How to Carry out Effective Tenant Referencing Checks
Credit Check Services, an ISO 9001:2008 certified company, specialising in screening people.
To purchase residential tenant checks please register/login, then go to the tenant screening section.
What are the main components for tenant referencing?
There are a wide range of checks that a landlord can carry out, some more effective than others, below we have listed some key areas to consider:
- Tenant identity check - is it their true identity?
- Character referencing - will they behave considerately?
- Financial background - are they under any financial stress?
- Affordability - is the rent affordable on an ongoing basis?
Each one of these areas can be explored further, building up a picture on the tenant and their likely behaviour for a future tenancy agreement.
The tenant identity check
This is probably the most important aspect of checking a tenant before letting a property to them, yet it is also an area that landlords often overlook. Below are some guidelines on how an effective identity check can be carried out.
- Obtain sight of an original identification document, ideally a passport, second best is a photo ID driving licence. Check the physical appearance of the tenant, age and sex. Also check to see if the identity document appears to have been tampered with.
- Additionally obtain copies (at least two) of original documents that show the tenant's name and address.
- Ideally obtain a credit check report that provides identity verifications (e.g. the Gold tenant check option). This should highlight other information about the tenant, you can then ask questions to verify their knowledge of the details found.
Tenant character referencing
Character referencing is subjective, even the most experienced landlords can get it wrong, ideally use a combination of third party references and your own judgement.
- Ideally a reference should be obtained from a previous landlord. Employment references are not really suited for assessing the tenant's character as employers seldom provide much feedback other than to confirm (or not) employment.
- Character references from 'friends' are too easily forged or contrived. In the absence of a more authoritative source it is about instinct and gut feel, so try and establish a rapport, gain an understanding and insight to their character.
Tenant financial background check
The financial background check should be an essential component for all tenant referencing. The most effective checks will require a degree of human skill in searching databases for traces on an individual, automated searches will often fail to find relevant and potentially critical data.
- Search for any court orders relating to previous financial failures. When requesting these searches beware of any company offering 'instant' searches, these have a higher probability of missing adverse data as they may not adequately check previous and forwarding addresses. All searches carried out by Credit Check Services involve manual searches to interrogate databases more thoroughly.
- Look for indications of financial stress, for example a high number of financial accounts linked to the tenant, we have found some tenants with over 50 accounts!
- Obtain a tenant risk score that takes into account their financial background, these scores will give you an indication as to the probability of a tenant failing to meet their financial commitments.
Tenant rent affordability check
Key to any successful letting is that the tenant can afford their rent on an ongoing basis. Checking affordability is more than just knowing how much salary someone is paid.
- Often the ratio referred to is "2.5 to 1" for "salary to rent", for example if the annual salary was £25,000 this would suggest a maximum annual affordable rent of £10,000, equivalent to £833 pcm. But on its own this is not a reliable measure.
- Other factors should also be taken into account for affordability, in particular whether the tenant has any other financial commitments. Apart from checking the tenant for indications of financial stress (discussed above), ask for visibility of their last 3 months bank statements. Check the bank statements for incomes and outgoings, get a feel for how their finances are being managed.
- Affordability is to some degree a subjective test, whilst it is easy to establish someone with a low income has barely enough to cover the rent, just because someone has a high income it does not mean that they do not have other financial commitments or spending habits which will make the rent unaffordable.
To a degree tenant checks are always going to be subjective for making an assessment on whether or not to accept a tenant. At the end of the day it is about minimising risk, a "glowing" tenant check does not mean that you have a 100% guarantee the tenant will not fail, it simply means that on balance of probabilities the tenant is much less likely to fail.
Once you have found your tenant and set up the tenancy agreement don't forget to register your tenant deposit with an approved scheme. In some cases, such as within Scotland, you can be ordered to be up to 3 times the deposit as compensation to the tenant for failing to register. For more information about tenant deposit protection click here.
We hope you find the above summary useful and wish you every success in letting your property however if you still have questions about tenant referencing checks then please call Credit Check Services. We can be contacted between 9am and 5pm every working day and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
To order tenant checks
Click on the Login / Register (above, left). Takes 2 minutes (and there are no fees to register).
Next login and go to the tenant referencing page.
Select the type of report required (e.g. Bronze, Silver, or Gold, submit the tenant's details in the form presented, and make payment.
Your report will be completed within one working day.