How to reference check tenants
As a landlord, you should know exactly who a potential tenant is before you hand over the keys to your property and enter into a tenancy agreement with them. Only then can you make an informed decision about whether they are likely to pay the rent on time and keep your property in good condition.
Why reference? … Prevention is better than cure
Renting out your property always carries an element of risk, but undertaking a thorough referencing process can reduce that risk, saving you time and money further down the line. The number of evictions from rental properties rose 5% in the first three months of 2016 and the media is full of horror stories from tenants who default on the rent or cause malicious damage, to landlords who discover that their tenants have been growing cannabis in their homes.
Before you get started…
Make sure your property and your landlord insurance meet your legal obligations. You can check this by calling Total Landlord’s property insurance experts on 0800 63 43 880.
How to reference check tenants to reduce your risk
There is no way to guarantee that a tenancy will be problem free. But if you follow our list of key checks on what to look for you can tighten up your reference check and reduce your risk.
Demand for rental properties is high, so don’t be rushed into letting someone move in quickly before they have ticked all of your boxes. If a potential tenant refuses to provide any piece of information, you should question why.
Professional tenant referencing and Right to Rent checks are the only way to confirm that a tenant:
- Is who they say they are
- Has the financial means to pay the rent on time every month
- Is worthy of being entrusted with your investment
Hamilton Fraser brand ambassador Paul Shamplina has spent over 25 years in the legal field helping landlords with problem tenants. He recommends 10 key checks for landlords to carry out:
Top 10 key checks for landlords
- Proof of identity – Driving license (preferable as it includes an address) or passport
- ‘Right to rent’ certification – Since February 2016 all landlords are required by law to conduct ‘Right to rent’ checks to ensure tenants have a legal right to be living in the UK
- National insurance number – This proves that the prospective tenant is legitimately working in the UK
- Proof of address – Ask to see the last three months’ utility bills, gas, electric or water (not mobile phone)
- Bank statements – Ask to see the last three months’ bank statements for evidence of income
- Employer’s reference – Via both a telephone conversation and a letter on headed paper
- Previous landlord reference – Check that the landlord owns the property by looking on the Land Registry (this currently costs £4.00)
- Guarantor referencing – If the tenant is using a guarantor, this individual must be referenced in the same way
- Credit reference checks – These show that a tenant pays their debts on time and doesn’t have any County Court Judgements against them
- Gut instinct – If in any doubt, don’t go ahead. If phone calls always go to voicemail, they are late getting their deposit to you or it takes a long time to have them referenced, it is probably best to stay away.
If in any doubt use an established referencing provider
Unfortunately serial bad tenants who move from property to property conning landlords do exist and tenants with malicious motives will often target private landlords who carry out tenant reference checks themselves. If you are in any doubt about a prospective tenant, or if you have little time to spare to carry out a thorough background check, employing the services of an established referencing provider will be money well spent.
The provider will carry out a thorough assessment of the prospective tenant to help you make your final decision. This should be used in conjunction with your own checks. Some landlords will visit their prospective tenants at their current address following a professional reference check, to complete the tenant application form and get a feel for who the tenant is and what condition that tenant keeps the property in.
Download your free copy of our how to reference check tenants guide