5 ways to cut the risk of problem tenants (before they move in)

It’s the kind of thing that makes landlords wake up with the cold sweats: problem tenants. The term ‘problem’ is a bit too mild for some tenants – those who will rip your wallpaper, fill your property with rubbish, block your drains then disappear without paying a penny in rent. Keeping the deposit will not go anywhere near covering the cost. 

So what can you do to make sure you don’t end up with tenants from hell? Thankfully, there are some pre-emptive steps you can take to filter out the worst of the worst. 

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Let’s look at some top five tips on how to avoid problem tenants. 

Get references

Does this sound obvious? It might, but you would be surprised how often landlords don’t bother getting references. A full reference will tell you about the tenant’s ability to pay rent, their rental history and employment status. Employers or former landlords can vouch for whether the person can be trusted. Even if a tenant looks angelic, don’t trust them on face value – you can’t tell by looking whether someone has a gangland boyfriend, a penchant for keeping Great Danes without permission or an abysmal credit history. 

Have a written tenancy agreement

In the case of any dispute, you will be best protected by having an agreed document covering things such as whether the tenant must keep the garden in good condition or if a professional cleaner must be used at the end of the tenancy. 
As a minimum, tenancy agreements should set out the names, rental amount, term of the tenancy, deposit terms, conditions around subletting, and responsibilities for maintaining the property. 

Make a careful inventory with photos

If your tenant claims those stiletto punctures were in the kitchen lino when they moved in, could you disprove it? A clear, countersigned inventory describing the condition of the property is invaluable if there are any disagreements about deposit deductions. Photos will give you clear proof about how the property has changed, and may even save you from inadvertently accusing the tenant of causing damage that was there before; do you know every single scuff and mark in your property?

Be a good communicator

It’s human nature to feel more loyalty to people we are in contact with. If you disappear the moment the tenancy agreement is signed, tenants won’t associate damage to the property with harming something that belongs to a real person. 
True, some people won’t care about your property, but being in regular contact and staying friendly with tenants is a wise way to protect your interests. They will be much less likely to misuse the property and will tell you about any issues sooner rather than later. 

Carry out regular inspections

Nobody wants to waste their time arguing about why a bathroom ceiling has turned black. If you fail to make regular inspections of your property during a tenancy, you might not discover problems until they are already advanced. 
Nipping issues in the bud can save you a considerable amount in the long run. Take the time to check your property every few months, giving the tenants as much notice as possible, to help protect your investment.

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