Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Essential Reference Checks

We are currently in the process of tracking down a tenant we inherited. The owner was dissatisfied with service they were receiving from their old property manager and passed the property and tenant into our hands. The tenant abandoned the property within a few weeks of us taking over management and the matter was referred to the Tenancy Tribunal.

As part of our application and the following debt collection of outstanding payment we needed dates of birth and other crucial information about the tenants. The previous Property Manager would not pass any information they had on the tenant to us beyond the tenancy agreement and rent record. Were they just being difficult due to the fact we had taken over management of the property? Alas, no. They did not have basic information that all Property Managers and Landlords should collect about tenants. This includes photographic ID (Drivers Licence or Passport) for all adult tenants. This would reveal their date of birth which is a key piece of information needed when chasing a debt. We also ask for several phone numbers and alternative address for service so that they can be contacted at the end of the tenancy. We also like to know all the names of the people who will be residing at the property.

These tenants were particularly slippery fish. Our research uncovered numerous Tenancy Tribunal applications against not only the head tenant but also of the other occupants. This should have been picked up when doing background checks and with the knowledge of the tenant’s history they should have never been offered the property.

As part of our regular checks we also check for aliases by combining first names and surnames of applicants. Doing this we uncovered several more Tenancy Tribunal applications against these tenants and currently have uncovered the total of 5 applications where they have abandoned property with rent in arrears and caused damage. This was in the last 5 years! No landlords should ever have to deal with these people. Unfortunately someone has rented them another property and we have a pretty good idea how that will end.

We also Google prospective tenants. This usually can confirm their place of work and other information they have put on the application form. It also can bring up information that helps you decide against them as tenants. The tenants mentioned above had a history of being director of companies that had been struck off and fraud charges brought against them. They changed accountants and addresses for service on a regular basis. Though this is not always an indication that a tenant is going to turn bad. Everyone can fall on hard times. But the information we gathered on these tenants movements over the last 10 years has revealed that they move around, are untrustworthy and would never be able to rent a property off us.

To save yourself undue stress and financial strain you must do the following before signing up a new tenant for a property:

Get a copy of their photo ID. This will confirm their full name and date of birth.

Check the Tenancy Tribunal website try variations of all tenants’ names. To get the most possible matches only use the first initial for the first name and first three letters of the surname. Also try the children’s names. If the family have different surnames search every first name with each surname. If you know middle names try them as well.

Do a credit check. Follow up any anomalies.

Google them and see what comes up. Check Facebook, Twitter etc. You could discover they hold a lot of parties!

Verify all referees are who they say they are. When checking work references call the reception of their workplace and ask to be put through, rather than call a mobile number. A mobile can belong to anyone.

If you don’t like what you are seeing, don’t go with the tenant, even if they give you a ‘perfectly plausible’ reason for all the stuff that happened in their past. Badly behaved people tend to attract bad luck. Don’t let it rub off on you.

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