A guide for landlords: how to choose a residential tenant
By Helen Jackson -
As a landlord, you’ve got a mortgage to pay, so that means finding a reliable tenant (who won’t trash the place) is at the top of your priority list. On average, private renters in the UK have been in their houses for 4.2 years in 2020/21 and having a long-term, trustworthy tenant means a weight off your mind as a landlord.
But if you’re inundated with interested tenants, how do you choose the best fit for you? In this guide, we’re sharing some tips to help you.
Read more about taking your first steps to become a residential landlord.
How to screen your tenants
Firstly, why is tenant screening important? If you value your property and you want to keep it clean, and well looked after, you need tenants who will respect it as if it’s their own property. You need a reliable tenant who can be trusted to make rent payments on time every month — if they don’t, it creates an unnecessary headache for you.
So that’s where screening can come in handy; there are a few things you’ll want to consider when screening (read below for more information).
Check their credit rating
Check your potential tenant’s credit history because this can flag up if they’re good at paying on time or whether they’ve had trouble in the past. If they have a record of not paying rent on time or they have a poor credit history, you can reject their tenancy application.
Collect references (from employers and past landlords)
Collecting references can help you build a picture of the person you’re hoping to secure as a tenant. Ask for references from their current landlord or their most recent landlord, and approach their employer for a reference too. Getting a reference from an employer can give you confidence that the tenant’s job is set to continue, and therefore, they’re in a good place financially to rent from you.
Proof of income
As a rule of thumb, tenants should make roughly 2.5 times the rent to be suitable for renting your property. This helps you weed out those who cannot realistically afford your property. Most landlords ask for between three and six months’ worth of payslips to verify the tenant’s income. This can be checked with their employer.
Carry out right to rent document checks
It is your legal obligation to carry out these checks as a landlord. You must check whether the tenant call legally rent your property before taking things any further. You’ll need to ask all adults who plan to live in your rental property for their original documents that prove they can live in the UK and cross-check them. For more information, read this page on Gov.uk.
Helpful advice when finding the right tenant
Now you know about tenant screening and the things you should look for, what else can help you in this process?
Look out for pre-screened tenants
Some tenants can take the initiative to get themselves pre-screened by a reputable screening service. The pre-vetting process will usually check their credit rating, employment history and collect references from past landlords. This process massively cuts down on the time you have to spend vetting them yourself.
Nail down a process
When it comes to interviewing potential tenants, you’ll want to make sure you ask all the important questions. The best way to do this is by creating a template. This way, you can easily measure tenants against each other, and you won’t forget to ask any questions that are important to you specifically. Then, when you have a tenancy viewing, you can roll out your template — and ask them what you want to know; maybe you want to know if they have pets, whether they smoke, or what date they’d like to move in.
Use this time to gather as much information as you can about the tenants.
Consider whether you should ask for a guarantor
A guarantor is someone who signs on behalf of the tenant, giving them extra credibility when it comes to making regular rent payments. If, for whatever reason, the tenant defaults on their monthly rent payment, you can turn to the guarantor to pay on their behalf. This adds another layer of protection for you, so you have more control over paying your mortgage on time.
To sum up
When choosing tenants, you can get bogged down in smaller details. As long as their credit history checks out, they can legally live in the UK and afford to rent from you; they’re the most significant bits. Next, your first impression and gut instinct are all you can rely on.
Remember, it is illegal for you to discriminate against tenants based on age, race or religion.
On a separate note, if you’re looking to refurbish or renovate your property before you start looking for suitable tenants, you can access cash quickly with a bridging loan.