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Why it’s essential to carry out tenant reference checks

It often seems like there’s a lot to do when you’re a private landlord – and even more so if you do most of the work yourself, without the help of a letting agent.

Of course, the busiest time is when you’re taking on a new tenant. From organising gas and electricity checks and cleaning the property, to processing the application and preparing the tenancy agreement (also known as an AST)…. there’s a lot to think about and do!

It’s tempting to take some shortcuts to get everything done – but if you’re thinking about skipping reference checks on your new tenant, then DON’T! Here are some reasons why…

Paying on time – if at all

If we asked you for the single most important thing you seek in a tenant, you’ll probably say that they need to pay the rent on time. It’s a basic requirement for any buy to let landlord yet it’s their most common complaint.

Never presume that a tenant is going to pay you on time each month – you need to check their history. Give their previous landlords a call and take any reports of late or non-payment very seriously.

Antisocial behaviour

It’s important to respect the people living next to and close to your investment property. They can make life difficult for you if they’re unhappy with your tenants. Excessive noise, unruly pets, lack of care for the garden and inconsiderate parking are all common tenant issues that can cause some major headaches for a landlord.

Ask the tenant’s previous landlord if they any had any issues with neighbours as a result of their behaviour, and take good note of what they say.

Care for your property

Any damage to your property or furnishings could impact the future rental value of your home – or hit your budget if you need to do repairs or replacements. Accidents do happen, but some tenants are more careful to look after their home than others.

Try and book a home inspection at the tenant’s current address. This is not going to be possible or quite so easy if they’re relocating from Scotland to the Midlands, but if they are moving less than 45 minutes’ drive from where you are, then a visit could be worth its weight in gold! If the tenant protests at the idea of a home inspection, then this should set alarm bells ringing… Alternatively, contact their previous landlords to find out if the tenant is keeping their property clean and tidy and/or if they have caused any damage. Dig deeper asking more questions if there are any real causes for concern, for example, damage may have been caused, but it may have been accidental and rectified by the tenant.

References to ask for

So how far back do you need to go to get a good picture of your potential tenant? The usual approach is to request full address details and dates of everywhere they’ve lived in the last three years, which means asking for contact details for every landlord they’ve had in that time too.

Generally, it’s a good idea to be a little suspicious of those that have moved around a lot in that timeframe.

If they can’t provide a reference, you could request a previous tenancy agreement or bank statements to show they paid the rent on time. If the person hasn’t rented before, you can request contact details of parents or guardian and also request a home inspection, if you wish.

Good tenants deserve good landlords

Do remember that the majority of tenants are responsible and won’t want to cause you any concern. The purpose of these checks is to make sure that you find those deserving people, to get a rental partnership that works for everyone.