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How to choose a tenant – a landlord’s guide

3-minute read

Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling

4 June 2021

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Landlords may often have a choice of tenants, particularly in areas where demand for homes is high and supply is low.

This landlord’s guide explains everything you need to know about how to choose the right tenants for your rental property.

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Deciding which prospective tenant to pick can depend on a variety of factors, including when they can move in, if they’re willing to pay upfront, and your gut instinct on whether they’ll look after the property.

The priority for most landlords will be to find a long-term, reliable tenant who pays their rent on time and treats the property as their own.

When choosing a tenant, you’ll need to carry out a comprehensive reference check. After this, you’ll need to work out which tenant who passes the referencing process is the best fit for your property.

What is tenant screening?

Tenant screening is carried out by landlords to assess applications from prospective tenants.

The first part of the screening process is the referencing check, but there are several extra steps landlords can take to make sure they make the right choice.

Why is tenant screening important?

Making an informed choice on prospective tenants increases the chances of a landlord’s property being looked after and the rent being paid on time.

If you rent out your property after a thorough screening process, a long-term hassle-free rental is more likely and the possibility of disputes is reduced.

Screening tenants before allowing them to live in your property allows you to understand their circumstances and start to build a working relationship.

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How to choose a tenant - do your research

A tenant referencing check will provide you with all the key initial information you need.

Making extra checks yourself can help you to build a more detailed picture of what the prospective tenant is like and whether they fit the criteria you’re looking for.

A good example of this is creating your own landlord tenant checklist to find out information such as if applicants smoke or have pets.

This can help you to narrow your pool of prospective tenants and make a final decision.

Meeting your potential tenants

It's easy to dismiss the need to meet tenants if they pass the referencing check. However, meeting them in person can give you an idea of whether you could establish a positive relationship.

It provides both parties with the opportunity to ask important questions and allows you to make sure what they tell you is in line with their application and referencing check.

This extra layer of research can help you to find a long-term, reliable tenant.

When meeting tenants and choosing who to let your property to, it’s important to remember that there are rules against discriminating against so-called 'protected characteristics' such as age, gender, sexuality, or disability.

Once you’ve chosen your tenant, you’ll also need to meet a range of compliance obligations such as the Landlord and Tenant Act.

How do landlords choose between tenants?

If you’re faced with the choice of two suitable tenants for your property, there are a range of factors to consider.

One tenant may be looking to rent for longer, while the other may be able to move in sooner and allow you to benefit from a shorter void period.

Which tenant you choose will depend on their individual circumstances and your requirements.

Are they willing to pay more or in advance?

Although you don’t want to start a bidding war and encourage tenants to offer more than they could afford, some renters may be in a position to pay slightly more for your property.

A prospective tenant may also be keen to secure your property by agreeing to pay six months or a year’s rent upfront. For a landlord, this eliminates the risk of rent arrears and means the tenant is financially committed to the property for a minimum period.

An upfront sum can provide increased financial security and give you the opportunity to pay for a refurbishment or expand your portfolio.

Will the tenant look after the property?

When choosing between tenants, the information they provide could give you an indication of whether they’re likely to look after the property.

Landlord references will help you to understand how prospective tenants have treated previous properties.

When you speak to them in person, they may explain how they intend to treat the property. For example, they may say they’re keen to maintain the garden or have experience of property maintenance, which could reduce your costs and save you time.

Take your time and follow your gut instinct

The tenant reference will provide you with all the key details you need to know, but extra research, meeting prospective tenants and thinking about what makes them stand out can help you to make the important final decision.

At this part of the screening process, you’ll need to take your time and trust your gut instinct. If you feel like you could build a good rapport with a particular applicant, and that they’ll look after your property and pay rent on time, they may be the best fit.

Did you choose to meet your potential tenants in person? Let us know how it helped (or not) in the comments.

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Conor Shilling

Written by

Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

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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