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Choosing the right tenant: 10 tips for what to look for

3-minute read

Josh Hall

Josh Hall

10 November 2011

According to a new survey, rental properties are being snapped up at a faster rate than ever.

2011 figures from Countrywide suggest that properties are on the market for an average of less than 13 days before being let – and in some parts of the country they are taken within hours.

  • Watch: Great landlord tips from an expert panel

This is obviously good news for landlords, but it also poses some potential problems. With demand for rental property so high, how can you make sure that you choose the right tenant?

1. Check references

References are a vital tool for any landlord – but simply collecting them is not enough. All too frequently landlords demand references only to let them sit in a drawer unopened. If you are going to take references, you might as well check them. A simple phone call to an employer or other referee will suffice.

2. Think about credit checking

If you are concerned about your prospective tenants’ ability to pay, consider asking if they will consent to a credit check. Remember to handle this sensitively; the letting process is already stacked in favour of the landlord over the tenant, and some tenants will be unwilling to go through a credit check or provide their bank statements. You will need to use your discretion in these circumstances, remembering that a refusal to provide these documents does not necessarily mean that the tenants cannot pay.

3. Consider using an agency

An agency can help to remove the stress and labour from finding tenants. If you do consider using an agency, try to get recommendations from other landlords you trust. Additionally, make sure that you understand the costs. Read some tips on choosing a letting agent.

4. Use an application form

Rather than collecting details on endless scraps of paper, try using a standard application form for prospective tenants. Forms of this sort are available free online, and can save a lot of time.

5. Don't be rushed

Don’t feel pressured into accepting the first offer you receive. Instead, take stock of all your applications, and determine which of the prospective tenants you would be most happy to do business with. This could take several days – and you should make sure that the applicants are aware of this.

6. Trust your gut

Instinct is important in letting. Your personal relationship with the applicant is a significant factor here. Would you be happy to deal with the prospective tenant for at least the period of the tenancy? If not, go for someone else.

7. Always meet

This is paramount. You cannot make an informed decision about a prospective tenant without meeting them. If you live a long way away from the property, try to make sure that a trusted person (or, at the very least, your agent) meets them on your behalf. Again, regardless of references, if you don’t click with the tenant when you meet, they’re probably not the right choice.

8. Always take a deposit

A deposit is a vital means by which landlords can protect their property. It gives you the peace of mind that your property will be left in good order, and that you can pay for repairs if it is not. Remember that you are legally obliged to put a tenancy deposit in a tenancy deposit protection scheme, if you rent your property out on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007.

9. Tell unsuccessful applicants

Make sure that you inform not just your chosen tenant, but also the applicants that are unsuccessful. A simple phone call or text message will suffice – and will make sure that unsuccessful applicants can get on with finding another property as soon as possible.

10. Remember the contract

Finally, remember that you will need a written tenancy agreement on which you and your tenant can agree. This is a vitally important document that will govern the terms of the tenancy. Read more about types of tenancy agreement, or you can download our assured shorthold tenancy agreement template for free.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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