Landlords - finding tenants

Checking prospective tenants and getting references before you offer a tenancy agreement will save you time, effort and money.

Rental application form

Using a standard rental application form is useful. Ask for:

  • the last three addresses the tenant has lived at
  • contact details for former landlords
  • date of birth
  • national insurance number
  • next of kin details
  • reasons for leaving their past addresses
  • employment details if applicable
  • contact details of people who could provide references

You could also ask questions about income and credit history and the number of people the tenant intends to have living in the property.

Make sure the rental application form includes a paragraph telling tenants that reference checks and credit checks will be made in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

Other checks

  • Ask prospective tenants to sign an authorisation for release of information, so you have written permission to contact previous landlords and employers
  • Carry out a credit reference check. This costs around £10, and can identify records of any County Court Judgements along with details of any bankruptcy or insolvency
  • Check the identity of the prospective tenant by asking for two pieces of identification, one of which has a photograph
  • Consider using a tenant referencing company, which can carry out these checks for you
  • Meet the prospective tenant yourself and spend time speaking with them - this can usually give a lot away about the type of tenant they may be. Don't be too quick to dismiss any 'gut feelings' you have about a tenant. Take your time to consider what it is that is making you feel this way and set up a second meeting in a public place to discuss any concerns you have

Tenancy agreement

When you decide to let your property, your new tenant will need to sign a tenancy agreement. This can be drawn up by anyone - the Citizens Advice Bureau has information about what should be in your tenancy agreement. You might want to have the tenancy agreement checked by a solicitor or take legal advice. The agreement should be signed, and witnessed by someone independent.

Compile a full inventory and statement of condition of your property, and get the tenant to sign it to accept they have received the property in this condition.

Try not to give an initial fixed term agreement for any longer than six months unless you know the tenant well. If there was a serious problem, and the contract was longer, there may be a delay in evicting the tenant. 

If you are letting to a tenant who gets housing benefit, ask them to sign a letter of authority to our benefits office, giving permission for you to access information about their housing benefit application.

At the start of the tenancy, agree how the rent is to be paid. Get your tenant to set up a direct debit or standing order if possible.

Make sure that all utility bill accounts are in your tenants' names, and take a note of the meter readings before they move in.