You’ve found your ideal home to rent, negotiated your rent and the landlord is happy to go ahead. Being the nice person you are, everything is ready to go… ah, wait a minute! Unfortunately the landlord nor the letting agent really know you, so they’re going to do some background checks on you, to satisfy themselves that you have the means to afford the rent and the good character to keep the property in fine condition.
Most important for the landlord, is ensuring you can pay the rent and that you have kept to your financial commitments in the past (i.e. paid all your bills on time). Credit checks are carried out by registered credit agencies, to determine this.
Credit checks will tell the landlord if you have been late paying bills before, if you have defaulted on loans, rent or mortgages, or if you have been evicted, or still owe money. Most landlords won’t give you a tenancy contract if these things come up, so if you have had issues in the past, be honest upfront and try and demonstrate how you have changed (for example by giving them 12 months bank statements showing bills paid on time, including rent). Also offer to use a guarantor who has a clean credit history (see below).
Carried out by an agency, the letting agent or the landlord, these checks will involve contacting your bank, employer or education place (universities, colleges) to confirm you are who you say you are and are working/ studying where you claim. It’s just a way to ensure you are genuine. You will often have to provide an employer or academic contact, who can vouch that you are of good character. Should you not want to use someone in your department, use a HR contact or administration contact.
Landlords like to get an opinion of you from a couple of people you know. You give the landlord or agent contact details of 2 or 3 people who can act as ‘referees.’ These people will receive a call or email asking for information on you. Naturally you only provide peoples names who will say nice things, but landlords like to see these people giving references are of good quality – i.e. in employment themselves or at your place of work. Make sure to tell the people you are using that you are giving out their details and get them to promise to respond quickly to any enquiries.
Maybe you don’t have much of a credit history. Perhaps your a student, first time renter, or having been living outside of London. In this case you will need to have a guarantor who promises to take financial responsibility for the rent, if at anytime you can’t pay. This person needs to be in employment (or running a registered business or collecting a pension), usually has to own their own home and have a clean credit history. They may have to put down some money upfront as ‘collateral.’ Offering to use a guarantor is a good idea if you have a less than perfect credit history, to convince a landlord to take a chance on you.
When you get to the credit and reference checks, you will need to provide alot of personal information, so ensure you are satisfied that the Landlord or Letting Agent is Genuine before passing on this information. You are likely to be asked for:
Your full name, any previous names (or maiden names) and nicknames or short versions
Your age and date of birth
Nationality and a copy of passport to prove this. Also immigration papers or visas where appropriate
Driving Licence or Photo ID
Where you have lived for the past 5 years (full addresses and contact details of landlords or homeowners)
Proof of address. Council tax bills, Utility bills or Bank statements no more than 3 months old.
Bank details: account number and sort code, branch address.
Work details: what you do, company details, income, employer contact information.
Students: education place details, an administrator contact and a tutor contact.
Previous landlord details and reference (very helpful, so always ask when leaving a rental property)
Contacts for Character references.