Legal help, services and support for private residential landlords
Tessa’s Top Ten Tips on Signing up New Tenants
Get as much information as you can from prospective tenants. It’s best to have a standard form such as our Tenants Information Form. You should also check their identity and you will need to do a ‘right to rent’ check.
Take references and follow them up. However, these can be forged so double check them. You can also do online searches against tenants names and any referees. You should also get a report from a credit reference agency and ask for copies of applicants’ last three months bank statements.
Remember that references may not tell the whole truth so do not be afraid to trust your ‘gut feeling’. If you feel uneasy about someone, think twice before letting them into your property.
Do not take more that the amount allowed for a holding deposit before the tenancy agreement is signed and make sure you follow the special rules for holiding deposits.
Make sure that the tenants (all the tenants) have signed a proper form of tenancy agreement before you hand over the keys and allow them into occupation
Unless you know the tenants well, it is best not to grant too long a fixed term. If you give them an initial six months fixed term, you can always give a longer fixed term later if they prove satisfactory.
If you are letting to a tenant on any sort of benefit, ensure that the tenant is signed up to a credit union ‘jam jar’ account or the Tasker Payments Service. This will ensure that the money is ringfenced for your rent and cannot be spent by the tenant on other things.
Make sure you serve all relevant documents, such as the gas safety certificate, on the tenants before they move in, otherwise, you may not be able to use section 21 later.
Be suspicious of people who offer to pay large sums of money in cash up front, particularly if they do not want you to carry out checks or inspections at the property later. These are classic signs of criminals who want to use your property for criminal purposes, such as a cannabis farm.
Be wary of ‘desperate’ tenants who want immediate accommodation and who ask you to take them in before all the various checks have been carried out, or the documentation signed. Experience has shown that these often turn out to be nightmare tenants who are best avoided.