Renting a property can be an anxiety-inducing experience for both tenants and landlords, especially at a time where property experts are reporting increasing demands on the rental sector. With dozens of applications to rent every property, prospective tenants are keen to get things right. Navigating paperwork and deadlines, along with ensuring a seamless move, can be overwhelming. Although they may seem unnecessary and expensive, the underlying purpose of background checks is to protect both tenant and landlord and prevent potential issues down the line.
There is a wide range of checks which a landlord or letting agency might choose to run on a tenant. Some may do the full range, others just some of the checks. Any checks should be explained to the tenant at the application stage.
Criminal Record Checks
Although not compulsory, basic criminal record checks can provide valuable insights for landlords trying to choose which tenants should be offered the chance to rent their property. A basic criminal record check may be required for a landlord’s insurance coverage, especially if the tenant has unspent convictions. A basic DBS check will reveal any unspent convictions, and landlords might ask for these for all adults over the age of 18 who will be living in the property.
Credit checks are a more common aspect of the tenancy process than a criminal record check. When a tenant's offer is accepted, landlords typically conduct credit checks before handing over the keys. These checks look at whether tenants can afford to pay their rent on time, each month. While credit checks might be costly, many landlords view them as essential in order to protect themselves and their property.
Employment or Character Reference Checks
Landlords can also request employment or character references to shed light on a tenant’s overall character and personality. For those new to renting, employer references can be used instead of previous landlord references. The primary aim of a landlord reference check is to check the tenant's past behaviour, including rent payment punctuality and how they cared for the property. Employment reference checks verify someone’s salary, and their capacity to pay rent.
A guarantor is responsible for rent payments should the tenant default. Typically a family member or homeowner, a guarantor may be required if a tenant's financial position is insecure. Landlords often ask for a guarantor for students or lower-income individuals. These checks ensure a safety net in cases where tenants might struggle with rent payments. Guarantors will also have to undergo a credit check to ensure they have the funds to meet the cost of rent should they be needed by the tenant.
Right to Rent Checks
Right to Rent checks confirm whether potential tenants are legally eligible to rent in the UK. Tenants provide landlords with a government-issued share code that verifies their rental status. Landlords may ask for proof of continuing right to rent every year or two, as there are severe financial penalties for landlords who rent out property to people who are not legally in the UK.