Finding and keeping good tenants

In this guide we will give accurate and good advice on finding the right tenant and how to maintain a positive relationship with your tenant.

This includes finding a tenant, screening methods, asking the right questions, taking your time and maintaining a good relationship with your tenant.

Finding and keeping good tenants
  1. Advertising

Ideally when advertising a property to rent you have a lot of options, these include:

  • Property websites
  • Newspapers
  • Social media
  • Local college/universities
  • Local shop windows
Property websites

Websites such as Rightmove or Zoopla etc. are major sources of information in the property market and are regularly used by prospective tenants to find a home. The main issue is that individual landlords can’t create listings on these sites as it has to be done by a professional letting agency.  The other way around this loophole is to use an online agent for a percentage of the original cost, for example Prop Home.   (this could do with further explanation)

Newspapers

Even though we live in a modern age society, placing an ad in a newspaper could be a potential winner, depending on your market. This is an ideal way to reach the older generation or those who don’t access the internet.

Social Media

Social media is an increasingly popular way of finding new tenants, which has the advantage of being free and quick and simple to use.  Advertising a property can be done through Facebook or Instagram and can be shared by your followers to reach an ever expanding audience.  Through social media, tenants can easily find what’s available to them in a specific area or at what size of property.  As social media is very visual, it is essential to have great photos of each property listed.

Local colleges/universities

If you are looking for student tenants, it’s always best to get in touch with the local college or university as they may have rules and guides before creating a listing acceptable to the college and from there they may be able to advertise it directly to their students.

Other rental properties

Advertising in properties that you own is a good way to keep a property tenanted as existing tenants may be able to refer you to their friends or family members. Word of mouth is one of the most popular form of advertising as you can always offer an incentive for those who have helped create a tenancy.

What Features are best to list when advertising?

The first thing that will catch the eye of a tenant is good quality photos of a property. This will increase the level of enquiries.

When listing a property be sure to include:

  • Number of bedrooms and whether the property is furnished and once this has been covered be sure to include the following:
  • If it has a garden (since being in lockdown these have been sought for more than usual)
  • Local amenities and how far
  • Local transport in the area
  • Are appliances included?
  • Car parking
  • Are pets acceptable.
  • Internet access
  • Within the number of rooms included is there an office space ?
  • Storage spaces
  1. Tenant Screening

Based on your experience and the types of tenants that you want to attract depends on what screening methods you might use.

The best way to screen tenants could be:

  • Asking tenants to fill in an application form
  • Telephone interviews
  • In-person interviews
  • Employment references
  • Financial circumstances
  • Previous landlord tenants
  • Credit checks
  • Right to rent checks
Application form

This is one of the easiest and quickest ways of selecting a tenant with basic questions such as;

  • Names and contact details of applicants
  • Details of current and former landlord
  • Employment status both current and past and salary
  • Number of people that will be living at the property
  • Any other details like pets or smokers

These questions are great starters and can provide information if the applicant is suitable or not, for example if your advertising a 3-bedroom house and you have an applicant for a family looking to move in, that seems more suitable rather than a household of one.

Remember not to discriminate tenants based on age, gender, sexuality, race, religion, etc.

Telephone interviews

While adhering to government guidelines telephone/ or webcam interviews are a good way of conducting who is a good fit for the property. Being prepared and having a list of questions and taking notes can really help when coming to a decision.

In-person interviews

 Meeting a prospective tenant at a property is a good way to get a feel for a tenant and let them have a look around. Meeting the tenant is ideally the second stage of the process whereas the first stage could be the application form or the telephone interview.

Using social media

It is possible that you may choose to verify a tenant’s suitability by taking a look a what is publicly available through their social media profile.  However, it is not advisable to keep checking up on their social media throughout a tenancy. Checking their Linkedin profile, for example, should verify their employment status, to ensure that the given information is correct.

Employment references

You should ask a tenant for employer references to ensure you have a reliable, trustworthy tenant.  It is also a good idea for a landlord to ask to see their contract of employment. Double check to make sure the employment letter is from their employer and follow it up with a phone call to verify, if there is any doubt.

Financial circumstances

It is within a landlord’s right to ask to see a tenant’s payslip so that you can make sure that they have a steady income and will not end up in debt.

Previous landlord references

Asking the tenant for the previous landlord details is an important part of the screening process just because of the fact that you can hear for yourself from other landlords about how good the potential tenant is. It may seem unnecessary but if you really think about it, it’s a smart way of screening.

Credit checks

This goes without saying, checking a tenant’s credit can give a good indication on the long-term trust you can build. It will point out if the tenant has had any problems including late payments and non-payments. However, you will need the tenant’s permission before conducting these checks even though it is a common procedure.

If you can see that the tenant has had a bad history with credit then don’t be afraid to ask why, don’t be too quick to dismiss an applicant because there may be a story behind the reason as we all struggle sometimes. If they are upfront about the reasons then they still might be a good honest fit for the property but to cover yourself ask them to either pay a larger deposit or find a guarantor.

Right to rent checks

This was introduced in 2016, all landlords must carry out checks to verify a tenant’s immigration status. The government has provided a guideline to help landlords and you can find this HERE

In a nutshell this is straightforward where you can ask a tenant to provide identification documents such as a passport etc. if this is not done correctly it could result in a fine.

Asking the right questions

When screening a tenant make sure to ask the same questions to avoid discrimination, this also makes it easier to compare each of their answers and use the information to decide. It is important to ask the right questions that are relevant to the situations for example:

  • Why are you moving?  Be sure to follow up on the tenants answer for example if they say they are moving due to an end of tenancy and need a new place be sure to get in touch with the previous landlord.
  • What is their occupation?
  • Do you smoke or anyone you live with smoke?
  • Who will be sharing the property with you?
  • Are you looking for a short term or long-term lease?
  • Can you provide references?
  • Anything I should know? If the tenant wants to share anything for example any medical conditions that they are happy to share, then this provides the opportunity.
  • Do you as a tenant have any questions?

How to choose the right tenant

Assess the suitability of the tenant to the property, depending on size of their household and size of the property, closeness to their workplace and there may be other factors, such as do they have family living in the same area.  Make a shortlist in choosing the right tenant and then it might just be down to gut feeling once you have actually met the tenants.

How to decide if you are faced with a bad tenant:

Bad credit rating. For example if the tenant has a history of providing late payments or even no payments at all then it is in your own judgement to see what course of action you can take.

  • No ID documents
  • A criminal Record – evaluate the case on the evidence provided to make a judgement.
  • Low income
  • Prior evictions – get in touch with previous landlords.
  • Willing to pay a lot of rent upfront – there may be a genuine reason for this but a lot of the time it could be a scam to where the landlord doesn’t carry out the inspections and that they’re using the property for an illegal reason.

Keeping tenants

Keeping a good relationship with your tenant is crucial to ensure you don’t have to go through the process of finding a new one too often….

Good communication

Make sure you have their phone number and email address.

You can ask them to NOT contact you outside working hours unless it is an emergency for example the boiler has broken or they’ve lost the keys and can’t get into the property.

Decorating

It is good practice to decorate a property before renting it out as a fresh coat of paint can improve a home significantly, and it shows that you take care in looking after the property.

Even though it is your property it is actually going to be the tenants home meaning that you should give certain and clear permission on what the tenant can or can’t do in relations to decorating for example putting up pictures and not screwing into the walls and using mounting tape instead. But if the tenant wishes to change the colour of the room make sure they ask permission first with a colour scheme.

Alterations

This is along the lines of removing walls and building new walls. Restrictions here should be explained in your tenancy agreements.

Gardening

If the property has a garden make sure to establish the ground rules of how to appropriately maintain it for example keep the grass short and the garden tidy. Most occasions landlords hire gardeners to do the work as it could be stated in the agreement.

Parking

If parking is available, make sure that its maintained from oil leaks and any causes of damage.

Subletting

It’s very important to always know who is staying at the property, if the property is sub-let then who pays for the damages if anything does get damaged. In all make sure it is very clear from the start that subletting is not allowed (unless anything else is agreed)

Keeping a good relationship with the tenant

All landlords have responsibilities and making sure you stay are responsive can keep the tenant happy. For example, if something in the house needs repairing then aim to get it fixed quickly and efficiently.

It is a smart idea to document everything that happens between yourself and the tenant. This way it helps to provides records and proof if anything does go wrong.

Always keep a professional relationship and never let it get personal, as well be respectful as this is your tenants home even though it’s your property.

How to deal with complaints and issues

Always listen to your tenant, show them that you really do care and that they can come to you about anything relevant. Take any complaints seriously and act accordingly.

If all of this seems a little daunting the Prop Home team would be delighted to help in any way, they can. Contact Paul Harrison today – 0345 8686868.

This Guide is produced for general information and is not liable any direct, indirect, special, consequential, or other losses or damages whatsoever kind coming from using this guide. Please note that this guide only offers information and should not be considered as giving advice, please find professional advice if you are to decide on how to find a tenant.