How to find great tenants for your properties

Selecting the perfect tenant for a rental property in the UK is an important job, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s a lot to take into account to find great tenants; due diligence should be your top priority. After all, the last thing you want is to wind up in a situation where the tenant doesn’t pay the rent, and you have to enter into a prolonged dispute period.

Here are four steps you can take to ensure that the tenant you end up choosing will be a good fit for your property. The ideal tenant will pass each of these steps one by one, but they’ve been designed to weed out poor candidates.

Sorting Through Potential Candidates

Making First Contact

The relationship will begin in one of two ways; either the tenant will call you, or they’ll send you a message to inquire further about the conditions of the property you’re renting. At this stage, it’s vital that you’re not shy about asking a few further questions, just to make sure they’re not wasting your time.

The First Meet

Assuming the candidate in question passed all of your screening questions and arranged a visit, now’s your chance to size them up for yourself. Trust your gut instinct — intuition is a valuable human ability and you should make use of it as much as you can. If they seem untidy, dishonest, or shifty in some way, feel free to make a mental note not to invite them back.

Making a Choice

At this point, you’ve probably had contact with a number of different potential candidates for your property. Some of them will have proved to be unreliable, while others will have passed all of the tests and will present solid options. Now it’s up to you to use your own best judgment and figure out which candidate is the one you’d most like to have in your home.

Take note of things like the tenant’s body language, how they behave, and what kind of general vibe you get from them. Make sure to instruct them about what is and isn’t permitted in the lease agreement, and watch how they react. These are a few practical tips you can apply that will go a long way towards making sure the relationship is an ultimately fruitful one, free from unnecessary stress and headaches.

Signing the Lease

Once you’ve chosen the ideal candidate, it’s time to sign the lease and make things official. Take your time going over the contract in detail to make sure there are no crossed wires. This is your last chance to sort out any misunderstandings before they become a big headache; once the contract has been signed, it’s a lot harder to work things out.

What Documents Should You Ask For?

In the UK, there are a number of different documents that are required in order for somebody to rent a home. We’ll go through these now, in a few different categories. Ideally, these should be originals, not copies.

Proof of Identity

Legally speaking, anybody trying to rent a property must be a legal UK resident, as well as over the age of 18. Here are some of the ways you can confirm this with documentation — any of these will suffice on their own.

  • Valid passport / Valid Driving License / Valid UK Visa
  • Electoral Register Entry
  • Official Document (e.g. a utilities bill or tax return dated within the last three months)

Proof of Employment

The candidate needs to be able to provide proof that they’re employed, and are receiving a sustainable, regular income. This is easiest if they’re working for a standard employer, but it’s also possible if they’re employed in a freelance capacity, or if they’re working for themselves. Any of the below items should suffice, but since it’s important to be careful, it can be a good idea to ask for more than one item just to make sure.

  • Letter from Employer (this should confirm salary, length of contract, and precise job title)
  • Employment Contract
  • Pay Slips (from the last six months is ideal, but the last three months will also work)
  • Bank Statements or Invoices (for freelancers)

The Importance of References

References are an important part of the package when it comes to choosing a tenant for your UK-based rental. These can take a few different forms, each of which is useful. If you’re particularly unsure about the candidate, ask for as many kinds of reference as possible. References don’t only prove that the candidate is employed, they’re also a testament to the character of the individual, so a little effort goes a long way at this stage.

  • Previous Landlord Reference
  • Employer Reference
  • Work Colleague / Friend Reference

If a candidate who works as a freelancer is unable to provide proof that they can support themselves through their work, don’t be afraid to ask for a guarantor, or a larger-than-usual amount of rent to be paid upfront. This won’t scare off any serious applicants, and it’s a crucial way to make sure you don’t end up with a tenant who can’t pay their own rent. The guarantor should be able to provide everything the tenant can’t, for whatever reason, including proof of ID, employment, and references.

As well as a guarantor, in the UK you’re able to ask for a deposit worth six weeks of rent, to be paid upfront by direct debit. This may weed out some candidates, but that’s a good thing – for a serious, long-term agreement between landlord and tenant, you only want people who are going to be in it for the long haul.

Assessing the Reliability of the Candidate

As a general rule, rent shouldn’t take up more than a third of the candidate’s monthly income. Ideally, it would account for even less of the total figure (around 25% is a good lower limit to set), but exactly how important these rough guidelines are will depend from tenant to tenant.

For example, for somebody who has proven themselves to be a reliable financial actor over the last number of years, it’s possible to give them more leeway when it comes to rent than you might give to other similar candidates without the solid background. Similarly, if somebody is very flashy in their lifestyle and how they spend their money, you may want to demand that the rent takes up a lower percentage of their overall monthly income. This is a way to build margins into the deal, and safeguard yourself against any potentially unpleasant future occurrences.

Don’t be afraid to contact previous landlords and ask specific details about how the tenant paid their rent. Was he on time every single month without fail, or was he prone to missing the deadline by a day or two? Did he have any job issues throughout the duration of his previous lease? Is he likely to allow some bills to go unpaid, or does he always follow the rules to the letter?

You can even make use of a professional letting agency to do some of these checks for you. They’ll be able to inquire into credit scores, previous landlords, and land registry verification checks, as well as a host of other pieces of financial information.

How to find great tenants: what to remember

Let’s recap everything we’ve just gone through, so you’ll be able to easily keep track of what it is you need to do when it comes to choosing a tenant for your UK rental property.

  1. Take your time selecting candidates – time spent on this stage will save you from potential headaches further down the line.
  2. Make sure the relevant documents are supplied, as originals rather than copies if possible.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for up to six weeks of rent or a guarantor if you’re not totally comfortable with the candidate’s financial health.
  4. References can be a way to judge the character of the candidate – ask for as many as you like.
  5. Reliability matters. Do your due diligence when it comes to assessing how reliable the candidate is, and it’ll save you time, money, and stress in the long run.

Sorting through potential candidates with Rentila!

The Candidates section allows you to receive applications for your rental property advertisements and to better organize your search for a new tenant.

Go to Your account, Candidates .


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