Landlords, looking for the perfect tenants? Want someone to live in and look after your property for the long-term, and have no rental arrears? Well unfortunately there’s no magic answer, but there are some steps you can take as a landlord to protect yourself and to ensure you have more chance of finding the best possible tenants you can.
1. Don’t look for them through Gumtree
This has got to be number one for so many reasons. Many landlords I speak with use Gumtree in order to source tenants as they think its ‘cheaper’ (not so cheap when you have a tenant 6 months in arrears who wont leave without a bailiff warrant though right?) but many of these landlords aren’t aware that generally tenants who have bad credit, county court judgements or have been in trouble with previous landlords look on Gumtree as a way to source a rental property. This is because they know a private landlord wont reference them as stringently as a letting agent, if at all. Landlords who source tenants on gumtree may take a previous landlord or employer reference at best, but are they checking that employer is who they say they are and not the tenant’s mate? Are they checking the tenant’s rental history? These landlords really are opening themselves up to so many potential problems, and we encounter landlords every day that have come to us after having a bad experience of finding a tenant through the website. You may buy a bike on gumtree, but you shouldn’t be looking for someone who will be living in your investment and owing you thousands of pounds of rent annually.
2. Make sure they are earning enough to cover rent AND living.
Many landlords make an error by agreeing tenants whose wages just about cover the rent. However, what they fail to consider is you must leave some room for living expenses. Council tax and utilities don’t come cheap these days and that’s before you even consider food, fuel and socialising. Unfortunately, what tends to happen when things are stretched is the rent is the first thing to fall by the wayside and we have taken over tenants many times for self-managing landlords who have a poor month of income due to a sickness, or an unexpected bill comes in and the rent is not paid in full. This leaves YOU the landlord out of pocket, often having to cover mortgage payments yourself. I had a self-managing landlord on the phone to me in tears just the other day, who’s tenants haven’t paid rent since July and she didn’t know what to do about it. Make sure you consider this fully for the future, we always use the rule that a tenant must be earning 30 x the monthly rent in a year to afford it comfortably.
3. Open lines of communication
When negotiating with a tenant about agreeing to take a rental, its important you are flexible and open lines of communication from the start. Many tenants have different requirements when moving into a property including changing their tenancy start dates, a desire to put up pictures or perhaps even a small pet and if you consider all requests fairly and ensure the communication lines are strong at the beginning of your relationship with your tenant, this will make for a much easier and positive tenancy.
4.Ensure the property is in a good condition and clean before tenancy starts
Making sure any repairs are completed before the tenancy starts AND the property is freshly cleaned will make all the difference to starting the tenancy off on a good foot. I have on many previous occasions in my career witnessed excited tenants moving into a property quickly morph to extremely disappointed and angry tenants who have found that a clean hasn’t been done or repairs haven’t been resolved by a landlord before they got the keys. They say moving to a new house is the third most stressful thing you can do in your life, and a landlord adding to it by not finishing off important jobs will only make your relationships with your tenants strained from the start. No tenant wants to spend the first few exciting days of their tenancy cleaning up dirt and mess left by the previous tenants, and for the sake of you sending in a cleaner and retaining the costs from the previous tenants deposit (if evidence of inventory/check out report says you can) could set that relationship up much better.
5. Use an agent who references thoroughly to ensure all avenues are checked
Finally, another really important one, make sure you use an agent to source your tenants. Now, you may think as an agent I’m biased however trust me on this one, its completely necessary for the following two reasons;
a. A good letting agent will reference your potential tenants thoroughly by running background checks which will pick up bad credit history and any County Court Judgements taken out against them. You wouldn’t believe the number of applicants we have who attempt to get rental properties with us that either are completely unaware of the presence of a county court judgement or try to hide it. They always come out in the end…
A letting agent will also source employment references and previous landlord references and some software’s now can even access an applicants spending history from their bank accounts to review how well they manage their finances
b. If an error were to occur and a tenant with bad credit were allowed to take up a tenancy, then the liability lays with the letting agency and not you personally. This means you could take action against that agent if they were found to have made an error, its not just you left alone in the dark wondering where you rent is and how to get your tenant out!
I hope you’ve found these steps useful, there is no magic answer however if you source your tenants from the right place, reference them thoroughly and start the relationship off on a good foot, then its much more likely you will have happy paying tenants, looking after your property for longer.
Angharad Trueman – Managing Director