Q.Dear James, my tenant can’t provide a reference from a previous landlord. Is that a problem?
A.When you’re assessing whether a tenant is right for your property, you can do all sorts of checks. That could be a credit reference, bank reference, employer’s letter and all sorts. You then have to make a judgment based on all this information as to whether the person is someone you want as a tenant.

If your prospective tenant doesn’t have a reference from a previous landlord, that’s a not a problem in itself. But you will want to know why. People rent property for all sorts of reasons. It could be they are new to the rental market as a young person or for some reason they are renting for the first time in many years, perhaps because of a relationship break-up or the like. That shouldn’t be a problem and you can assess them by other checks. But if you think they are hiding something from you then you might want to find another tenant or protect yourself by getting them to provide a guarantor.

Q.I want to let my flat to the friend of a friend, who comes highly recommended but doesn’t have a deposit. Do I have to take one?

A.No, it’s not compulsory. But it’s strongly advised for a number of reasons. It’s protection for you should your property get damaged by the tenants over the course of their residence. It’s a useful negotiating tool at the end of the tenancy.

It also protects you against rent arrears. If your tenant does a runner at some point, owing you cash for the rent, then you can use the deposit against the unpaid rent. It’s much easier than pursuing the tenant through the courts.

But if you do take a deposit, and the tenancy is contracted under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), then don’t forget that you are obliged by law to protect it under a deposit protection scheme. You must lodge the money with a government approved scheme and also inform your tenant of the details within 14 days of the tenancy commencing.

James Davis is CEO of online lettings agent www.upad.co.uk. You can also follow Upad on Twitter: @avoidthevoids.