Top Ten Tips for Tenant Vetting
With many landlords struggling to repay LPT and buy-to-let mortgages, it’s never been more important to find a reliable tenant and one who respects your property.
The only way is to ensure that you or your agent vet tenants thoroughly. Better not to act in haste and repent in leisure. Below we set out some of our top tips:-
Group Viewings –V- Individual Appointments: Always conduct individual viewings or insist that your agent does. Yes, it is time consuming but how else are you going to get an opportunity to speak with your prospective tenant?
Ask Questions: Take your time showing tenants around your property and use the opportunity to ask questions such as their reasons for moving, how long they were renting previously, why aren’t they renewing their current lease, can they pay both the rent and the security deposit in advance, the number of occupants in advance (two might be viewing but four might intend on moving in!) can they provide references, where do they work, did they have any problems in their last rental property/what was their landlord like? This will open up a discussion and it is surprising what tenants will say particularly in regard to the latter points. If they did have a problem with their landlord/tenancy, you will have to read between lines and decide if they may become a problem in your own property. Don’t forget that Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are powerful tools in verifying information your prospective tenants have provided so use it and make sure everything checks out.
References: Take the time to verify these properly. The minimum you should request is an employer reference, a previous landlord reference, a current utility bill, current bank statements (or payslips or employer letter stating salary and finally, Photo I.D. (i.e. a Passport or Driver’s License).
- Employer reference: Google the company and ring the landline given on the website (not from the reference). Ask for the HR department and enquire generally about the “employee” before asking to speak with the person who issued the reference. Check the length of the contract and if the employee is full-time or part-time.
- Previous Landlords: Of the above, this reference is one of the most important and probably the easiest to forge. Always insist on a written reference and one that gives the name, address and contact number of the previous landlord. Always follow up with a phone call and it might sound obvious but ask the full address of the rental property (and check it corresponds exactly with the utility bill provided) and, having noted any answers from your questions to tenants, ask the same questions of the previous landlord and compare for any inconsistencies. Ask if they gave the correct period of notice and why the tenant is leaving and see if this matches with the tenant’s explanation. Also ask if they had any problems in dealing with the tenant, were they difficult/demanding, did they report any repairs promptly, allow access for the repairs to be resolved? The majority of landlords will be only too happy to help, but alarm bells should ring if things don’t check out – a landlord might be only too happy to see the back of a problem tenant.
- Current Utility Bill: A current utility bill or some other proof of address from a tenant at their previous property will also help verify a previous landlord reference. An added benefit with a utility bill is that you can see if there are any arrears owing on the utility, always a bad sign.
- Photo I.D. (i.e. a current Passport or Driver’s License). Bear in mind that photocopies can be doctored so always ask to see the original first and then accept a copy.
- A bank statement or similar should always be requested. Just because a tenant is working doesn’t mean they can afford the rent – they could be working part-time and not full-time. Some tenants are reluctant to provide an actual bank statement for privacy reasons, but should provide current payslips or a letter from their employer stating their salary. You could go as far as to insist on a credit check via the Credit Bureau but this is not commonly done yet in Ireland and tenants might be reluctant to agree.
- Trust your Instincts! Take note of good old fashioned “manners” as these, or lack of, can be telltale signs of whether a tenant really is as reliable, nice and honest as they appear to be. Whether your contact is by phone, text, email and then in person with a tenant you can judge a lot by their manner and how they interact with you. Do they make good eye contact with you, are they cagey or vague, rushed, pushy, demanding?
- Inspections: Once you’ve secured a good tenant, carry out inspections. Twice annually or every 3- 4 months is reasonable but tenants must always be notified in advance, at least 24 hours and you must always have the tenant’s permission to enter in their absence. Check if any repairs are required and also tell tale signs such a build up of rubbish in the property or garden, signs of damp (and lack of ventilation), clothes-horses which may indicate wet clothes are being dried in the property and the tumble dryer is not being used. Follow anything up in writing so you have a record of it on file and always remember to check in with the neighbours to make sure they are not being disturbed by any anti-social behaviour.
Finally use a good lease! It is also fine to include specific clauses in regard to your property (i.e. no smoking, no scented candles etc. etc.) in your “Special Conditions” section within your lease (just make sure that any lease agreement used complies with Residential Tenancies Act 2004) and we would always recommend having an Inventory (and photographs of each room) for your property that is checked, signed and returned by tenants as this helps prevent any problems at the end of a tenancy.