Can My Landlord Ask for Background Checks?

Apply for a DBS Check

In many parts of the country the rental market is fierce, with a huge amount of competition over the most desirable properties. Landlords want to make sure that they get reliable tenants who are going to look after their property and pay the rent on time every month, but from a tenant’s point of view this can mean an endless round of checks and interviews. What exactly is your landlord allowed to ask about?


Right to Rent Checks

In England, there are some checks which are legally required on anyone who wants to rent a residential property. These checks have to be carried out on anyone over the age of 18 who will be living in the property, whether they are named on the tenancy agreement or not. This legislation is designed to make it as difficult as possible for people who are in the UK illegally to get a rented property. Landlords have to see applicants’ passports or other documents to prove their nationality or right to be in the UK. As it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of nationality or race, most landlords run these checks on every applicant. Landlords also face unlimited fines and as much as 5 years in prison if they fail to do these checks properly.


Credit Checks and Guarantor Checks

A credit check can show someone’s financial history and will prove that you have a history of paying your bills on time. Consumer credit agencies can carry out these searches and flag up any debt problems in your past. If you don’t have much credit history at all, or are in insecure employment, the landlord might ask for a guarantor, someone who will step in and pay the rent if you cannot do so. The guarantor will also need a credit check and to go through all other checks required by the landlord. Being a guarantor is a big responsibility and shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Often, it’s a close family member who acts as guarantor.



All landlords will want you to provide some sort of reference, or a statement from people you have rented from in the past, showing that you can be trusted to pay the rent and won’t trash the property. People who have not rented before might be asked for a character reference from their employer or other trusted member of the community to vouch for them.


Criminal Record Checks

There is no legal requirement to run criminal record checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service on people who are going to be renting a property, but some landlords may choose to do so. Renting a property doesn’t fall into the category for “regulated activity” though so enhanced and standard disclosure checks are not available to people renting property. Even if your landlord doesn’t do DBS checks you might still be asked about unspent convictions. This is often a requirement from the landlord’s insurers, who perceive people who have a criminal record as a greater risk.