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How to find the best tenants for your rental properties

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Troublesome tenants are every landlord’s worst nightmare, and could lead to severe financial losses, whether due to damaged property or failure to pay rent.

Renting out your property to strangers will always be a leap of faith and finding great tenants can never be guaranteed. But there are simple steps you can take to reduce the chance of landing yourself with the tenant from hell.

It is essential to treat your prospective tenants fairly and equally, so your screening process should be the same for every person. Remember that it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of their sex, race, religion or sexuality.

If you want tenants, who will pay the rent and respect your property investment, read our top tips on how to find them.

Find the best tenants

Widen your pool of applicants

Your chances of finding a good tenant are higher if you have more people to choose from, so it’s important to market your property as extensively as your budget permits.

Research demand for your type of property in the area and target your marketing to specific types of tenant. You may even choose to invest in buy-to-let properties with particular appeal to certain demographics.

Retired couples, for example, tend to make good tenants who will take care of your property. Don’t assume that because they are retired, they won’t be financially secure. They may be downsizing while letting their own property to release income during their retirement.

Corporate lets are a safe option too, providing an additional level of security because you will be dealing with your tenant’s employer and can hold them accountable.

Create a rental application form

Before meeting your applicants, think about the questions you wish to ask them and establish which documents you will be requesting from them. It’s easy to forget something important, especially when you warm to someone and are tempted to trust your instincts. Using an application form, which everyone must complete, will prove useful. The form will not only ensure that you gather all the pertinent information, it will also make comparisons between applicants much easier.

Perform Checks

It is crucial to examine applications carefully and not take anything at face value. Background checks are essential.

Perform tenant checks

Reference checks

Always seek references for your tenants, including from any previous landlords. If your applicant hasn’t rented a home before, seek references from their employer. Personal references from someone independent, such as a college lecturer, would also suffice. Check all references to ensure that they are genuine.

One in ten landlords now uses social media to research prospective tenants. While it may feel a bit nosy, looking at their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts will give you more information about the person, including their employment history.

Verify income

Ask for proof of income and copies of bank statements. Refusal to supply bank statements doesn’t necessarily mean that the applicant’s finances are unstable – they may simply resent the intrusion. However, examining bank statements will give you a better picture of their circumstances for greater peace of mind. Try to gauge their financial situation and whether they have a steady job earning a reliable income.

Ideally, you are looking for a tenant whose monthly income is roughly three times the rent.

Credit checks

Once you have identified the most promising applicants, it is worth investing in credit checks. Companies like Experian and TenantVERIFY can conduct credit and identity checks on your behalf.

Right to rent checks

Identity checks are also crucial as it is your responsibility in law to establish that your tenant possesses the right to rent in the UK. This includes all tenants aged 18 regardless of whether they are named on the tenancy agreement. It is against the law to only check people you think are not British citizens. You must ask your tenants for the original documents that prove they can live in the UK, read more here about the right to rent documents you can accept.

Renting to someone without a ‘right to rent’ may lead to a fine of £1000.

Meet the applicants

It is highly beneficial to meet your prospective tenants. At the very least, you should try to meet any who you are strongly considering. It is hard to form an opinion about someone who you’ve only met online or by phone; you’ll get a much better feel for whether they are right for your property if you spend time with them.

Ask lots of questions

When you meet your prospective tenant ask lots of questions, by getting to know them, you will form a better idea of the type of tenant they are going to be.

  • Why are they moving?
  • Where did they live previously?
  • Have they ever had problems with a property or landlord?
  • Do they have pets or smoke?
  • How long do they plan to rent?
  • Where do they work and how long have they worked there?
  • Who will be living in the property with them?

Trust your instincts

You can do all the screening in the world, but sometimes your instincts are the best judge of character.

Consider using an agency

Hire an agency to find tenants

If you’re pushed for time, or feel unsure about handling the process yourself, using the services of a letting agent will save you a lot of stress. A letting agent will have detailed knowledge of the local market and may already have the perfect tenant registered with them. They will be able to market your property effectively and will have the expertise and legal knowledge to check applicants thoroughly.

Letting agents can find tenants for your rental property, arranging the credit check, organising the tenancy agreements and collecting the tenancy deposit. They can also collect the monthly rent. Many will offer property management services during the tenancy too.

Landlord insurance

No matter how careful you are, it is still possible to encounter problems with your tenant. However, you can protect your interests by investing in landlord insurance. Using letting agents and taking out landlord insurance will increase your overheads but will mitigate the impact and expense of a bad tenant. You will also enjoy greater peace of mind – and you can’t put a price on that.

If you are a new landlord, you might be interested in Assetgrove’s Guaranteed Rent Scheme, which takes care of everything, providing you with a fixed rental income for up to five years. Find out more about the scheme now.

Neil Jennings

Neil is the Operations Director at Assetgrove Lettings, London's Leading Rent Guarantee Company, providing Landlords with no voids, property maintenance, fee-free property management and stress-free service.

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