Tenant referencing may seem like just another bit of paperwork for you to complete but it is in fact essential in protecting your buy-to-let investment.
Tenant referencing should cover the following:
- Affordability check: you need to be sure the tenant has the finances to be able to afford the rent. At Upad, we use a 2.5 times annual rent multiplier to assess affordability. For example, the annual rent on a property is £12,000, so the tenant, or joint tenants, must be earning £30,000 after tax to reach the affordability limits. Also consider that tenants will be paying utility bills, direct debits, groceries and other outgoing monthly payments so be sure to have an honest chat with a tenant about affordability.
- Current employer: make sure that the details given by a tenant on their current employer, including salary, is correct. A current employer can verify company information as well as confirm contract details of the tenant.
- Previous landlord reference: a reference from a landlord the tenant previously rented from will highlight non-payment of rent, damage during the tenancy or anti-social behavior. If concerns are raised from a previous landlord, you may want to reconsider letting your property to a tenant.
- Credit check: a basic credit check will highlight any adverse credit history, such as a CCJ or other major debt. Whilst it’s important to consider that a tenant may have been paying off a previous debt, a large CCJ may indicate poor money management and doesn’t bode well for you getting your rent paid.
Don’t rush this process; 3-5 days is the average time spent carrying out reference checks. If a company is promising a lot quicker than this, be wary that it may not be thorough enough.
Tenant referencing checks, done correctly, will help protect you from the following:
10% of all UK tenants fell behind with their rent in research from 2016, and with rents set to increase due to increased landlord tax this figure could be set the grow higher. A referencing check will show that a tenant, at the start of the tenancy, is able to afford the monthly rent. Of course, a tenant’s circumstances could change but it’s a risk in buy-to-let landlords have to take. A referencing check will limit the risk and enable you to take out Rent Protection Insurance to protect yourself.
Criminal or Anti-social Behaviours
If a referencing check highlights anti-social behaviours, you can bet neighbours of your buy-to-let won’t be too happy. Aside from this, it could mean more work for you if you’re constantly fielding noise or damage complaints- plus potentially cost you for repairs. Criminal behaviours related to fraud or drugs should also be a red flag- you don’t want to find your investment turned into a cannabis farm!
If a tenant is very reluctant to be referenced, it may be because they plan to sub-let the property and have done so with other properties previously. Authorised sub-letting is a decision you have to make yourself, but if it’s without your knowledge then you have no control over who is in your property- and can be fairly certain they aren’t being referenced either.
This seemingly insignificant detail of letting a property could be the difference between a nightmare tenant, and one who stays long term, pays their rent and doesn’t cause damage. Don’t leave your biggest asset to chance and make sure you get a tenant referencing check every time.
Here at Upad, we take pride in our referencing process and it's one of the reasons independent research company BDRC found that Upad landlords suffer 45% less rent arrears vs the UK average.