, a good letting agent will reference your potential tenants thoroughly by running a swathe of background checks. These will pick up bad credit history, any County Court Judgements or IVA’s (Individual Voluntary Arrangements). You be surprised by the number of applicants we have that are completely unaware of the presence of a CCJ, or try to hide it. Our referencing process will always flag this up.
In addition to credit checks, a good letting agent will also source employment references and previous landlord references.
Secondly, if an error were to occur and a tenant with bad credit were allowed to take up a tenancy, then the liability lays with the letting agent and not you personally. The agent would also be minded to recover any lost rent and helping to regain possession of your property.
2. Avoid the likes of Gumtree
Probably the most important of all the tips. Many private landlords we speak to seem to gravitate to Gumtree to source tenants, under the assumption that it is a more affordable route (but unfortunately not so cheap when you have a tenant months in arrears and won’t leave your property without a bailiff warrant though) but many of these landlords aren’t aware that generally tenants who have bad credit, county court judgements or have been in trouble with previous landlords look on Gumtree as a way to source a rental property. Why? Because they know a private landlord is less likely to reference them as stringently as a letting agent, if at all.
Landlords who source tenants on Gumtree may take a previous landlord or employer reference at best, but are they checking that employer is who they say they are and not just a tenant’s mate? Are they checking the tenant’s rental history, or credit history? If you’re a landlord in this boat, you really are opening up to so many potential problems – something we see regularly, when landlords come to us after a bad experience on sites like Gumtree.
Maybe buy a washing machine or a bike on Gumtree, but don’t risk something that could end up costing you thousands.
3. Make sure their income is more than enough
When looking at a potential tenants affordability, many landlords just look to see if their income will cover the rent. Wrong! It’s vital you take into account their living expenses too. Council tax, utilities, sky, Netflix, broadband aren’t cheap nowadays - and that’s before you even consider food, fuel and fun!
We’d recommend that you calculate the tenants annual earnings/household income to be at least 30 months rent. So if the rent is £700pcm, we’d advise the household income to be a minimum of £21,000 (£700 x 30).
Without building in a bit of leeway, what tends to happen when things are stretched is the rent is the first thing to fall by the wayside. It only takes unplanned sickness, an unexpected bill, or a relationship break-up, and your rent could suddenly be at risk.
This leaves YOU the landlord out of pocket, often having to cover mortgage payments yourself. We’ve had numerous self-managing landlords on the phone who have been caught up in situations like this, so please be mindful.
4. Maintain open lines of communication
When negotiating with a tenant about agreeing to take a rental, its important you are flexible and open lines of communication from the start. Tenants have different requirements when moving into a property, from changing start dates, requesting pets, a desire to install sky tv etc.
If you consider all requests fairly and ensure the communication lines are strong at the beginning of your relationship with your tenant, this will make for a much easier and positive tenancy throughout.
5.Ensure the property is in a good condition and clean before tenancy starts
We always advise our landlords that where possible, any maintenance works are completed before the tenancy starts AND the property is clean and tidy. It really will make all the difference to starting the relationship with your tenant on the right road.
Seeing excited tenants moving into a property that is a bit grubby, tired and worn can quickly morph their emotions 360 degrees, into angry tenants who will feel hard done by. They say moving house is one of the most stressful things in life – so don’t add to it by not finishing off important jobs. It will only make your relationship with your tenants strained from the start. No tenant wants to spend the first few exciting days of their tenancy cleaning up dirt and mess left by the previous occupants, for the sake of you sending in a cleaner and retaining the costs from the previous tenants deposit (if evidenced by the inventory).
Hopefully these 5 tips were useful, there is no perfect system for finding good tenants, but there are plenty of things you can put in place to ensure you are minimising the risk of having bad tenants in your property.
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