Landlords - did you check your tenant?
Hello all, just for a change lets talk about selecting tenants; an area that can cause all sorts of stress for a landlord.
When you select a tenant for your property you will (I hope) ensure they satisfy a number of criteria, but what are they exactly?
Firstly establish their identity properly. It sounds basic but you'd be surprised how many don't. Ask for photo ID in the form of a photo driving licence or a passport and make a copy. If they are from overseas also ask for proof of their right to reside in the UK - in the Immigration Bill just published by parliament granting of Residential Tenancies is specifically covered and places responsibilities on landlords to check a tenant has the right to residency in the UK! It is not likely to become law in this parliament, more likely next year, but if (& it is an if) the section affecting landlords is passed without amendment then there are fines proposed of £3000 if landlords get it wrong.
Having established their identity check their previous address(es) by getting sight of bills in their name for that address in the last 3 months. Don't use mobile phone bills rather ask for utility bills, council tax, tv licence etc.
Now you've established they are who they say they are and they live where they say they live seek references. At the very least you want a reference from their employer. Don't necessarily take the person they point you to as their 'manager' as the right person - if in doubt phone the company and ask to speak to the accounts or HR department or the General Manager then seek the reference in writing. If they work for the NHS or the Police then pinning down the right person to send the reference request to can be difficult so do some phoning around and get a specific name and department in regional HQ to send it to - if you don't, your request may disappear into a black hole because they are big organisations. Landlords references can be invaluable so if they have rented in the last 2 years then write to their previous landlord or agent and ask for that reference.
Now you have established they are exactly who they say they are, that they are employed and on what salary (and permanent, not short term contract?) and that if they rented before they were a good tenant who paid the rent and didn't leave the property in a mess.
You should also run a credit check to establish if they have a history of bad debt or not. This may be more difficult to do as an individual unless you have access to credit checking companies like Experian however you could use an agent to do that part.
Finally, and most importantly, go by your gut instinct! This cannot be emphasised too much. If you have a bad feeling about them or you noticed at the viewing that they came in from a wet street and didn't wipe their feet or they were just generally giving you a bad impression, then walk away - you'd be amazed how often gut instinct is right.