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Letting Agents and Tenant References and Checks by LettingFocus

Landlords using letting agents to find a tenant for them need to be very careful that they set out EXACTLY what references they expect the letting agent to obtain from the tenant as part of the reference checking process.
Those of you who have read my book “Successful Property Letting” will know that I tend to go a little bit further than most letting agents do in terms of the kind of the references I wish a tenant to provide.
Where the property in question is close to me I still tend to do the “finding tenant” job myself using websites like Upad -see the link at Services and Products for Landlords
I do the viewings myself and then get the tenants to provide the employers and past landlord references plus all necessary documents - which I then validate.
And I ask to see a lot of documentation too – bank statements, utility bills, proof of ID etc.
Plus I do a credit check.

Why Do It Yourself?

Sometimes I am pretty busy on my corporate consulting work and speaking engagements and I sometimes think to myself, “Hey, why am I still doing this myself?”
The answer is complex.
But I find that I can do reference checks a lot faster myself than a letting agent can do it, so I’m not sitting and waiting ages for a “Go” or “NO GO” decision on the tenant.
Plus I get to see all the references the tenants provide, I study them carefully and can make up my own mind as to whether they will be good tenants or not.
And with the stress and cost one has if one gets a tenant from hell, it is really a job that I am loathe to lose control of.

As an example of this, a consultee of mine recently used a letting agent.
The agent had the tenant fill in the application form. But though the tenant was from Korea (and clearly outside the EU) the agent did not think to ask to see the work permit from the Home Office.
Doh! Basic stuff! But all too common a problem, I'm afraid.

Agree What Checks Your Letting Agent Will Do

In this case, the landlord had not agreed in writing exactly what reference checks they wanted the letting agent to do when they had agreed for them to do the work to find the tenant.
It’s an easy mistake to make and one that I have to confess I have made in the past.
I do use letting agents from time to time (and I have to for my properties that are far away because I cannot physically do the viewings.)
However, the letting agency is fully appraised as to what refs I need and he sends me copies of the tenants application form and copies of the references obtained too.
I trust them.
In theory all good letting agents should be as thorough on reference checks as he is.
After all, they should not want to provide you with a duff tenant because that will strain your relationship (or it should!).
But some letting agency staff are blinded by the commission and frankly could not give a monkeys about the quality of the tenant.

Be Wary of Pure Commission Driven Letting Agents

This type of letting agent will have the view that as long as they have ticked the minimum number of boxes as part of the reference checks and have got their commission, they are happy with that.
A letting agency near us has staff that I know are entirely on commission. This is the sort of firm you should be wary of and keep on a tight rein.

Private Rented Sector Policy Is Often Made on the Hoof

As part of the corporate consultancy work I do for mortgage companies and in the social housing sector, I get to read a lot of position papers on the private rented sector.
But I am continually amazed that in the private rented sector, so much government policy is made without the benefit of any good quality research.
Julie Rugg in her superb report into the private rented sector found the same thing.
Policy has been and continues to be made that affects landlords and tenants but which is not rooted in valid research findings.
What research there is, is often limited in scope and uses too small sample sizes.
An example is the proposal to require houses converted to HMOs to obtain planning permission. It may be sensible policy, but where is the research to justify this proposal?
I may come back to this issue another time.


LettingFocus.com is the home of landlord information.
Hello, I’m David Lawrenson.
I have been a landlord and property investor myself for over 25 years and am author of “Successful Property Letting” – which has been the UK’s top selling commercially published property book for the last 3 years.
Our main business is at a corporate level for organisations - both public and private companies.
We provide consultancy for banks, local authorities, social housing providers and other organisations – helping them with their landlord facing or buy to let product strategies and services.


We also write for property websites and are regularly quoted by the media. In addition, we have written articles for numerous publications including The Independent, The Telegraph and quality landlord websites.
For private landlords, we also find some occasional spare time to help landlords and property investors make money in property by coaching them in ways that work, which are ethical and which involve minimal risk to the investor.
We pride ourselves on giving independent unbiased buy to let advice on either a one to one mentoring / coaching basis or through our occasional group seminars.
Unfortunately, in the UK today, property advice in the UK is still largely unregulated and what counts as “good advice” is too often more about making the promoter money than giving useful information to the investor.
With no links to property firms, developers or bridging loan providers we can advise on where and what type of property to buy for investment and when to buy it. We also show you how to manage tenants properly.


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Copyright of Blog: David Lawrenson 2009. This blog is updated roughly once a week usually on a Monday or Tuesday.


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