The Shelter report on the many properties in the private rented sector beyond the reach of those on average incomes and steep rises in private sector rents means that times are hard for private tenants. However, tenants looking for accommodation could really help themselves secure a nice home in the private rented sector if only they prepared better.
Like many experienced landords and letting agents I think I can spot a perfect tenant easily. They are the ones who turn up for their viewings on time. They will still make the appointment even if the weather is awful because they know that lots of other applicants won’t bother if it’s wet or cold. They know that just by showing up, they will get a head start over other applicants.
If they don’t speak English very well they bring a good translator with them. They don’t need to ring to ask for directions as they have already downloaded a map before they set out. (I think anyone who can’t even bring a map with them may not be able to change a light bulb, let alone manage a tenancy.
The smart tenant applicants know what landlords and letting agents want to see. So, if they like the property, they will make sure to bring with them their passport or driving license as proof of ID. They can also show you recent bank statements to show that they are solvent and that money is coming in from a job or jobs. If their address is not shown on the bank statement, they will bring a recent utility bill which shows their address instead. And they will bring a reference from a current and / or previous landlord.
If they are in work, they may even bring proof of that – this could be a statement from an employer stating their employment status or even salary.
Smart applicants bring proof they make good tenants
Really smart applicant with good credit ratings will have already downloaded a credit report check (which is free from lots of service providers).
And if their credit report is not perfect they will be happy to explain why.
Landlords like to see these things because they can see straight away if the tenant can afford the rent, both now and in the future.
It means they can stop conducting laborious and time consuming viewings right away.
Unfortunately, the proportion of tenants who bother to bring this kind of information is less than 1 in 15, in my experience. This is a shame because securing a good property in the private rented sector should be simple, especially if you have a good track record as a tenant and can prove you are who you say you are and that you can afford it.
Unfortunately, with rising rents in the private rented sector, fraud is also growing. A typical and widespread fraud is where someone other than the landlord somehow gets hold of keys and conducts viewings, taking rent and deposits from would-be tenants before disappearing with the money.
So, tenants must also check out the agent or landlord. Does the agent really exist? Do they have an office or, for online agents, are they listed at Companies House? If they are a private landlord, unless the property was recently purchased they should be listed on the Land Registry as owner of the property (it costs just £4 to check this online.)
Also, tenants should ask the landlord for evidence that they are who they say they are – a driving license and/or a utility bill proving ownership would do.
If the property looks too good to be true, and if the “landlord” or “agent” is only interested in taking cash and has no interest in the tenant applicant or in checking them out, alarm bells should be ringing.
Some private landlords may be surprised by requests to prove their ID, but any decent landlord will be more than happy to show it.
David Lawrenson is owner of private rented sector consultancy www.LettingFocus.com