Finding good tenants | A landlord’s guide
Every landlord wants to find good tenants for their buy-to-let properties. Even if you’ve been lucky with your tenants so far, there are plenty of landlords who’ve let their homes to people who have gone on to cause major problems. While there’s no fool proof method to finding good tenants every time, there’s lots you can do to increase your chances of attracting tenants who are considerate, responsible, and pleasant to deal with.
- What are the best types of tenants?
- How do I attract tenants to my property?
- What qualities make a good landlord?
- How can insurance help protect your property if you have a troublesome tenant?
- Top tips for finding good tenants
What are the best types of tenants?
At a simple level, the best types of tenants are people who pay your rent in full and on time, take care of your property, and are pleasant to deal with. Different landlords have different preferences when they lease their properties. For example, some people prefer to rent to professional couples because two-income households are less likely to fall behind with the rent. Renting to couples also allows you to check two separate references.
Other people may find that professional tenants tend to move more often because of career changes or progression. They may prefer to let to families, students, older people, or single parents. There are pros and cons associated with letting to any demographic. Much depends on the type of property you have and where it’s located.
Who are the best tenants to rent to?
The best tenants to rent to are people that you trust. However, because most potential tenants will be strangers to you, you need to do some homework before you can decide whether you can trust them
One of the best ways to do this is to meet shortlisted tenants face-to-face. First impressions are important, and if you feel that a potential tenant isn’t a good fit for your property then it can pay to go with your gut instinct.
Another big advantage of meeting tenants face-to-face is that it’s an opportunity to ask questions. Key questions to ask include:
- Why do you want to move?
- When do you want to move in?
- What is your monthly income?
- Can you pay the deposit and a month’s rent in advance?
- Can you provide a reference from a previous landlord?
For further guidance, read our article on landlord questions to ask potential tenants.
Questions like these not only help you assess whether a tenant can afford to lease your property, but their answers will give you an insight into what they are like as people. You will almost always find that there are potential tenants you warm to and feel that your property would be well looked after if they were your tenant.
How can a potential tenant stand out?
There are lots of ways a potential tenant can stand out. When meeting them face-to-face, always ask them if they have any questions for you. They might ask about the neighbours, local amenities, what broadband speeds they can expect, whether they are allowed to decorate the property, or what local amenities are available. Questions like these suggest that potential tenants are searching for a home that suits their needs, rather than being eager to rent the first property they can.
Another good sign is when tenants have done their homework too. If they already have paperwork like references, bank statements, proof of income, and ID, it suggests they are serious about the tenancy and want to be considered a strong candidate. It’s also generally positive if they check you out as well. For example, they might ask to speak to the previous tenants to find out what kind of landlord you are.
How do I choose between two tenants?
Sometimes you’ll have two or more strong candidates for a tenancy. When this happens, you should use your tenant reference checks to help you make your decision. If you get these done professionally, you’ll get information such as the potential tenants’ credit status, employers’ references, and landlord references.
If one candidate has had problems in the past paying rent or hasn’t kept a previous property in good condition, you will probably want to rule them out. If there are no problems highlighted by tenant referencing, then think hard about which of the candidates’ lifestyles you think would be most suited to your property and that you’re most likely to have a good relationship with.
How do I attract tenants to my property?
Attracting good tenants depends on doing two things well. Firstly, you need to offer a property with the features your preferred tenants are looking for. For example, a family might be looking for a suburban home with a modern kitchen and bathroom, a good-sized garden, parking, and decent storage facilities. Alternatively, young professionals may be looking for a city centre apartment with modern fixtures and fittings and a balcony with a good view. In either case, evidence that the property is well cared for and maintained will always help you attract better tenants.
Secondly, you need to get the word out via the right channels. Nowadays, there are more ways of doing this than ever. In addition to using a traditional letting agent you can use online letting agents, advertise your property online and via social media, put up notices on community noticeboards and in local shop windows, or place an ad in the local newspaper. Word of mouth can be particularly powerful, so ask current tenants, family, and friends for recommendations.
Should I ask my letting agent to find a tenant?
This is up to you. If you have a letting agent that you trust, you may want to ask them to find a tenant. One advantage is that letting agents will usually have a pool of prospective tenants looking for properties in your area. However, using an agent will cost you extra and it can mean you have less control over the process. That said, if you own multiple buy-to-let properties, using a letting agent can be a smart move that means you have to deal with less admin relating to your portfolio.
If you have the time to market to tenants and meet them, doing so is easy and cheap. Social media channels such as Facebook community pages cost nothing to use. Even something as simple as putting your own ‘To Let’ sign outside the property will generate enquiries. The advantage with finding your own tenants is that you can choose the people that make the best impression on you, arrange your own professional tenant referencing, and save money.
How much does it cost to find a tenant?
If you find your own tenants, the biggest cost is your time. You should run full referencing checks for each potential tenant, and other costs might include paying for newspaper or online advertisements. You will also need to make sure that all your legal obligations as a landlord have been fulfilled, such as issuing the tenant with the relevant paperwork, protecting their deposit etc. It’s also important to bear in mind that it is normally a condition of a landlord insurance policy that you fulfil your legal obligations toward your tenant, and failure to do so could invalidate a claim. If you are new to being a landlord it can be useful to use a letting agent as they should be familiar with these responsibilities.
Using a letting agency, on the other hand, costs quite a bit more but does save you time and effort. The cost will vary from agency to agency. However, it’s common to charge a one-off fee of about a month’s rent, or around 8% – 10% of rent for the period of the lease. For this fee the agent will generally prepare particulars, advertise for tenants, conduct viewings, undertake tenant referencing, and prepare the tenancy agreement and associated paperwork.
What qualities make a good landlord?
Landlords have certain legal responsibilities towards their tenants, this includes complying with safety legislation, providing your tenants with the right documents, and following rules concerning tenant privacy and rent increases. However, tenants also have their own priorities when it comes to assessing whether a landlord is good or not.
What does a tenant look for in a landlord?
These are some of the key things a tenant looks for in a good landlord:
- Responding to issues quickly
- Reasonable rent and fair rent rises
- Being easy to contact and communicate with
- Keeping the property well maintained
- Respecting tenants’ privacy
- Being flexible (such as allowing pets or re-decoration)
That said, different tenants have different priorities. However, if you treat tenants with respect, fairness, respect, and kindness then they are much more likely to view you as a good landlord.
How do you build a good relationship with tenants?
You are much less likely to have problems with tenants if you build a good relationship with them. If they respect you and think you are approachable, they are much more likely to treat your property with respect and let you know about any problems earlier on. These are some of our top tips for building good relationships:
- Get to know your tenants. Do this from the outset and meet potential tenants in person. If your chosen tenants feel that you see them as a person rather than just a source of income it’s easier to build a good relationship.
- Be firm, fair, and clear. Take time to talk tenants through your rules and expectations – don’t just rely on them to read your tenancy agreement. If you talk tenants though their responsibilities and yours they’re more likely to comply.
- Do what you say you’ll do. If you make a promise keep it, whether it’s about making repairs, replacing appliances, or something else.
- Be approachable and have clear lines of communication. If tenants think you’re approachable and they know how to get hold of you quickly they’re much more likely to let you know if there are problems or issues promptly, which could save you money in the long run.
- Be understanding. Sometimes things go wrong. Tenants may have temporary trouble with paying the rent or may accidentally break things. If you are understanding and have a good relationship, you have a better chance of working together to find a solution that works for you both.
How can insurance help protect your property if you have a troublesome tenant?
Even if you get to know a person and conduct strong referencing checks, you can never guarantee that you won’t end up with a troublesome tenant. Someone may seem like a great choice at first, but then could go on to not pay rent, damage your property, or even sublet it without your knowledge.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to have landlord insurance. This will normally cover your building and contents, but you can extend it to include rent guarantee insurance and cover against damage by your tenant. Landlord legal expenses insurance can also cover your legal fees in cases of residential eviction.
Top tips for finding good tenants
As you’ve seen, there are lots of things you can do to find good tenants. These are the top tips from this article:
Do your homework
Meet prospective tenants and complete full tenant referencing before agreeing to lease your property to a new tenant.
Get a recommendation
Word of mouth can be a powerful way of finding good tenants. Ask family, friends, and current tenants if they know of people who are looking for a home to rent.
Use a letting agent
If you don’t mind paying the extra fees, lettings agents can usually draw on a pool of prospective tenants. They can also take care of the vetting process for you and ensure you comply with your legal obligations. Talk to other landlords for recommendations of good agents.
Build up good relationships
If tenants like dealing with you and you’re a good landlord to them, they’re more likely to recommend you to others when they decide to move out. Be fair, pleasant, and transparent in your dealings with tenants and you’ll build up a strong relationship.
If in doubt, walk away
You are not obliged to let your property to anyone. If you have doubts of any kind, walk away. Extra time spent finding a good tenant is better than having to deal with a troublesome one.
Make sure you have all the information you need from prospective tenants with our interactive Tenancy Application form:
Our landlord knowledge hub is here to provide you with professional guidance, advice, and tips. For more information on landlord insurance and how an insurance broker can help you find the right policy for your property, give the team a call on 01603 216399.