How to spot a good tenant

Q. I am a landlord and a tenant has made an offer on my property. How can I ensure that he’ll look after it?

A: In reality, it’s extremely difficult to know who is going to be a good tenant. However, there are certain things to look out for. A tenant’s behaviour during viewings can be really telling. For example, if they turn up late, they’re rude, and they point out every tiny part of the property which isn’t perfect, it may be a very good indicator that they’re going to be quite a demanding tenant. Therefore, ask the letting agent how the tenant came across during any viewings or telephone calls. Even if they’re offering the most money, you may decide that their attitude simply isn’t worth the extra £50 per week.

Once a holding deposit has been taken, continue to judge their behaviour. Some tenants, for example, resent having to fill out the necessary forms, only to delay the reference process, and then complain that they haven’t been able to move in on the date they wanted to. There can also be those who insist that all communication goes through their PA, even though their PA has never been to the property. As a result, an issue which could have been resolved in a two minute conversation between you and the tenant then takes multiple emails and phone calls with the PA to establish the problem and explain a solution. So, don’t forget that, even if you’ve accepted a holding deposit but not yet signed a tenancy agreement, you can still give the holding deposit back and rent the property to someone else.

I find that the above indicators can be much more helpful than a reference from previous landlords. Some landlords are slow to respond, or don’t respond at all. Or, some will give a positive reference even if the tenant has been horrendous, just because they’re scared that the tenant will come back at them as it won’t take the tenant long to figure out why no other landlord will take them on.

“If you’re managing the property yourself, I always recommend carrying out an inspection every six months to check that the property is being looked after. If you’ve been a good landlord and the problem is genuinely the tenant, then you may choose to serve notice for the tenant to leave, assuming you agreed a break clause in the contract.”

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email or tweet her @joeccles.