Top tips for choosing the right tenant for your buy-to-let investment

 
Melissa York
Follow Melissa
Young couple riding bicycles
Look at these two. You'd let your property to them, right?

So you’ve spent months searching for the perfect property investment and transforming it into a modern, comfortable home. Now it’s time to hand over the keys to a perfect stranger and hope they pay up. Or perhaps you’re upsizing and you’re hoping Mr Rando won’t destroy your beloved first home. But how can you be sure, really? If you’re going it alone, or you want to make sure your letting agent is up to par, here are some tips from the professionals who find reliable tenants every day.

Target the right tenant

“Tailor the look and feel of your property, and set the rent to suit your target market. If your property offers lots of space and is close to reputable schools or nurseries it is likely to appeal to a family, possibly with young children, and they will enjoy the freedom to make the house a home. What about a young professional? Likely to have a little bit more money to spend, they’ll be after a modern property that’s well placed for transport links, bars, cafés and entertainment. Regardless of the tenant profile, keep the décor simple – don’t show too much of your personal taste. You may like bold patterns, but your dream tenant might not - you don’t want to put them off.”

– Nick Vincent, Lettings Director at Proctors estate agents

Carry out some basic checks

“To find high quality tenants, we take references from their previous landlords to show that the tenants’ paid rent on time and they didn’t cause any damages. We also contact their HR department to confirm employment and then also ask for supporting documents from the tenant in the form of a payslip or signed contract. Finally, we ask them to provide us with a copy of their passport by bringing it into the office in order to make sure they pass Right to Rent checks.”

– Jake Willis, co-founder of London Shared

Be aware of Right to Rent

“Following the implementation of the Right to Rent scheme across the UK, a landlord or agent also needs to ensure the tenant has the right to reside in the UK. The requirement is ensuring that an original passport/VISA/residence permit is seen in the present of the tenant and known occupants. If an individual is a UK citizen, EU or EEA national, then they will automatically have the right to reside within the UK. These documents are only required to be valid at the commencement of the tenancy. Should either expire during the tenancy, then the landlord/agent should follow it up.”

– Neil Short, head of city residential at JLL

Use your gut feeling

“A tenant’s behaviour during viewings can be really telling. If they turn up late, they’re rude, and they point out every tiny part of the property which isn’t perfect, it may be a good indicator that they’re going to be quite a demanding tenant. Ask the letting agent how the tenant came across. Even if they’re offering the most money, you may decide that their attitude simply isn’t worth the extra £50 per week or so.”

– Jo Eccles, managing director at Sourcing Property

“Most tenancies that do go wrong, do so before the contract is even signed. By this, I mean that either the estate agent or the client have neglected to act on signals that a prospective tenant may not be up to par. The process of renting in London is relatively straightforward. It can be a red flag if a tenant makes this process complicated.”

– Tim Hassell, managing director at Draker

Meet your tenant face-to-face

“Try to actually meet your prospective tenants; as much as an agent might paint a very good picture of anyone who wants to rent your property, I’ve always felt that it’s good to put a face to a name. In my past experience, the tenancies where this has happened have always gone smoothly as people feel like they know who they are dealing with.”

– Anton Neil, senior lettings manager at Haus Properties

Make sure they can afford it

“As a guide, their annual household income should be at least 30 times the monthly rent if they are to comfortably pay the rent each month. Other factors to consider are the length of their current employment – this should be for at least the length of the tenancy so they can demonstrate a continued, fixed salary.”

– Chris Boswell, east London lettings director at Johns & Co

“Affordability is key; a stable tenant needs to be living comfortably, not over-stretched so we make sure that household income is at least double the rent.”

– Sophie Lau, head of sales & marketing at Fizzy Living

“Make sure that you see the reference checks that the agent you appoint carries out. It might seem like an obvious one, but a lot of agents do not show these reports to their landlords and they contain a lot of important information, such as credit score, credit history, as well as the questions asked to the previous landlord and the employers.”

– Anton Neil, senior lettings manager at Haus Properties

Especially if they’re from overseas or self-employed

“A frequent obstacle in the prime central London lettings market is that many prospective tenants relocate from overseas, which means they do not have any history in the UK. The best place to start is to check whether they are relocating with a company, who will act as guarantor, or whether they are moving on their own. If the tenant is self-employed and does not have a UK accountant who can verify and quantify their annual earnings, we would advise landlords to ask for payment in advance of the tenancy.”

– Tracey Cumming, head of lettings at Jackson-Stops & Staff

Be flexible for the perfect tenant

“Many landlords make the mistake of playing ‘hard ball’ with the rental price; their property is often not in optimum condition, and they can forget that the incoming tenant is paying rent to stay in the property. It is paramount to remember that a tenancy is a ‘two way street’ and a mutual respect between a landlord (and their agent) and tenant is crucial to ensure both parties work together to maintain the property.”

– Sophie Amasha, property manager at Black Brick

Related articles