I watched a very interesting programme on channel 4 on Monday night about the changing role of Letting agents as an increased number of people who are in receipt of benefits and cannot get social housing are using the private landlord sector to meet their housing needs.
The programme shows many instances of landlords having to pick up the pieces of their properties after the tenants have not paid rent in a number of months and left the properties in an awful condition requiring thousands of pounds worth of remedial work. The programme is very hard hitting and obviously shows the worst cases but in my experience renting property to those in receipt of Housing Benefit is usually fine. Housing Benefit can be paid directly to the landlord therefore decreasing the risk of rent arrears.
I believe if a tenancy is going to run into problems it will be because the tenancy has been poorly managed. It is the landlord/ letting agents duty keep on top of a tenancy to avoid poor tenants getting into the property, to ensure that the landlord is protected and to regularly check to ensure the property is being kept in order as to comply with the terms of the tenancy agreement.
Referencing a tenant before agreeing a tenancy is a useful way to see if there is a history of non-payment of rent or property damage. When obtaining a reference always contact the reference and verify the source. Ask questions how long the tenant had lived in their property, did they pay their rent, did they pay on time, did they keep the property in good condition, would they rent to the tenant again and generally find out as much information as possible about how the tenancy went.
Obtain a guarantor.
A guarantor is a person who will be liable for any non-payment of rent or damages in the absence of the tenant. Most tenants use a family member or friend as a guarantor. Tenants whose tenancy is guaranteed by a close friend or family member will in my experience ensure that the rent is paid up to date and look after the property during the tenancy. However in instances where the tenant cannot get a guarantor the landlord could ask for a higher amount of deposit to be paid as security. A guarantor should be employed and a homeowner. A homeowner being the more important.
Its always Important to check that property pre tenancy and record the condition of the property before it is delivered into the possession of the tenant and at the end of the tenancy prior to the return of the deposit. During the tenancy the landlord may inspect the property to ensure that the tenants are keeping the property in reasonable condition and see if there are any outstanding repair issues. However please remember that tenants be given at least 24 hours notice in writing before a landlord conducts an inspection.
The employment of these three tools should help the landlord to prevent an undesirable tenant from obtaining the tenancy, give the landlord security if a tenancy runs into difficulty and reassurance that the property is being looked after. The programme I watched said that over 25% of landlords in Britain where single property owners. Some private landlords may feel uncomfortable/ inexperienced asking for references and/ or guarantors or conducting property inspections. In which case I would strongly recommend the use of an agent to act on their behalf. When instructing an agent ask about how they go about finding the tenants they are proposing, how do they reference the tenants, do they get guarantors, how many property inspections are carried out throughout the tenancy? When selecting your agent its important to ensure they know what they are talking about and are experienced in lettings and property management. If you think getting a professional is costly wait and see how much an amateur can cost.