Just for a change, this post is (mostly) written by others! I sent off a request to various Industry Experts to let me have their top tip on choosing tenants. These are what they sent me (and I did one myself at the end):
Vanessa Warwick – use social media
My top tip for referencing tenants is to use the information provided by social media.
Put the tenant’s name into google, and see what comes up.
For instance, if they have a LinkedIn profile, you can check how long they have been working for their current employer and also if they have moved between a lot of different jobs.
You may also be able to get some insights into their lifestyle which will help you build up a more tangible picture of the tenant, beyond what traditional credit referencing delivers. For instance, you might find that they play the drums!
Vanessa’s website is Property Tribes.
Tom Entwistle – Selection is all important
Selecting tenants is the most important task a landlord or agent does. It’s both a skill and a routine that are well worth developing.
In my view, the most important part of this process is getting your prospective tenant to complete a comprehensive Application Form. These are available free from www.TenantVERIFY.co.uk along with a 20 point Screening Checklist.
By signing the applicant gives a statement of truth, permission to do checks, confirmation of right-to-rent and allows data sharing.
Tom Entwistle is founding editor of LandlordZONE® and an experienced residential and commercial landlord. His website is www.LandlordZONE.co.uk (and also Tenant Verify).
Richard Price – have the right mindset
My top tip has to be “don’t think tenant, think customer”:
Being a successful landlord isn’t just about the bricks and sticks, it’s about dealing with people and being flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.
Landlords need to attract the customer and then keep them happy, which is the key to successful business. In any walk of life what goes around comes back around, so if you offer an affordable and reasonable service you will reap what you sow in the long run.
However, when the going gets tough you have to remember it’s your investment on the line, so you must be resolute and be able to stand your ground when needed.
Richard is Director of Operations at the National Landlords Association, www.landlords.org.uk
Alan Ward – be up to date
If you’re an experienced landlord I’m not going to teach my grandmother etc – if not, go and learn, do a course, meet other landlords – ignorance of 140+ laws covering renting is no defence. If that frightens you, or you are not comfortable judging new people, stay away, or use an agent and pay for their knowledge.
Ensure your rental procedures are up to date – there have been 61 new laws since the 2004 Housing Act. If your instincts sound danger, check. Don’t accept a prospective tenant just because they claim they can pay, however long the void.
Alan Ward is Chair of the Residential Landlords Association www.rla.org.uk
Kate Faulkner – don’t ignore the ‘little things’
Essential steps include using a qualified ARLA, NALS or RICS agent and making sure your tenants are properly referenced ie not just paying for a £10 check.
Then it’s about being on the right side of the law, carrying out right to rent checks, making sure you protect their deposit in one of the government schemes, having evidence you have issued prescribed information and a quality inventory.
It’s the ‘little things’ that often catch landlords out and can end up costing them dearly.
David Lawrenson – proof of income
Our adverts make it clear that we expect tenant applicants to have a joint provable income of at least 2.5 times the rent. And when we speak to them on phone or by email we reiterate this.
We always send an email setting out what documents we expect them to provide. One of these is a min of 3 months’ bank statements. We check this to see income coming in and whether or not they are sufficiently solvent. We ask the tenants to get job and previous landlord refs.
We find it is much quicker if we ask tenants to get these. They have the incentive, after all!
David Lawrenson Owner and founder of private rented sector consultancy www.LettingFocus.com
Tessa Shepperson – double check everything
This sounds rather horrible, but my tip is to treat all information given to you as untrue until you are able to verify it independently.
So double check that referee’s phone number (put it into Google) – just to make sure it is not that of a friend, primed to give a glowing reference. Check that the employer actually exists and that the applicant has a job with them. Etc, etc. And if there are any discrepancies – double check everything again.
Sadly a lot of people do lie (and some of your applicants may even be professional criminals) and you need to be sure that your tenants have told you the truth. NB You may want to take a look at this post here.
Tessa Shepperson – this blog and www.landlordlaw.co.uk.
Many thanks to all our contributors.
Do YOU have a top tip for choosing tenants? If so – put it in the comments!