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How to avoid tenants from hell

10 Questions every landlord should ask

Letting to the wrong tenants can be a costly and time-consuming problem. First impressions of tenants can be misleading as they are often on their best behaviour.

By asking the right questions you can get a better understanding of someone’s circumstances and make sure there are no misunderstandings which can lead to bigger problems in the future.

1. Why are you moving?

This seems like an obvious question but one that it is often missed. You need to take note of the reasons they are thinking of leaving and listen for legitimate answers such as relocating for work or needing more space for a growing family.

Beware of reasons such as disputes with landlords or neighbours and reluctance to give current landlords details.

If the tenant has not rented previously be aware that references will not be available from current landlords, but you will be able to obtain employments reference, a credit check and a personal reference.

2. When you looking to move?

Often tenants will need to give notice if they are renting at the moment, they will sometimes need to give up to 8 weeks notice depending on their rental payment date and notice period in their tenancy agreement. Obviously the longer you are waiting the longer the property will be empty with no rent coming in.

If a prospective tenant is asking to move in very quickly, you should ask why to check it is a genuine reason.

3. How many people are in the group?

You should always check who will be moving in, not everyone in the group may attend the viewing and the size of the house should always be taken into consideration.

The more people that move in will have direct correlation to the wear and tear on the property. Insurance policies should also be checked as they may limit the number of people that can rent and live in the property.

4. What is your income?

This is an important question to ensure that the rent and living costs can be easily covered. The joint income of any family members can be taken into consideration as long as they are going to be joint tenants and named on the tenancy agreement. It is prudent to ask for copies of bank statements or payslips. It is advisable to contact the tenants employer for this to be put in writing and to confirm whether the job is permanent, temporary or on a contract.

5. Do you have a month’s rent and deposit in advance?

This should be established early in the process if you are thinking of asking for a deposit. You are legally responsible for registering the deposit in a government scheme and ensuring that a certificate is issued.

If a tenant cannot produce a months rent and deposit in advance, the affordability of the property should be questioned as you need to make sure that the rent can be covered every month.

6. How long do you want to rent the property for?

This is especially important if you are looking for a longer term tenant. It is usual to start with a 6 or 12 month tenancy agreement. If a tenant wants anything less I would seriously question whether this is something you wish to proceed with. You do not want to go through the whole process and have to start it again in a couple of months time.

Tenants circumstances can change but ideally you would prefer someone to want to stay and make it their home and not be using it as stop gap.

Obviously if you are looking for short term this may change your position.

7. Are you happy to rent the property as it is or are there improvements you would like?

Your property should be in good condition when the tenant moves in with all the required legislative checks completed. However you need to check that the tenant is not expecting any further work to be done such as any decorating, new carpets or additions such as a microwave or dishwasher.

It is always better to have this clear at the start of the tenancy so there are no disappointments and you set off on the wrong foot with your tenant.

8. Are you happy to have reference checks?

If a tenant has not rented before they may be unaware of the sort of checks that you are likely to want to carry out or if they have they may have rented from family or friends who didn’t reference at the time. The sort of checks you will be asking for include:

  • Identification documents including checks on previous addresses i.e Utility bills and National Insurance Number
  • Credit Check – to check if they have had any problems with bills in the past
  • Employment reference – to check their current employment status and income
  • Current Landlord reference – you may wish to obtain this yourself, a landlord might be happy to see the back of a tenant and although unlawful they may give a better reference than they really should.

If a tenant is reluctant to provide this information or is difficult there is usually a reason why and this should be investigated.

9. Do you have a rental guarantor?

This can be helpful if someone has not rented before and they cannot provide a landlord reference. This can also provide a back up in case something goes wrong in the future and the tenant struggles to pay their rent, you can go to the guarantor for rental payments.

10. Do you have any pets?

This is an important question for you even if you are happy to accept pets.

If you do not want pets at your property you need to be very specific and clear from the outset. You need to make a list of animals that you do not want at the house and whether this includes fish, guinea pig, or bird.

If you are happy to accept pets again you need to make a list of what you would accept for example: 1 small dog or 3 large dogs?

If you accept a pet it is a good idea to ask for an extra pet deposit to cover any potential damage which maybe caused.

Read more of our Landlord advice and tips;

First Time Landlord Checklist
Do I Need a Letting Agent?

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