How to find and screen the best tenants to protect your investment
- 27th June 2023
- Landlord Property News
Right to rent checks, references, interviews and income verification
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to yourself to protect your most valuable assets – your properties. That means using best endeavours to make sure that, when finding and choosing new tenants, you look for people who are responsible, honest and financially secure enough to comfortably manage the rental payments.
Right to rent
In the current market, there are more prospective tenants than there are properties to rent and that is where screening becomes a vital part of the letting process. There are some checks that landlords have to carry out by law and some that are best practice or merely sensible. All of them require time and effort on behalf of the property owner or letting agent if they are screening tenants on their behalf.
By law, every prospective tenant must undergo a right to rent check to ensure that they have the right to live in the UK. For British and Irish citizens this would mean applicants producing formal identification like a passport. If the applicant is from overseas and they have a biometric residence permit or card, they will need to provide a share code to the landlord or letting agent which will then be used to verify the person’s immigration status on the Government site ( https://www.gov.uk/view-right-to-rent ). Where a tenant is unable to provide a share code, a check can be made using the landlord checking service.
Government certified digital Identity Service Providers can be used to verify the validity of documents (passports, permits etc). These checks must be carried out on every adult proposing to live in the rented property and need to be ongoing. They should be re-checked every 12 months or at the visa expiry point, whichever is the latter.
Failure to carry out the necessary checks can lead to a penalty.
According to the Government website: ‘You could be sent to prison for 5 years or get a fine for renting property in England to someone who you knew or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ did not have the right to rent in the UK.
This includes if you had any reason to believe that:
- they did not have leave (permission) to enter or stay in the UK
- their leave had expired
- their papers were incorrect or false
You can also be fined if both of the following apply:
- you rent your property to someone who is not allowed to stay in the UK
- you cannot show that you checked their right to rent.’
More information on Right to rent checks can be found here
An important part of tenant screening is to conduct a credit check to provide the landlord or letting agent with an insight into an applicant’s financial history – including their credit score (it’s sometimes a good idea to have a target credit score in mind as a threshold). A tenant screening service can do this on behalf of landlords and letting agents but the written consent of the tenant must be obtained.
References and income verification
Requesting reference checks from previous landlords should give an idea of an applicant’s rental history, record on rental payments and insight into character. Landlords can also request an employer’s reference or other personal reference to gain a deeper insight into a tenant’s character.
Additionally, Landlords and letting agents must be able to satisfy themselves of an applicant’s ability to meet the rental payments so they’ll need to see evidence of wage or salary level to verify income and affordability.
In-person interviews can help to satisfy any niggling doubts or, equally, give rise to some eyebrow-raising suspicion. Ask further questions about an applicant’s background, why they are interested in the property and anything else which stirs the curiosity. All of this will help when judging their compatibility.
It is important that all applicants are treated fairly and equally – regardless of race, religion, gender or disability. It is illegal to discriminate during the selection process.
Here at ludlowthomson we can help landlords find the right tenants and manage homes on their behalf. With such high applicant levels our tenant referencing is amongst the most thorough in the market. Why not contact us to find out more? We have vast experience of finding the right tenants and attracting the best possible rents.
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