Don’t panic if you find a tenant but they fail a credit or reference check, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a wrong ‘un. There are several reasons why a good tenant might have a low credit score and, in certain circumstances, you might still be able to grant them the tenancy.
Tenant referencing companies will check an applicant is who they say they are. They will request references from employers and from the previous landlord. They will make sure they have no County Court Judgements (CCJs) showing a history of bad debt, and also check that they can afford the rent.
As a result of these checks, the tenant will be given a credit score plus a risk rating of low, medium or high, and you’ll be advised whether to accept or decline their application for the tenancy.
What you do with this information is up to you, but if a tenant fails a credit check and you really liked them, the first step is to contact the referencing agency to find out more about what the problem might be.
Many tenants are anxious about credit checks, even if they've been honest about any adverse credit history in their past.
One reason a tenant might fail a credit check is because the referencing agency has been unable to establish their current address, which raises alarm bells. However, this often happens if the tenant isn’t responsible for paying any of the bills, they haven’t lived there long enough to get their name on the electoral register or their name isn’t on the tenancy agreement.
If this is the case, you could ask the tenant to provide a letter from their current landlord, on headed notepaper, confirming they are living at the address provided. You can check with the land registry that the landlord named in the letter actually owns the address given. Alternatively, ask the tenant to show you a letter from their bank confirming their address.
Tenants often fail credit checks because their salary is deemed too low for them to comfortably afford the rent. Agencies will expect their gross pay to be at least twice the rent, sometimes as high as three times the rent, and they will automatically fail anyone earning less.
If this is the case, you could grant them a six-month tenancy and ask them to pay the full rent upfront, or, more realistically in these circumstances, ask them to provide a guarantor who will take responsibility for paying the rent if they default.
If a guarantor steps up, you should run a credit check on them to make sure they have a good credit history, which means they must be based in the UK and they’ll only pass if they have sufficient income to cover their own living costs as well as the tenant’s rent.
Both the guarantor and the tenant must sign the tenancy agreement, or alternatively the guarantor can sign a Deed of Guarantee but they must be shown a copy of the tenancy agreement and they must sign the deed before the tenant signs the tenancy agreement. Also, the guarantor’s signature on the Deed must be witnessed.
Of course, if you’re at all concerned about the applicant’s financial status, the best advice is to find someone else. Remember that unless they or their guarantor has passed a credit check, you won’t be able to take out rent guarantee insurance should you wish to do so.
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