Every time I hear the words “reference checking” it implies mounds of boring paperwork which will never give you a true picture of your prospective tenant, only an overview if things aren’t quite right on paper. I’ve been prompted to write about this subject after a friend of mine asked me to let out her 3 bedroom property for her (for a fee!). The responsibility is huge and it forced me to look at my current tenant check process bearing in mind her tenants are hopefully going to be far more upmarket than mine.
My Tenant Check Process
I tend to reference check on the following basis:
1. Can the tenant complete the Tenant Information Particulars form legibly? i.e. can write own name that I can read
2. Does the tenant have someone to call “Next of Kin”? Surprisingly sad when there is absolutely nobody the tenant can name who would want to accept a body or bad news
3. Call employer to check the tenant turned up for work this week and hasn’t so far displayed signs of drug abuse or a violent disposition
4. Does the tenant have a bank account? A fairly good sign if so.
5. Previous landlord – to be honest, tenant could give the mobile number of his mate and I wouldn’t be any the wiser but more believable if I don’t understand what the landlord is saying
6. Gut reaction – this is a well honed technique from my Bed and Breakfast days. It hasn’t let me down and I’ve taken on people my gut told me I shouldn’t but they’ve provided me with the best stories!
7. Can they stand up to my version of the Spanish Inquisition? If they can hold eye contact, answer questions without hopping from one foot to another and don’t snigger when I tell them the rules of the house I know that we can communicate at the very least.
A Tale of Two Tenant Checks
Here is a tale of what happens when the above process was applied a few months ago:
Two people, oddly enough both named Steve called me, desperate for accommodation. Steve number 1 jumped through all my paperwork hoops, Spanish inquisition techniques and (I thought the impossible) a letter of rent guarantee. He turned up, bang on time, with a deposit, completed paperwork and 4 weeks rent – he is my hero and may just have enabled me to pay the mortgages next week. Later turned out to be my pain, see Steve Messes Up. Gut told me “no” based on him telling me he was an ex-gambler but I wanted to help and his actions told me he really wanted this.
Half an hour later I went to meet Steve number 2. His paperwork was incomplete and had only managed his name, his work reference was abysmal (didn’t turn up to work in a hotel and nicked money, but the manager very sweetly invited me for coffee) and there was something just not right. He’d been referred to me by another tenant who met him through AA (Alcoholics Anonymous, not roadside assistance) but was scant on where he’d been for the last few months claiming the pub he lived and worked in had burnt down – presumably taking the forensic evidence with it.
Decided to take Tom (one of my larger lads who had nothing better to do that afternoon) as I had my young son with me and felt Steve may decide to hit me when he found out I wasn’t going to let him in. I told him what I’d found out and, before you could say “you ain’t going in that front door, you scoundrel” he ran off down the road as fast as his legs would carry him!!!! That really is a first.
I have a constant reminder of that day as I ruined my wheel trim (the silver disc that covers the nuts?) as I hit the pavement at speed because I didn’t want to be late for the appointment. Every time I look at that wheel I remember him and the importance of reference checking. Happy times.