Tessa's Ten Top Tips for landlords when signing up a new tenant

Street in South London
  1. Get as much information from the prospective tenant as possible before considering granting them a tenancy. It is best to have a standard form for this, such as our online Tenants information form. You should also check their identity
  2. Take references, in particular from employers, former landlords and the tenants bank. However references can be forged so always double check them. You should also get a report from a credit reference agency.
  3. Remember also that references may not tell the whole truth, so do not be afraid to trust you own 'gut feeling'. If you feel uneasy about a tenant, think twice before letting them into your property.
  4. Always take a months rent in advance and the tenancy deposit up front and do not hand over the keys until this payment has cleared through your bank. The only exceptions to this rule should be when the tenant has the benefit of a local authority bond or guarantee.
  5. Ensure that the tenant has signed a proper form of tenancy agreement and, again, do not hand over the keys until this has been done. Make sure you hold a tenancy agreement with their original signatures - not a faxed or scanned copy.
  6. Unless you know the tenants well and are confident that they will not cause any problems, do not grant an initial fixed term for more than six months. You can always grant them a longer fixed term at the end of this period if they prove satisfactory
  7. If you are letting to a housing benefit tenant, ensure that the tenant signs a letter of authority to the Housing Benefit office authorising Housing Benefit to give you information about their application, before you hand over the keys. If the tenant is in receipt of Local Housing Allowance (where the rent cannot normally be paid direct to the landlord) see if the tenant can get his rent paid to you via a credit union account - often the housing allowance can be ringfenced to prevent it being spent elsewhere by the tenant.
  8. Remember that for tenants in England, you now need to carry out a right to rent check on ALL occupiers (not just the tenants) or risk a penalty payment.  Do not let the tenants into occupation before this has been done.
  9. Get a signed standing order form from the tenant for payment of the rent, before handing over the keys.  You will also need to serve an EPC certificate, the gas safety certificate and the most recent version of the governments How to Rent booklet or you will not be able to serve a valid section 21 notice.
  10. Be very wary indeed 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..



Members can read FAQ and articles on all the points covered here.



Not a Landlord Law Member - Join Now