Most landlords will have expenses to pay on their properties, such as mortgage payments. Not only is it important that you find a tenant quickly, but also that they’re an honest person who will pay the rent promptly (so that you can meet your expenses) and who will look after your property (and protect your investment).
Finding a tenant
1. Consider using a reputable agency to find the tenant for you.
Many agencies provide a service where they find tenants for you. You can then deal with the management of the property once the tenant has been signed up. This can be a good idea, particularly if you’re a new and inexperienced landlord, as the agency will also advise you on the preparation and presentation of the property. Often quite small improvements can make a big difference. Also, agencies, because of their marketing experience, can usually find good tenants quicker than you would. Generally, they will also be responsible for referencing the tenants for you. However, if you do decide to use an agency, make sure that you read their terms and conditions very carefully. Many agencies have hidden charges, and some may claim a continuing agency fee every time the tenancy agreement is renewed.
Do note that even if you wish to find your tenant yourself, you may, if you’re a new landlord, want to consider taking some initial advice on the preparation and presentation of the property, and on a suitable level of rent.
2. Go it alone.
If you do decide to advertise for a tenant yourself, then consider the following marketing methods:
- The internet. There are many websites which will market the property for you, often for little or no cost.
- Local accreditation schemes. These are often run by local authorities in conjunction with local universities and colleges, and sometimes other organisations. You will have to sign up to a code of conduct and undertake training, but the scheme will often include the free marketing of properties. You can find out what schemes are available via www.anuk.org.uk.
- A local newsletter. Many local papers will have a special day in the week for rented property, and some may have a special weekly or monthly property supplement. Have a word with your local newspaper’s advertisement staff.
- A local shop window. Often sweet shops and post offices will allow you to put a postcard in their window for a modest charge.
- A local company notice board. This can be a useful way to find a tenant, particularly if the company has a lot of staff relocating to the area,
- A student accommodation office. This is very important if you’re looking to let to students, but most offices demand very high standards for the properties on their lists.
Checking out your tenant
Once you have found your tenant you should take details from them, ideally using a form or checklist, such as the Lawpack’s Landlord’s Tenancy Application Form. It’s particularly important that you have full details of their employment history because if they have had frequent job changes in the past, they’re not likely to stay in the property for a great length of time.
You should then take up references, which should include an employer’s, bank, previous landlords’ and character reference. The employer’s reference is the most important as it gives some assurance that the tenant will be able to pay the rent. Remember that the applicant’s current landlord’s reference may not tell you the whole story as the landlord may be anxious to get rid of the tenant.
Using an online tenant checking service can be very useful; for example, they will pick up if the tenant has County Court Judgments (CCJs) against them. Alternatively, your local landlords’ association (if you’re a member) or your insurers may be able to recommend a good firm.
But many experienced landlords consider that the best way to assess a tenant is through their own knowledge of human nature and ‘gut feeling’. If you feel uneasy about a prospective tenant, think very carefully before allowing them into your property. It may be difficult and expensive to get them out again!
For more expert guidance on how to prepare a property, find a tenant, create a tenancy agreement, deal with deposits, and, ultimately, how to evict a tenant, read Lawpack’s, The Complete Guide to Residential Letting.