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Advice please for inexperienced landlord (finding tenants)

(25 Posts)
arousingcheer Wed 11-Oct-17 14:12:10

I have let my flat via an agency for about eight years and for the first time I'm finding my own tenant. It's an ex-LA one bed where I used to live. I want to be a good landlord and I've had no issues in the past with my tenants. My main priority is getting in someone reasonable and sensible.

I've met some potential tenants but increasingly I feel like I'm asking the wrong questions at the wrong time. Do you have a specific order in which you do things/ask questions? Do you show the flat and then vet the tenants or do you ask everything you want to know before you show the flat?

So far everyone is from somewhere else which means they have little or no credit/tenancy history in the UK. I'm not originally from the UK either and I understand you have to start somewhere, but where do I go with those who either fail the credit check (one person had a CCJ) or just have no history or references? Raise the deposit? Or should this just exclude them?

One person wanted to use the flat for two people (not a couple, one person would sleep on a sofabed). A couple will use one bedroom but two people living in a one-bed flat as if it was two beds? AIBU or does it seem like too much wear and tear on the flat?

Is there an advantage to advertising locally (shop window, fb local group etc) compared to online?

Please be gentle, I feel somewhat out of my depth and I'm a bit anxious about it all.

wowfudge Wed 11-Oct-17 14:18:00

Why are you not using an agency this time? If you are so unsure about what you are doing and should be doing, I think it's a recipe for disaster. You can use an agency to find and vet a tenant and then manage it yourself.

LadyLapsang Wed 11-Oct-17 14:32:41

I am not a landlord but a relative is and DS rents. Depending on where you are in the country - we are in London - it sounds like you have set the bar pretty low. If you want a professional single / couple with no children, non-smokers, earning a certain amount, in their job 6 or 12 months plus etc. just state it in the ad. This cuts out some of the more risky people. Of course, that does not tell you whether they will call you out in the middle of the night to change a bulb.

donajimena Wed 11-Oct-17 14:34:18

Why not use an agency for tenant find only?

JoJoSM2 Wed 11-Oct-17 14:45:11

I find tenants myself and, touch wood, haven’t had any problems. In the adverts, I specify non-smokers, no pets etc. When they first ring up, I ask what they do, how many people etc. If that sounds ok, then I arrange a viewing. If they are keen after the viewing, I ask for proof of employment and payslips. I have actually rented to foreigners who were just starting out but they seemed lovely and paid the deposit + 3 months’ rent up front so I assumed they are sensible with money and took the risk. They’ve been in the flat for over 2 years now and have kept it immaculate.

One thing I would say is that my properties are of a great spec and quality design so that’s been a great pull for quality tenants. None of them are ex-council so I don’t know if that might impact your market as somewhat offputting to professionals.

arousingcheer Wed 11-Oct-17 17:52:14

wowfudge donajimena last time I used an agency I had to do a lot of the legwork myself (they didn't really vet the tenants except for a credit check, which is easy to do yourself). Tried a different agency who tried to pressure me into signing a three year contract with a housing association and then refused to take the ad off their listings after we parted ways, so using an agency hasn't inspired confidence. I think there's a learning curve and that's where I am. I feel like I know what I should be doing (advert, credit check, list of questions, right to rent checks, deposit/deposit protection scheme, contract) but not sure what order to do the earlier bits in.

LadyLapsang it seems like no one is taking any notice of what's in the ad, so clearly I need to do more vetting at an earlier stage. Last couple I met were smokers (smelled of smoke and carried cigarettes) even though I'd said no smoking in ad and they had replied they didn't smoke. So do I reiterate the no smoking rule and hope for the best or reject them on that basis iyswim?

JoJoSM2 thanks, that's very helpful. True, it isn't a luxury flat and the rent is set accordingly, but it is a low-rise bulding on a very small estate (half houses and half flats, mostly leasehold). My last three tenants were professionals and grad students.

JoJoSM2 Wed 11-Oct-17 18:39:08

Well, if you've had the professionals and grad students in there before, then clearly the flat works for those types of people. Perhaps it's a case of where you advertise to hit the target market?

arousingcheer Wed 11-Oct-17 19:32:30

JoJoSM2 yes, I think you're right. And I might set the rent higher to take account of expenses, as (although I explicitly state it is not inclusive) people seem to think/hope that the rent includes utlities, council tax etc and then they when they realise there will be other expenses they want me to reduce the rent.

So I need to do more research around where to advertise. I will alter the text of the ad too to make sure it states exactly what I'm looking for.

There are a few big company headquarters nearby and I think it would work well for people who work there. I did have two people looking from these companies but one wanted to move in the next day - ? - and the other is the one who wants to use it as a two bed. And they quibbled and mithered over the rent, which hasn't been raised in three years and is lower than other flats in the area. But maybe that's the issue.

JoJoSM2 Wed 11-Oct-17 19:55:35

Rents generally include service charges but not utilities or council tax so I would advertise at that price to avoid confusing people.

Personally, I’d also consider 2 friends in a one bed if the kitchen and living room are separate. At least they’re honest and upfront about it. If they seem like decent people, I would be ok with that. Probably down to my own experience - when I was saving for my first deposit, I actually shared a small room with a guy and we had a bunk bed smile))

arousingcheer Wed 11-Oct-17 20:08:16

It is a young man and his mum! I did rather think hmm, what kind of trouble could he get up to with his mum there? Not very much I imagine. smile The kitchen is not separate, it's open to the living room, so I can't really see how it could be done, and he wanted £70 off the rent so I'm not sure what to think. Surely they'll be off as soon as he can afford somewhere bigger?

Like you I've shared a room, but that was in Kensington back in the day. Kensington this is not. smile

arousingcheer Wed 11-Oct-17 20:08:55

JoJoSM2 and thanks for your help.

JoJoSM2 Wed 11-Oct-17 20:15:30

Ha ha I was in Battersea smile

BubblesBuddy Wed 11-Oct-17 23:48:38

Get a decent agent! They are out there. Even when they find tenants there can be problems but you seem to finding plenty on your own. Make it nice and you get nice tenants, by and large. You can say it would suit a single person or a couple. Negotiate if someone want to move in straightaway . You don't have to agree to it! They might have been a good tenant. You must put their deposit in the deposit scheme and there are rules about this.

Frazzle76 Wed 11-Oct-17 23:56:29

Good tenants always get bad landlords and vice Versa.
I've had (and am still having) awful experiences with tenants. Best advice is to get an agent. Don't pay more than 10% and try for 7%. Then they can act as a buffer when you're about to blow your top (like when they ask for £70 quid off!!!). Be strict. I'm always (why don't I learn!) too nice and get taken for a mug! Try for mutual communication and respect.

theweeknd Thu 12-Oct-17 00:01:37

I've rented out a property for several years using Spareroom.co.uk and only ever had a couple of months gap in tenancy during that time. I've never used agents.

MoreProseccoNow Thu 12-Oct-17 17:15:44

I think part of the problem as a self-managing LL is that you will get People the agencies won’t touch (eg poor credit history, smokers).

The last time I advertised, I got people with multiple pets, CCJ’s, fake references, no payslips, questionable ID etc etc.

I don’t think you sound prepared for self-managing - sorry. Do you know for example, how to do inventories with date-stamped photos? How to issue a S21? Are you asking for 3-6 months bank statements demonstrating income in & rent/utilities out?

Being a LL was so easy about 10-20 years ago, nowadays it’s become increasingly regulated, with many responsibilities. So many people think it’s easy: “a gas/electric safety test” and off you go. It’s definitely not nowadays.

arousingcheer Thu 12-Oct-17 17:55:23

BubblesBuddy if you're talking about the chap who wanted to move in the next day, we didn't agree to it, but I'm not sure what you mean by negotiating, he said he had to move in the next day or not at all. I'm aware of the DPS, have been using it for previous tenants. I'm grateful for it tbh, when I was a tenant I used to fear for my deposit, so I feel like it is a safe and fair option for everyone.

Frazzle76 I hope not, I am a good landlord and have had (so far) very good tenants! smile

theweeknd do you let a self-contained property (eg a flat)? Spareroom seems to be attracting people with houseshare budgets but maybe I've just not been appealing to the right people.

MoreProseccoNow I'm struggling with the idea that there is a tenant the agencies won't touch as we've had such uninspiring experiences with agencies. We have been self-managing for years, it's just the tenant-finding that we are doing for the first time, so yes, I know how to do those things (inventory etc). I haven't had to evict anyone (and hope not to) so have no experience in that area but as I said above our last agents inspired no confidence anyway so I am happy I can do as good a job as they did. smile It's just that any time you do something for the first time you need to work out the order of things. So that's where I am now.

fridgepants Thu 12-Oct-17 18:13:54

A lot of tenants want to avoid agencies, especially in London, as the fees are so high. One near us charges £165 for every contract renewal, and the fees at move-in for a couple are more than £600. I don't think it's just a case of people wanting to avoid agency checks.

arousingcheer Thu 12-Oct-17 18:27:29

fridgepants £600 is bonkers! This is partly why we decided to go it alone, because of the relentless fees and increases. We ended up raising the rent every time the agent raised the fees. Over time we told them we would do renewals ourselves, which is why we are now self-managing. I suspect some people imagine that fees keep out the undesirables or whatever, I think it's exploitative. Maybe I'll change my mind after finding my own tenants! smile

I assume that private landlords always do their own credit checks anyway - ? It's so easy to do.

MoreProseccoNow Thu 12-Oct-17 18:28:30

fridge I’m in Scotland where there are no tenant fees, (the LL pays) so it was definitely the case for me.

I think it’s outrageous the fees tenants have to pay elsewhere.

fridgepants Thu 12-Oct-17 18:35:07

That's why we want to hang on to our private rental for as long as we can! We paid nothing for credit checks etc and negotiate renewals directly. I am led to believe that they charge landlords too - I saw one a while ago where the agency charge both landlord and tenants £100 'check out fee' on leaving the property.

I don't know about most tenants but we don't have £600 to give an agency for the precise result of nothing. That's money we'd rather be saving toward our own place (at least, if things in London change...) They also do a holding deposit where we are, which they can keep if someone fails the credit check - it's about a third of the total deposit for the flat/house. If there's something on your credit history you've forgotten about, that's another few hundred quid you won't get back.

fridgepants Thu 12-Oct-17 18:35:29

*charge landlords excessively

Iwantaunicorn Thu 12-Oct-17 22:00:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

arousingcheer Thu 12-Oct-17 23:38:13

Iwantaunicorn many thanks, very helpful.

Iwantaunicorn Fri 13-Oct-17 00:45:56

@arousingcheer no worries! Forgot to say that providing you've questioned their financial circumstances first, you shouldn't hopefully get any referencing failures, but if you do, request a guarantor, or walk away. As a general guideline, On average expect a tenant/guarantor to be earning 3x the annual rent for affordability.

Also, please make sure to check that your tenant has the right to live and work in the UK. Could involve fines and trouble for you if you don't!

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