Ask Upad: What questions should I ask my tenant’s referees?
When you are screening a potential tenant, it’s quite normal to ask them for referees to vouch for the tenant. This is going to mean a few letters and phone calls and take a bit of time to sort out but it’s a vital aspect of finding a good tenant.
It’s worth remembering what the purpose of this process is. You essentially want to learn two things as you’re screening a tenant. The first questions that you want answered is: “Can they afford the rent and are they likely to pay it on time?” The second one is: “Are they the sort of person who will look after my property?” By adequately referencing a tenant you’re actually lessening the risks of suffering more onerous problems like arrears and damage to your property.
Credit checks can go a long way. But more personal interactions with a tenant’s previous landlord, employer or just character referee can be a great deal more useful when it comes to understanding what sort of person your tenant is. There is, of course, a small, but nevertheless existent, risk that the referees that a tenant provides are fraudulent with the intention to deceive you. So, whilst checking up on your tenant do also take the time to verify that the referees are bona fide too.
From a previous landlord, you’ll want to know their experience with the tenant. Did they pay the rent in full and promptly? Were there any problems with them? Have they treated that rental well? You can easily check with the Land Registry that the landlord is the owner of the property that the tenant claimed to rent. It costs a few pounds to do a check on the Land Registry website.
From an employer, you’ll want confirmation of your prospective tenant’s salary and how long they have been with the company. You can also ask whether the tenant is a reliable and trustworthy person, but some companies have strict policies on what they will reveal. You should also, frankly, check that the organization that the tenant claims to work for actually exists. Ltd Companies can be easily tracked down using the Companies House website, for instance. If the company is based nearby, you might want to make a personal call. In any case, find the company's phone number yourself, and phone through the switchboard: that way, you know you're getting someone from the company, and not your tenant's best mate pretending to be their boss.
You can also ask for a character or personal referee. You’ll want to ask them how long the referee has known the tenant and whether they are of good character. Some tenants might offer a professional character referee, such as a teacher, a priest or a doctor, but mostly they’ll provide friends, so be wary of reading too much into their glowing recommendations.
The value in references lies in the whole picture they paint. If they all seem in order, it’s a good sign that your prospective tenant is the sort of person you want to do business with.