Over the years I’ve received several letting agents contact me to get references for either current or previous tenants of mine. You know, just so they can make sure their not creating tenancies for lowlife parasites. It’s a pretty normal process, and I’m sure many landlords have been contacted by agents for the same reason.
I’ve noticed a lot of diverse methods of referencing, ranging from average to excellent, but none of which have been as lousy as what I witnessed yesterday.
I received a phone call yesterday afternoon from a Letting agent that wanted references for a supposed tenant of mine.
The phonecall had woken me up from my afternoon nap; like a deer caught in the headlights, I was dazed, confused and cranky. It didn’t help that the guy on the other end had a thick Scottish bellow. Deciphering heavy Scottish accents is tricky at the best of times.
Hello Sir, am I speaking to [insert my name]?
I’m calling from [insert letting agent], to get a reference check for your tenant Richard Michaels
Errr err oh ok..cool.
Has he been a good tenant?
Would you rent to him again?
Ahh good. That’s the main question we base our reference on. Has he always paid rent on time? Any problems?
Always on time, no problem at all.
Thank you very much for your help, sir. Goodbye.
Firstly, I didn’t have a bloody clue who Richard Michaels was, and I still don’t, and probably never will. At the time I was pretty sure he wasn’t a tenant of mine, but since I was half asleep, I didn’t want to dispute it because I may have been wrong.
Secondly, I could have literally been anyone. The agent didn’t ask for any credentials. He didn’t even ask for the address of the property. All he did was ask if I was the person he was looking for. It was pretty obvious by our conversation that I was confused by the tenant’s name, yet he chose to neglect all signs of hesitation I so-boldly flared. I couldn’t have behaved anymore suspect if I had tried. Fool.
Thirdly, Richard Michaels could be the slimiest snake-oil tenant in the world, yet I gave him a positive reference. Now, due to my negligence, some poor sucker (landlord) may end up with a tenant that was given birth by slipping out of Satan’s anal-passage.
Is that really what we call “Tenant Referencing”?
If that’s what letting agents refer to as “referencing” then it’s no wonder landlords end up with cockroach tenants that use the curtains to wipe their dicks/vaginas with after sex. Obviously, not all agents are so blasé with their referencing, but it’s evident that “tenant referencing” isn’t a big deal to everyone.
In this case, it came across as if the agent just wanted to make a quick call and tick off “tenant referencing” from the ‘to-do’ list as quickly as possible. The smiley-fuck will probably inform the tenant’s prospective landlord that Richard Michaels passed the reference stage with flying colours (when in reality, he didn’t), and then slide away leaving behind the intoxicating odour of Old Spice in the Landlord’s throat, while he chokes to death on the floor; gasping for air; wheezing, like he’s having an allergy reaction to nuts.
I’m probably getting carried away here.
Anyways, there was obviously some kind of clerical error by the letting agent. But it’s an error that should have been trapped when they contacted me, by simply asking the right questions.
I’ve had letting agents obtain my address from my tenant’s Tenancy Agreement, and then send me “tenant referencing” forms in the post for me to complete. They also called me to make sure I received the forms. That seems like a much more reliable method of gathering references.
My point is, references don’t mean shit unless they’ve been conducted properly. If you’re a landlord using an agent to source tenants, it might be a wise idea to interrogate their referencing methods.
Granted, there are always going to be scammers out there; references can always be faked if someone tries hard enough. However, there are procedures that can be put in place by both landlords and agents to minimize impact. I’ve never really thought about it (because I haven’t sourced a tenant from a letting agent in years), but the way a letting agent references tenants for their clients (the landlords) speaks volumes about their overall service.
Hopefully you’re all smart and horny enough to know why referencing tenants properly is so vital, and it’s actually a process I recommend ALL landlords to be involved with in some capacity, even those using fully-managed letting services.
Out of curiosity
If you’re a letting agent, how do you conduct your references?
Landlords, have any of you been shafted by dodgy referencing conducted by your agent, or at least suspect you have?
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.