‘Landlord Referencing’ Checklist For Tenants

All landlords are bad

I think I’ve discovered a new comparable past-time to watching paint dry. It’s called “listening to tenants complain about the complete lack of decent landlords” Both equally brain-numbingly boring, and in some cultures, both considered torture. However, if I had to pick the lesser of two evils, i’d have to pick watching paint dry, simply because I’ve had to endure less of that in my lifetime.

Either way, let me get my underlying point across- there are decent landlords out there, lots of them. It goes without saying that I’m a prime example. That’s right.

Now, the question has to be asked, are you actually doing anything productive to try and find a decent landlord…or are you just focused on finding a property you can call home?

Don’t answer, I already know the answer!

The reality is, if you’ve had a string of shit landlords, then you’re most likely the catalyst behind your own bad fortune. You’re either too stupid to find a decent landlord, or you’re too stupid to find a decent landlord. That’s probably a bitter pill to swallow, but I’ll happily force your head back and toss it down your gullet.

Needless to say, with a minuscule amount of effort, you can dramatically reduce the chances of getting lumbered with a deadbeat landlord. That’s all it takes to put your prospective landlord through a screening process.

Somewhere along the line, I think the idea of tenants taking steps to validate the value of a landlord became so outrageously unorthodox that no one bloody does it. Or at least, the tenants that come onto this website while shitting their pants and screaming that all landlords are scum-bags, certainly don’t do it. But I think in general, most prospective tenants just walk into a letting agent with their hands in the air and their legs spread, waiting to be interrogated with a fluorescent probing device that vibrates.

Let’s not forget, a tenancy is a 2-way deal. It’s like a marriage, only better and more sexy. Both parties have the right, and should take advantage of that right, to violate validate one another. Yet, it seems to have become tradition for the landlords to do the vetting, without having the favour returned.

There are plenty of procedures tenants can run through in order to minimize their exposure to bad landlords. I’m pretty certain if all tenants followed a few of the procedures, they’d save themselves from falling victim to the antics of rogue landlords, and I’d probably have a lot less people complaining on this website about landlords (although it can be amusing at times, so hopefully not every tenant in the UK will read this blog post, but they probably will).

The bottom line is, tenants should be referencing landlords just like landlords reference tenants.

Steps to bagging yourself a decent landlord

Here are a few of my tips. Take it with a pinch of salt if you wish. I’m just saying…

1) Check the property is clean

It doesn’t matter what part of the country you’re renting in, or how little your budget, the property you’re viewing should be clean, or presentable/tidy at the very least. First impressions are everything. Almost.

If the landlord doesn’t have the decency to push his/her mum through the front door for a little spring cleaning before your viewing, then they’re not going to care about the condition of the property when you’re living in it.

2) Don’t agree to a property which requires repairs

Common mistake, and I’m still amazed at how often tenants fall victim to this prehistoric trick. This ploy existed back when we were monkeys, yet we’ve still not evolved past it.

If something in the property needs repairing, don’t fall for the following line, “Don’t worry, that will get repaired next week (after you’ve signed papers and moved in)”

Don’t sign anything until everything is in working order. Once you’re legally tenant (after signing the contracts and the start date commences), landlords will have a legal grip of you, and their eagerness to address repairs often die quickly.

3) Check the property has smoke/fire alarms

If the landlord isn’t conscious enough to have smoke/fire alarms installed, it’s a clear signal that they care more about the gum stuck on their shoe than you and your safety.

4) Ensure landlord has all legal documents in place

If the landlord doesn’t have all the legally required documents in place, then he/she does not give a damn about you or their legal responsibilities, and that’s a worrying thought.

The documents include, the Gas Safety Certificate and Energy Performance Certificate.

5) Tenancy Deposit Scheme

This one is probably the most obvious tell-tale sign of whether or not your landlord is legit or not.

All landlords should secure any deposit they receive (no matter how small) into a Tenancy Deposit Scheme with in 30 days of receiving it. The landlord must also serve you with prescribed information, which contains details of where the deposit is secured, along with various other details regarding the protection of the deposit.

This is beneficial to both landlord and tenant, and most importantly, it is a legal requirement. If you’re failing to check this vital piece of information, then you’re destined to be commanded and conquered by a rogue landlord.

6) Ask the landlord for references of previous tenants

Ask the landlord for the details of previous tenants so you can contact them for references. Nothing beats a reference from previous tenants, besides from a handjob. That was inappropriate, wasn’t it? But on a serious note, i’d probably take a handjob over a reference. I’m still being appropriate. I should stop.

Most landlords/letting agents reference the shit out of tenants, to the point of intimidation and harassment. It’s a beautiful process. Feel free to do the same. It’s only fair and effective.

7) Talk to the neighbours

Ask the neighbours about the landlord and the previous tenants. If the landlord is a douche-bag, believe me, the neighbours will most likely be aware of it.

8) Ask for proof of ownership

A lot of the most common landlord scams that tenants fall victim to are actually based on unauthorised individuals letting out properties.

I’m always left surprised at how little tenants want to know about me, their prospective landlord, especially while I’m referencing the crap out of them. It’s perfectly OK for tenants to ask for proof of ownership. In fact, as a landlord, it shows me that you’re not a complete dumb-ass.

If the property is being handled on behalf of someone else, ask the relevant questions, like where the owner is and why they’re not managing it. If the representative provides an unconvincing story, there’s probably an unsavory reason to why.

9) Ask questions about the property!

The landlord should know every detail about the property e.g. which companies are supplying the gas, electricity and water. Be wary of landlords that don’t know their own commodity.

Those were just a few of my tips, but there are plenty more steps tenants can take to prevent themselves from encountering their landlord(s) from hell. Perhaps you can suggest a few more ideas below…

As with most commodities these days, you have to separate the wheat from the chaff. There are plenty of good and bad landlords roaming around.

If anyone has any further suggestions, thoughts or ideas, HOLLA!

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21 Comments- Join The Conversation...

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Yesadam 9th March, 2012 @ 09:09

I'm not giving any tenant a reference - properties are in too much demand for Me top bother getting references, but sure is a good list.

2, 4, 5 and especially 7 are great suggestions for tenants.

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Yesadam 9th March, 2012 @ 09:11

1 I tidy I don't clean and I am a great landlord. So you will find dust.

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Eleri 9th March, 2012 @ 10:22

A good list. Some good thinking there.Congrats.
On another angle, I have decided never to let to a prospective tenant who comes straight from her or his family home with no experience of switching off light, heat, and paying his/her own bills. This is after a complaint from a by-now ex-tenant whom I m allowing to break his contract, that "the bills are ridiculous",(ie local authority, water and pay as you go electricity bills) plus other unsuitable tenant behaviour, ie loud music late at night, shouting to partner in the flat, littering the street with the help of seagulls, and generally making the lives of other tenants unbearable This person was leaving his electric fire on after going out to work, leaving the immersion heater on all the time, and, needless to say, hanging his clothes on the floor. Much c;leaning required after only 6 weeks. So that is now my march resolution: get realistic tenants!
Cheers

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EMMA 9th March, 2012 @ 10:30

And you may be a decent landlord Yesadam, but the idea of these checks is to weed out the bad landlords. If everyone did these checks before signing a tenancy then the bad landlords houses would stand empty. And us decent landlords would at last be respected not abused :)

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YesADam 9th March, 2012 @ 11:11

This is true Emma.

If theirs one tenant for a niche/hard to let property, then sure id bend over and do a reference. Otherwise currently several people are coming for each property, if decision is between two tenants and one asks me to do extra work in getting references together. I'm very likely to go for other one.

Thinking more logically though if this was to become common place (unlikely due to high demand low supply) i'd defensibly get a "testimonials" section on my lettings website.

Can we remove (1) from list landlord? Not enough time in day to start cleaning dust out of back of cupboards.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 9th March, 2012 @ 11:18

Hi YesAdam,

I definitely get what you're saying in regards to supply and demand, but how much extra work is getting the name and contact number of your previous tenant(s)? I can't imagine that requires that much effort.

But also, if a tenant is willing to go through the trouble of asking for references, then it's probably a good indication that they'll be a good tenant.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 9th March, 2012 @ 11:20

@YesAdam,

Ha, I like number 1! As a compromise, I've modified it for you,

"It doesn’t matter what part of the country you’re renting in, or how little your budget, the property you’re viewing should be clean, or presentable/tidy at the very least."

Better?

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YesADam 9th March, 2012 @ 11:42

haha, much better.

That could be true a hint at them being a "Good Tenant" or maybe a hint at them being compulsive and phoning about every little thing.

I don't have one good thing to say about my suppliers - they are too slow and too expensive. So I wouldn't expect tenants to be kind about their landlords in a reference.

No, Im being picky. I could get some great references from good tenants. I wouldn't want to ask them to do it but it could be done.

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Adam (OpenRent) 9th March, 2012 @ 16:04

Good list - clearly nobody deserves a bad landlord for not doing their homework, but to ignore the basics is certainly flirting with disaster.

To YesADam's point - we are currently building an online service which will take care of 4 & 5 for both parties, and will incorporate feedback and reviews in both directions. Would love to get input from you guys if you have any more thoughts on what would make this work well.

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YesADam 9th March, 2012 @ 16:20

Adam @ OpenRent - Can you please email me hello@yeslettings.com - Im intrigued with your idea maybe I can help or at least be a customer. P.S. You have no email on whois or site!

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Jeremy 9th March, 2012 @ 23:02

Hi Landlord,

Another good article. I like the idea of no. 6 in principle, beacuse it feels fair that the tenant can check out the landlord as much as he landlord checks out the tenant.

But I just don't get the practicality of this. Imagining for a moment that I'm a rubbish landlord then I think I'd give any prospective tenant the phone number of my mate. And my mate would tell anyone who rings up that he used to be a tenant in my house and it was a great house and I was a brilliant landlord. Hey presto! Fab references for a rubbish deal.

Am I being too devious?

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 10th March, 2012 @ 10:24

Hi Jeremy,

Yeah, I was thinking about the practicality, or lack their of, of referencing landlords while writing the tip down. But then I figured, surely in most industries people can provide bogus references. People provide bogus references in their C.V's, testimonials, even tenants can provide the landlord false references- so it's a two-way street.

I remember last year when a letting agent approached me for a reference for a previous tenant of mine. They didn't ask me for any proof to confirm my identity, or that I was even a landlord.

It's just one of those things that's probably worth doing, but isn't 100% reliable, and shouldn't be the only procedure used to determine any conclusion (unless proof is provided).

Either way, ultimately, a landlord could pass all the tests listed above, but they could still unravel to be a terrible landlord. It's just about minimizing risk.

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John Chadwick 10th March, 2012 @ 14:46

I'm a landlord and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme is f***ing nightmare, I know it is there to protect the tenant from bad landlords however I would be reluctant to use it again. My first ever tenant told me that i could have the deposit as his last months rent but then disappeared and i have never heard from him since, that was over four years ago. it took me over 9 months of emails to the TDS to get them to pay me. As a result I have never used them again, I know that this is illegal.

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Jeremy 10th March, 2012 @ 15:35

Hello John,

Sorry to hear of your hassle. Over at the RLA website, there's a news story about regulations for handling deposits getting even tougher from April. If I read it right a tenant can go to a court after the tenancy is over (up to six years after) and show the deposit was not lodged properly and the landlord then pays a fine of up to 3x the deposit taken.

Even if you're doing the right thing morally (i.e. not stealing it and being sensible about what you retain), I'd be giving some serious consideration to doing things by the book. Imagine the financial poo you could get into if you can't persuade a tenant you're being reasonable and they go off to court...

If people like the TDS have slow admin then you could always consider the legal option to holding it yourself: Join the RLA or a local Registered Landlords Association. Once registered you'll be able to buy an insurance which covers the risk of you mis-appropriating the money. Yes, it costs, but it puts you in control.

Hope these options give you some assiatance.

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Adam (OpenRent) 10th March, 2012 @ 15:40

@Landlord / Jeremy - we've spent a while thinking about this too, and what we are trying to do with OpenRent is capture verified tenancies, whereby we handle the admin of contracts and deposits for both sides. Once we know a tenancy definitely exists it becomes useful to capture feedback and reviews in both directions.

Obviously if that verification isn't in place it becomes pretty easy to game the system, spam positive reviews or write down your mate's phone number, etc.

I'm on adam@openrent.co.uk if anyone wants more info - we're still building the site but launching soon.

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John Chadwick 11th March, 2012 @ 05:33

Jeremy, I will in future use the TDS in that case.
But i will not let tenant say i can have the deposit as the last months rent, that's where I mucked up, also it was my first time letting my premises, I have learned a lot since then.

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Mustafa 8th August, 2012 @ 06:29

Northwood act as an agent, whereas with a PSL the conciul will often lease the property via a commercial lease (often not allowed by standard buy-to-let mortgage terms) and then sublet it.Another difference is that with a PSL the conciul is acting as a prospective tenant, whereas Northwood are acting as agent (and charging fees for this). It's reasonable to expect the agent to detail typical market rents, whereas with a PSL the landlord needs to take responsibility for that.A downside of fixed rent schemes though is that, if say you have a house with market rent of a31,000, and you agree to a fixed rent of a3800, you are losing a3200 a month (assuming you manage it yourself otherwise) but ALSO any uplift in rent due to general inflation, or inflation in local rents, over the period of the lease. Say inflation averages 4% over the next five years, that's another a3220 a month you're losing in year 5, so you'd be down a3420 a month. Say your loan is a3700 a month then instead of a3420 a month left after the loan is paid you get a3100.The difference is a) a lot less hassle, but b) a lot less income. It can work very well, but that bit less income could potentially be very significant.

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Decent Tenant 15th October, 2013 @ 11:49

That's a great list, but don't you think that potential tenants who will start ask these questions, about all the certificates, references from previous tenants etc. may be find by potential landlord or estate agent as 'difficult' since beginning and too demanding so the future 'cooperation' may be seen as difficult as well.. I'm currently looking for some decent place to rent and it is so damn difficult cause for now it seems that the landlords are careless and don't give a shit - so when I'll finally find a decent place to live with decent landlord then I'm afraid that if I’ll start all these questions from your list, the landlord will simply won't agree to rent the property for the reason that I have mentioned before – seem like troublesome tenant that may always manage to find things to complain ;/

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Lucka 31st March, 2015 @ 11:12

Hey, i', a prospective tenant and not alandlord actually. It's very hard to question landlords when you are depserate to find a place so i ask all the landlords reading this that it is vital that u treat tenants with respect. Tenants are only tenants becuase they do not actually have money to own a property of their own. It doesn't make them a second class citizen at all. Many people have different issues and owning aproperty has not been easy for them. Anyhow, please bring some humanity into your wheeling and dealing. Tehre is KARMA. Anyway, recently i put my application in for aproperty and have been waiting or an answer . I called them back today and they said my application was unsuccessful because i only signed for a shorish lease. Actually, i did say 'with aview to longterm'..I was also told that the property was leased. I noticed the agents tome was brupt and rude and i actually called back because i found that they were stilla dvertising it but for $25 cheaper!. I was livid that i wasn't told. Anyhow, i rang back and wanted to find out if i could do another application and the agent yelled at me telling me it was leased. Honestly!!!...i couldn't believe the rudeness and the inappropriateness of this. Is there anything i can do?..i mean, why ws the price dropped?..surely not because it was leased!.I will keep an eye on this but i fi reapply then the same woman will get my paperwork and so i will proabably not be considered. Who can i complain to?.write a letter to the agency? In my application i asked for aphone line to be put in as there wasn't one so i think the landlord didn't like that. TIP: save your grievances for the pre signing. Don't stick your grievances on the application, which i stupidly did. Anyhow, I certainly don't wish to let this woman agent get away with such appalling customer service. My God! imagine having her around on inspection day..

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Courtney 7th March, 2017 @ 11:13

Dear LandLORD,
A belated Happy New Year and Valentine Greetings.

You state, "The reality is, if you’ve had a string of shit landlords, then you’re most likely the catalyst behind your own bad fortune. You’re either too stupid to find a decent landlord, or you’re too stupid to find a decent landlord. That’s probably a bitter pill to swallow, but I’ll happily force your head back and toss it down your gullet."

Well, what about those tenants who had a Landlord with a huge property management company managing the letting, which then lost the tenants to the original lettings agency, which then moved to another huge property management company. The tenant has no control over this situation if they are happy with the property they rent.

Well, all three of the property management organisations have failed to meet their responsibilities;but tenants need proof that the company has completely finished its attempt to resolve matters. The 'huge property management company' sent a man round to see a wall that appeared wet in the middle of the evening. This man said it was due to leak in the roof and rain. I replied that it had not rained. He replied, "It is always raining somewhere." Matters went from there to worse, as he insisted upon seeing the other side of the adjoining party wall, and did not come back when promised. Then the staff of the company began denying what was said in subsequent phone calls, and refused to take notes that would stand up in court in the case of a party wall problem.

The HQ got involved, and were just as inept. At first refusing to accept responsibility. Later, the HQ contact got involved promising a new contact when she was aware of yet a new problem. Well, that contact never contacted me. I contacted the HQ and she made an excuse; but a week later (now 2 months after initial new problem report) still no contact from the managing agents. She told me that I cannot complain to the ombudsman because the HQ has not depleted their side of the complaint procedure..... I even texted my landlady, but received no reply or even acknowledgement.

So, stop blaming the tenant, please. This flat is perfect for me when there are no antisocial/drug selling and using tenants in the other flats in the building, and when the heat and electricity work.

Please realise the cost of moving in terms of £, logistics, and all practical / emotional matters that affect the tenant. Every TA should protect the tenant in the same way that the landlord and the managing agents are protected..... sadly, I fear that the property ombudsman would find a fine of £400 appropriate for a tenant needing to move residence.......

Without tenants, where would Landlords be?
yours faithfully,
courtney

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Donald 8th March, 2017 @ 01:20

Dear Courtney,

You ask-
"Well, what about those tenants who had a Landlord with a huge property management company managing the letting"

Probably answer 'A'

You’re either too stupid to find a decent landlord

Or perhaps answer 'B'

or you’re too stupid to find a decent landlord.

Or maybe both.

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