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Ten tips for landlords on choosing tenants

Landlord LawJust done a little power point presentation for slide share which you might like.

Just for fun …

What are YOUR top tips for choosing tenants?

Put them in the comments box below – I may do a follow up powerpoint if there are enough of them …

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20 Responses to Ten tips for landlords on choosing tenants

  1. Wow, what a nasty little slide-show that is.

    “Be wary of ppl that have moved a lot”. And so, make no attempt to understand the greedy selfish nature of landlords in the PRS, who want all the flexibility of short tenancies and the ability to throw you out when they feel like it.

    “Applicants who are agressive and antagonistic will probably be trouble”. In other words, landlords really don’t like an assertive tenant (who usually knows more than them about tenancy law) and any attempt to be assertive will just be labelled as “agressive” and followed by an S21 probably. Or the veiled threat of one.

    You sicken me.

  2. Charming! Don’t bother about hurting my feelings will you!

    1. I am not a landlord, I am an advisor

    2. It can be quite expensive to find a new tenant so I suggest that landlords try to find tenants who will stay longer in the property. Thats good business sense.

    3. I said ‘aggressive and antagonistic’, not ‘assertive’ or ‘knows more about tenancy law than the landlord’. Renting property is a business (not a charity) and I would always advise doing business (so far as possible) with pleasant and reasonable people.

    What do other readers think about it though? Are the points raised by ‘Just saying’ valid?

  3. Don’t rent to former home owners that are moving for work, they may have the best credit rating in the world, but they are likely to buy as soon as they see something they like. (Agents loved us for some reason when we relocated, but both being former home owners, with past homes rented out, it should have been clear we would not remain for long.)

    The credit reference will show all past address the possible tenant has been at in the last 6 years, do a land register search on each of these address to check if they have “forgot” to tell you about a past landlord, or are getting one of their friends to pretend they are a past landlord.

    If a possible tenant gives you a phone number for an employer or past letting agent, don’t use it without first checking on the internet it is valid – they may be just getting a friend to give a false reference.

    Think very carefully before renting to anyone that is likely to leave the UK at the end of the tenancy, as it is nearly impossible to recover any money from someone that is not in the UK.

    It may be worth requiring that they fill in a voting registration form before you sign the AST, as people that have a past life to hind, don’t wish to be on the voting registration.

  4. Ignore the first commentator; they clearly just have an axe to grind.

    I would add that, if you can, try and go back to the penultimate landlord for a reference, they may be more honest than the current landlord who may potentially just want to be rid of bad tenants.

    My other tip would be don’t ignore benefit claimants. Provided you can live with the rent being paid in arrears I generally think they make good tenants. Make sure the references all check out and ask them to use a Jam Jar account if you’re worried about payments. If they really want your property they should be willing to use one.

  5. It is interesting to see the attitude of some people change once they have moved into a property.

    I should add here for the benefit of ‘just saying’ I feel it necessary to point out that my views only relate to some people and is by no means intended to tar everyone with the same brush. I certainly wouldn’t want my words to ‘sicken’ anyone so if you happen to disagree with what I say then I am open to discussion.

    It would be good to know which tenants are the problem ones before renting to them however referencing is relatively easy for an experienced person to jump the hoops and a reference says nothing about the persons character. I would liken it to how some people will try their hardest for a job interview and suitably impress the employer. Only for the employer to find after a few months they weren’t quite they seemed.

    Anyway, having seen some tenancies go seriously wrong, I have listed a few things for readers to consider why it is important landlords chose the right person to be their tenant.

    As soon as the landlord provides a set of keys to a tenant and collects a rent the landlord loses control of the property. Meaning:

    a) The landlord will no longer have the right to access the property without the tenants consent. Imagine the damage that could be done to your most expensive investment!

    b) A tenant might fail to pay rent. Or perhaps pay small amounts here and there, when they feel like it. Or maybe they never intended to pay any rent once they had protection from being evicted. Either way irregular payments can make a mess of the landlord own finances.

    c) The tenants could move several animals into the property after they have the keys despite agreeing to ‘no pets’.

    d) Bins might end up overflowing and the gardens overgrown.

    e) Playing music loud and annoying the neighbours.

    Essentially if the tenant is not in breach of a mandatory ground for possession the landlord has (for all practical purposes due to the virtual impossibility of obtaining a possession order for a discretionally grounds) little choice other than to allow the tenancy run for at least six month before they can seek possession via the Section 21 procedure.

    In all the landlords best possible surety to a problem free tenancy is to find decent tenants.

    To do that I would advise finding someone who you think you can get along with, trust and have mutual respect for. And following Tessa’s advice too!

    To be safe a landlord should also source a suitable rent indemnity insurance, legal expenses cover and contents and building insurance because even the most decent person could fall seriously ill or be made unemployed.

  6. You sound like a man with your head screwed on Jonathon. And with empathy too; nice to hear.

    Re “Be wary of ppl that have moved a lot”. That’s just ‘funny’ given the short term nature of most BTL tenancy agreements. Why should any tenant be expected to stay a day longer than 6 or 12 months, if that is all landlords are offering them? And with so many landlords reluctant to do any repairs, what do you actually expect? Landlords will choke on their cake soon enough.

  7. To make it clear – the point about being a bit wary about taking on tenants who have moved a lot –

    If you are a landlord looking for a long term tenant (which most landlords will be if they are sensible), then you don’t really want someone who from their past record, appears to be moving on every four to six months. For example someone who has to move a lot for their job.

    You will want someone who will stay with you a long time. Then you will have fewer voids.

    Thats all.

    Of course there are landlords who no tenant can be expected to stay with if they can possibly avoid it. I am not suggesting that landlords discriminate against tenants fleeing from a bad experience.

    Jonathan’s point about proper insurance is a good one though – however hard you try when checking there will always be problems at some stage so its best to be prepared.

  8. Comments like “Landlords will choke on their cake soon enough.” are just vitriolic and add nothing constructive to the conversation.

    In my experience the vast majority of landlords and tenants enjoy long term tenancies, with our average length being around 4.5 years. Many of our landlords offer 2-5 year tenancies. Where the initial term is 6-12 months it is usually just a fail-safe mechanism. You seem to forget that the landlord has all the risk, responsibity and liability for their property.

    We don’t expect tenants to stay for longer than the fixed term as they have no obligation to do so, but we generally hope they will stay longer and would prefer tenants who do becasue it make more commercial sense.

  9. “You seem to forget that the landlord has all the risk, responsibity and liability for their property.”

    You also have all the autonomy and flexibility at present. And you chose to be a landlord. Likewise words like “be wary of tenants..” add nothing to this discussion either and just serve to demonise tenants. As do slides like that in the “42 tips for landlords” that tell landlords to:

    “check for live electrical wires sticking out the walls where ‘tenants have ripped out unauthorised light fittings’.

    Can’t say I’ve ever done that in any property I’ve ever rented. Aggressive post will likely meet with aggressive response.

  10. @Just Saying You may be the perfect tenant but it does not mean that nightmare tenants don’t exist. I know of a case where a landlord had just that problem – with a live wire in the wall. If he had not found out about it by getting a check done it could have killed his next tenants.

    I am sure that our landlord and agent readers will have many other stories. Its not ‘demonising tenants’ to point out that these things happen.

  11. “You also have all the autonomy and flexibility at present.”

    …which seems pretty fair to me if the landlord has most of the risk.

    That’s just the way it is. Unless you change the entire underlying model of land ownership and attributing a value to it, you can’t just expect tenants to have the same rights as land owners.

    I think what you’re hoping for is a revolution not reform.

  12. Is this a joke?! Be suspicious of people who pay because they may be drug dealers or turn your property into a drug farm?!

    Treat info provided by applicants as suspect?

    Tessa – you don’t know how lucky you are to have been born when you were. For anyone born past 1980, we don’t have a choice as your generation has bought up all the property and are renting it back to us at ridiculous prices. I don’t have to ask if you own your own home, because if you had to face the ordeal of continuous renting you wouldn’t publish this sort of hideous material. Shame on you!

  13. Laura it would be lovely if everyone was as nice and as honourable as I am sure you are – but sadly they are not.

    I have seen landlords lose thousands of pounds through tenants failing to pay rent while it takes the landlords months to evict them. Often they are tenants who were not properly checked before they went in.

    Cannabis farms are a real problem for landlords. You have to be SO careful, they can do massive damage to your property and I have a feeling that sometimes insurers don’t cover the damage.

    It is not a joke.

  14. Here’s some equivalent slides for you.

    Be wary of landlords that haven’t done a gas safety check. Chances are they’re trying to kill you.

    Don’t trust landlords that don’t protect your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme. Chances are they will try and keep every penny of your cash at the end of the tenancy, and blame you for dirty cutlery.

    Be wary of a landlord that doesn’t reply to your phone calls. Chances are they don’t want to speak to you at all if they can help it, and wd rather you just pay the rent and say nothing during the duration of your tenancy.

    You see, this is some landlords. But if I suggest that they all do, is that to grossly misrepresent them?

  15. Not quite sure what your point is Jen. I didn’t say that the warning signs I mention in the tips apply to ALL tenants. Obviously they don’t.

    However they are things to watch out for becuase they do apply sometimes.

    Many landlords take on tenants with no checking whatsoever and then end up with big problems. The tips is a set of pointers for them.

    Its not intended to demonise tenants. Most tenants are fine.

    I will be doing a set of tips for tenants later. As you say, some landlords are a nightmare. But not all of them.

  16. Why on earth would a good landlord take on an aggressive and antagonistic tenant?

    Who would want to have someone like that in their lives for maybe the next 5 years or more?

    There are lots of polite and friendly tenants that don’t have axes to grind that are a pleasure to let to.

    It’s not all about the money.

  17. I’ve been renting for 10 years now, with no late / defaulted rent and no damage to properties I have lived in. If the respective landlords had taken half of the pieces in advice in this slide show I would be homeless. Thank goodness they did not.

    For example, the time I paid a year’s rent in advance as I was a student and had worked all summer to ensure I could pay it in advance and negotiated a discount for doing so.

    Or maybe the year later when I was a bit more hard up and had a paycheque coming but couldn’t afford the hefty deposit, agency fees and 2 months rent in advance. Thank goodness the landlady accepted I had a job and would be able to pay.

    Or the fact I’ve had to move regularly due to insecure tenancies allowing the landlord to sell up, move back in themselves or simply renovate so they can charge even more rent. How grateful I am my current landlady did not read this blog and deem me a ‘suspicious character’ due to multiple addresses.

    Or , when the estate agent that charges hundreds of pounds in fees before you can move in asks for references and evidence of salary, how lucky I was that the landlady did not see my wage slip as suspicious because I provided it myself, because in reality, is my company ever going to send my wage slip directly to anyone else?

    Perhaps because I have commented on this blog, I should be considered antagonistic too, adding to my list of ‘flaws’ according to this slideshow.

    As landlords, you have taken the decision to allow people to make homes in your ‘investment’ and I’d hope that you’d see what a responsibility this is. It’s harder for those tenants than it is for you. Please don’t now demonise them for their situation, at least 1 of the items listed on this slide show is likely to apply to every single renter in the country and I’d suggest it doesn’t make them all ‘bad tenants.’

  18. Of course not. However there ARE a lot of dreadful would be tenants out there and landlords have to be careful.

    For example people keen to pay rent in advance in cash IS one of the warning signs of a tenant who may turn your property into a cannabis farm. However this does not mean that EVERYONE who offers to pay in advance is a criminal!

    But I am sure you will realise that having your property turned into a cannabis farm is a disaster for the landlord, often massive damage (sometimes structural damage) is done to the property which is very expensive to put right. So landlords need to beware. This is much more of a problem now than it used to be.

    Basically landlords need to use common sense and caution. I am sure that those tenants commenting on this blog are not criminals or con men but the criminals and con men are out there, looking for landlords to scam.

    The slide presentation is just a warning for those landlords, it is not an attack on tenants.

    I also have a lot of help for tenants available, for example this free e course

  19. I’m thinking of becoming a landlord at some point in the next 18 months, it is a big discion, and the above comments are giving me plenty to think about. Clearly without guidance based on peoples experiences, I could soon find I’m regetting getting into this.



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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