In this week’s guest blog, Tessa Shepperson talks about the importance of tenant checks.

As you will hopefully know – THE most important thing about renting is getting a good tenant.  So it is strange that so many landlords, apparently, let in the first person who calls, without any checking at all.  Or not much.

One reason why landlords use letting agents is to help them find that good tenant – so it is worrying to learn that many agents fail here too.

For example, as the Blue Sky Property Group discovered (in this case), it’s not enough just to do a credit reference check and follow their advice.  You also need to follow up any discrepancies and warning signs.

So here are my top five tips:

1.      Assume that all information provided by tenants is untrue until it has been independently verified

For example how do you know that telephone number is real?  It could be the applicant’s brother, primed to give a good report.

All information should be checked – eg check that the employer really exists and that the address and phone numbers are correct.

2.      Follow up references

Most important is the employer (as the wages they pay the tenant will be paying your rent).  But it’s also useful to confirm that the applicant has a bank account and that their former landlords speak well of them.

Remember with landlords though, that if they are a poor tenant, their current landlord may be desperate to get rid of them.  A phone call may reveal a lot they are unwilling to put in writing.

3.      Check them out on the internet

Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter are good places to go.  However just putting their name into Google can bring up interesting information.

It’s worth a couple of minutes work at least.

4.      Do a credit check

Although you should not rely blindly on it, it’s negligent not to do one at all.  After all, if the applicant has a string of CCJs, you need to know this.

5.      Watch out for scams

Tenants offering to pay by cash is a classic sign of criminals wanting to turn your property into a cannabis farm is maybe the biggest one.

Make sure also that applicants are not allowed to take keys away – this allows them to copy them and use them for scams.

A list of common scams can be found on the Landlord Law site.

And finally

Don’t forget your own ‘gut instinct’.  It may be telling you something important.
Tessa Shepperson is a specialist landlord and tenant lawyer and runs the online service Landlord Law.

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