How to pick a perfect tenant

Updated on 02 August 2010 | 8 Comments

Choosing the right tenant could mean the difference between a year of horrendous hassle and a year of blissful peace. Emma Roberts finds out how you can find the perfect tenant.

Renting out a property can be a great way to make money, but it doesn’t come without its risks.

In the past three months, research by the National Landlord’s Association (NLA) has shown that one in five landlords experienced rent arrears. In short, tenants have been failing to cough up the rent.

With the average amount of outstanding rent sitting at £799, choosing the wrong tenant can be extremely damaging to your finances.

Worryingly, there’s also been a sharp rise in criminals renting homes from landlords and turning them into brothels or drug factories.

So how can you protect yourself and your property from these tenants of terror? Well, the NLA says that the checks you make before handing over your keys make all the difference.

Snoop around

Landlords invest a lot of money into their properties, so it makes sense to treat finding a tenant like making a business deal. Beware, even the most well presented, sweet, and polite looking tenant could be a tenant of terror in disguise.

That’s why it’s essential that you do some snooping around before you allow anything to be signed.

Tenant checks are an absolute necessity. If you’re renting your property though a letting agency, then they’ll provide all the relevant checks on your behalf. But if you’re renting privately you’ll have to do them yourself.

Essential checks include: credit reports, address confirmation, and ID verification. You can do this yourself by asking for ID and requesting that the tenant fill out an application form with the relevant details. But for a really thorough check you’re better off going to an external company.

Recent question on this topic

The NLA offers to check your potential tenant’s credit report for just £8 and offers a full tenant check which covers everything for £28.

This is a fantastic investment, as paying out for a thorough tenant check could mean the difference between happily receiving your rent every month and ending up in court trying to get money off your tenant.

These vital verifications mean you can check if the potential tenant is who they say they are. You can find out if they’re working and even check their ability to afford the rent.

Some landlords might be so eager to fill their house that they skip this procedure, but this is a huge financial risk and tenant checks should be a compulsory part of finding an occupant.


Always ask your prospective tenant to provide you with at least two references; one from their previous landlord and one from their employer.

Once you have these contact details, chase them up immediately. In the rush to fill rooms, some landlords put checking references at the bottom of their to-do list but this should definitely be near the top. In bold. Underlined.

Don’t be afraid to ask your potential tenant lots of questions such as, ‘how often have you fallen behind with rent?’ and ‘did you get any complaints from the neighbours?’ This information will help you build a better picture of the tenant’s character and reliability - providing your tenant is honest of course!

Trust your instincts

Some landlords never actually meet their tenants. I think this is a really bad move, as people underestimate how much their instincts can tell them when meeting someone in person.

With the rise in people using rented homes for criminal activity, you should always take time to sit down with your tenant and have a chat.

See how long the tenant is looking to sign up for. If they’re willing to sign up for a long period of time (18 months or more) then it’s usually a good indication that they plan on staying for the long-term.

However, never accept a bulk rent payment upfront, as this is a scheme often used by criminals to ensure you won’t bother them or come to the property.

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If they ask about how and when bills are paid, they should be fairly on the ball with payments. However, if they’re more interested in asking if the neighbours would complain about noise, then you might be dealing with more of a party animal.

Test the water by saying that you will come and visit the property regularly for maintenance and be wary if they seem hesitant about the idea, as this could mean they’re planning to hide something.

Finding an average tenant is easy, but finding an excellent tenant takes a little bit more time. Don’t settle for anyone unless you’ve done all the checks and met them in person. After all, you wouldn’t hand over your own front door keys to a complete stranger, would you?

More: Guard against tenants who don't pay the rent | How to attract top tenants


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