Sunday, November 16, 2008

Landlords credit checks and happy tenants – two surveys

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to


I have recently been given information about two surveys in the private rented sector.

First survey – credit checks
The first survey is perhaps the more serious of the two. The Letting Protection Service have commissioned a survey of 1,389 private landlords which shows that most landlords do not carry out proper checks before letting tenants in to their property. Their statistics show that:

  • 63% of landlords are happy to entrust their home to tenants based on little more than a hunch
  • Amongst those with bad experiences, 71% of private landlords have been left out of pocket because of unsuitable tenants
  • 24% of UK landlords allow tenants to move into their property after just one face-to-face meeting
  • 11% have received threats to themselves or their family as a result of a rogue tenant

Out of the landlords surveyed, only 13% of those questioned cited using a reference or credit search package as their usual method of vetting prospective tenants.

I have to say that I agree with the Letting Protection Service that this is not good news. All the experts agree that the most important aspect of letting property is having a good tenant. Although most tenants turn out to be fine, credit checks and references are essential. For example con men appear respectable and are very persuasive, that is why they suceed. You can’t always trust your judgment, particularly if you are not experienced at letting property.

There are some interesting geographical differences thrown up by the survey, which found "the North West of the country to be worst affected by bad tenants, with 82 percent of landlords faced with bad experiences at one time or another. Landlords in the West Midlands had the least trouble with their tenants, although 63 percent still reported having experienced problems. Their North-Eastern counterparts proved to be the country’s most cautious but, nonetheless, 55% give away the keys to their houses based only on a first impression."

The bigger percentage of problems in the North West may have something to do with Blackpool, which has a massive private rented sector, with many bedsits, and which is said to be the ‘drug death capital of the UK’ – see my blog entry here.

The press release goes on to say "The survey identified the UK landlord’s ideal tenants as middle aged couples - with 15 per cent of respondents finding the demographic the most suitable and reliable. Students and pet owners top the list of the least-preferred tenants and landlords would generally rather have women than men renting their properties."

The Letting Protection Service have of course carried out this survey to give publicity to their new online service. "The LPS" runs the press release "provides landlords with a range of services that have traditionally only been available through letting agents, including the first online quick tenant reference to offer an instant rent guarantee, comprehensive reports on a tenant’s suitability, gas safety inspections and emergency breakdown insurance cover." You can see their web-site here.

Good for them, however it is not true to say that these services have been previously unavailable to landlords. The Tenant Verify service from LettingZone has a good reputation, and further companies can be found via this link. There are many companies doing gas certificates, just look in yellow pages. However if you are a landlord, the new Letting Protection online Service is worth checking out.

Second survey – happy tenants

The second survey was provided to me by the Deposit Protection Service (one of the three companies running tenancy deposit protection schemes). Their survey says:

"84% of tenants get on well with their landlord and nearly a quarter of these described their relationship with their landlord as ‘fantastic,’ while 39% of tenants described their relationship as ‘okay.’ Only 16% of respondents said that they did not have a good relationship with their landlord."

This, they say, disproves the myth that landlords and tenants are always at odds. I would add also that it disproves the poor view often held of landlords in general by people who should know better. Most landlords provide an excellent service (although sadly not all of them).

The DPS Director, Kevin Firth goes on to say "Our figures show that since deposit protection legislation was introduced, relatively few disputes have needed to be resolved through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Service".

So that’s nice then. Maybe tenants are a bit choosier in looking for landlords than landlords are in looking for tenants.

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