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Getting References for a Tenant before starting the Tenancy

How and when to make a tenant rerference request, and what forms and letters should you use?

Landlord's Guide to Tenant Screening: Ensure Quality Tenants & Protect Your Property

Comprehensive 2024 Guide to Tenant Screening


For landlords, selecting the right tenant is the cornerstone of a successful rental business. While a vast majority of tenants are reliable, a small fraction can cause significant financial and property-related headaches. This comprehensive guide will walk you through detailed steps to ensure you select the best possible tenants, protect your property, and comply with legal requirements.

Part 1: In-Depth Tenant Identity Verification

Understanding Who You're Renting To

Verifying the identity of potential tenants is not just a recommendation—it's a legal requirement that, if neglected, could lead to fines up to £3,000. Beyond just viewing, you should make copies of essential documents like:

  • Valid Driver's License or Passport: Confirm photo ID and full name.
  • Bank Statements: Look for regular income and financial stability.
  • Utility Bills: Ensure the prospective tenant's name and address match other documents.

Additional Documents for Thorough Checks:

  • Birth or Marriage Certificates: Useful for confirming details on other forms of ID.
  • National Insurance Documentation: Verifies the tenant's legal right to reside and work in the UK.
  • Benefit Statements: For tenants who receive government assistance.
  • Tax Exemption Certificates: Particularly for self-employed applicants.
  • Inland Revenue Correspondence: Further proof of financial stability.

Part 2: Legal and Ethical Screening Practices

Discrimination Laws and Fair Screening

It's vital to adhere to discrimination laws. Your screening process should be the same for all applicants to avoid legal issues. Document your process and decisions for each candidate. This not only helps in case of disputes but also ensures a fair and transparent selection process.

Developing a Screening Checklist

Create a detailed checklist for the screening process. This should include all documents to be collected, questions to ask, and criteria for evaluating applicants. Consistently use this checklist for every potential tenant to maintain an objective and systematic approach.

Part 3: Strategic Property Advertising

Crafting the Right Advertisement

Your property ad isn't just about attracting tenants; it's about attracting the right tenants. Be specific about the property's features, location, and the type of tenant you're looking for. Consider the following:

  • Rental Price: Set a competitive yet reasonable price to attract serious inquiries.
  • Property Description: Highlight features that appeal to your target demographic.
  • Tenancy Terms: Be clear about what's expected, such as no pets or non-smoking preferences.

Part 4: First Impressions and Interactions

The Importance of Initial Meetings

First impressions are telling. Note the applicant's punctuality, appearance, and behavior. Ask open-ended questions to gauge their reliability and fit for your property. Look for signs of responsibility, like questions about maintenance or neighborhood safety.

Observing Behavior and Asking Key Questions

  • Did they arrive on time?
  • Are they respectful and polite?
  • Do they show genuine interest in maintaining the property?
  • How do they respond to questions about employment, previous tenancies, and references?

Part 5: The Application Process

Creating a Comprehensive Application Form

Your application form should request detailed information, including employment history, previous landlords, and personal references. Be clear that providing false information can lead to termination of the tenancy.

Part 6: Financial and Background Checks

Conducting Credit and Reference Checks

Investing in a detailed credit check can reveal a lot about an applicant's financial responsibility. Look for:

  • Credit Score: Indicates overall financial health.
  • Credit History: Reveals patterns of debt and repayment.
  • CCJs and Bankruptcy: Critical red flags indicating serious financial issues.

Seeking Employer and Previous Landlord References:

Contacting employers can confirm the applicant's employment status and income. Previous landlords can provide insights into the tenant's behavior, timely rent payments, and property care.

Part 7: Advanced Reporting for In-Depth Insights

Beyond Basic Checks – What More Can You Learn?

For a more comprehensive understanding, consider reports that include:

  • Written References: Personal or professional references can provide character insights.
  • Affordability Assessments: Ensure the tenant can comfortably afford the rent.
  • Delinquent Tenant Databases: Check if the applicant has a history of problematic tenancies.

Part 8: Legal Compliance and Updates

Staying Informed on Legislation

Laws and regulations around tenant screening and landlord responsibilities can change. Stay updated through landlord associations, legal advisories, and government publications.


Effective tenant screening is an art and a science. By following these detailed steps, you're not just protecting your property; you're also ensuring a positive, productive relationship with your tenants. Remember, a well-screened tenant is the foundation of a stress-free tenancy.

Key Takeaway

Employ comprehensive, legal, and fair tenant screening practices to safeguard your rental investment and foster a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship in 2024 and beyond.

Getting References for a Tenant before starting the Tenancy

How and when to make a tenant rerference request, and what forms and letters should you use?