Landlord and property

8 tips for choosing and vetting your tenants

It’s impossible to overstate how important choosing the right tenants is for landlords – and it’s even more important to make sure you vet them properly before signing any contracts.

The choice between a good and bad tenant could easily turn a profitable letting into a rather large loss, or worse.

When getting it wrong can have such severe consequences, it helps to know what you can do to give yourself a better chance of getting reliable tenants to rent your property.

Here are 8 things you can do to improve your chances of choosing the right tenants, as well as some ways of vetting them before they move in.

1. Take your time

If you’re in a rush to avoid a tenancy gap, you might be tempted to take on board the first applicants who come along. This can lead to hasty decisions and feeling like you have to compromise before you’ve even begun. This can lead to hasty decisions and feeling like you have to compromise before you’ve even begun. Avoid this situation by planning well in advance before your existing tenants leave. Start advertising the room or property early.

Get existing tenants to cooperate in showing the property to prospective new tenants. They can be encouraged with small incentives like a couple of bottles of wine or a dinner at a local restaurant, provided they help you fill the place on time.

2. Broaden your search

To ensure you have plenty of choice, cast your net wide when you start advertising.

If you’re using an agent, ask what methods they are using, and check that their descriptions and photos are showing the property off to its best advantage. Sometimes agent-speak is so industry-centric that it can put off prospective tenants. Write the ad yourself and take time to consider what a tenant will be looking for. Check for spelling and other errors before you post it, to ensure you’re appearing professional and trustworthy at all times.

3. Stay safe

If you’re advertising directly on websites, make sure that your contact details remain hidden from the general public. Many property sites can leave you open to scammers adept at extracting money from the unwary on both sides of a property deal. Exercise particular caution if, for example, they are offering 6 or more months rent in advance without seeing the room.

4. Be proactive

Instead of simply advertising a room or a property and waiting for enquiries to come flooding in, the most successful landlords work proactively too. Contacting ‘room wanted’ adverts that are posted by seekers looking in your area is a great way to find tenants, as well as thinking about local employers, and targeting your ad to appeal to people who might be working there.

5. Trust your gut

If something doesn't feel right, trust your instinct. You might not be able to voice exactly why you don’t like the sound of an applicant, but you don’t have to accept everyone who comes along. However, do bear in mind that it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

6. Vet your tenants

To give yourself peace of mind, run a tenant reference on your chosen applicant.

Common checks are employment, identity and credit checks, to ensure that the tenant is who they say they are, and that they are likely to be able to afford the rent. You can also check with previous landlords, but an unscrupulous former landlord might be tempted to say they are a model tenant, just to get rid of them and pass them on to you!

7. Be open minded

Many landlords close off possibilities because they are cautious about risks. But in areas of low demand, you might need to reconsider being more open-minded about who you may agree to take, and accept the risks.

For example, many Assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) strictly prohibit tenants from having any pets. But the UK is a nation of pet lovers, and with more people than ever before needing to make a return to renting, it seems short-sighted to rule out all pet-lovers in one fell swoop. You could offer to meet the animal in question, to see how well trained it is. A number of landlords do accept pets, but insist on a slightly higher deposit to cover the risks of damage.

8. Do things properly

Ensure that you have a comprehensive AST in place before handing over any keys, that any deposit is properly protected within 30 days of taking it, and that the proper notices are served correctly if you intend to regain possession of the property. Otherwise you could be asking for trouble, and bad tenants could simply dig their heels in and stay without paying rent, leaving you with more problems than ever.

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