As a landlord, you’ll understand the importance of finding reliable tenants that pay the rent on time. One way to secure this is through comprehensive tenant reference checks. But what happens if a potential tenant fails their credit check?
Renting to tenants with bad credit doesn’t necessarily spell disaster. If the tenant ticks all the right boxes, there are ways to get around this issue and protect yourself and your investment.
What Is A Tenant Reference Check?
A tenant reference check helps landlords and letting agents decide if a tenant is likely to be reliable and pay each month’s rent on time.
In addition to a credit check, tenant referencing can look for;
- Proof of identity
- Proof of employment
- Current salary
- Bank statements
- Proof of benefit claims
- Right to rent in the UK
- A previous landlord reference
What Is A Credit Check?
A credit check looks at the tenant’s credit report and financial history, spotting any times they have missed bill payments or have fallen into arrears. This is analysed to produce an individual credit score.
A credit score can range from around 0- 900 points, depending on the score system used. A good credit score could be anything above 750 points.
What’s The Minimum Credit Score A Landlord Should Accept For A Tenant?
An acceptable credit score will be dependent on the scoring system used, as they differ between referencing agencies. However, when a tenant’s credit score comes back as poor or very poor, you may want to think about asking some further questions.
What Causes A Bad Credit Scoring?
A poor credit score can be caused by a number of issues, some more concerning than others when it comes to potential tenants.
Here are a few of the more serious reasons for a poor credit rating;
Naturally, being in debt can negatively affect a tenant’s credit score as it suggests that they struggle to manage their money and are not financially stable. If this issue is uncovered by a credit check, you may think twice about entering into a tenancy agreement.
Being Declared Bankrupt
This should set major alarm bells ringing for landlords as it suggests the tenant has had difficulty managing repayments in the past.
County Court Judgements
A County Court Judgment (CCJ) is when a tenant is forced to repay a debt by the courts. If this shows up, it’s not a great first impression.
Late Credit Card Or Loan Repayments
If a tenant has struggled to pay credit card repayments in time, this doesn’t bode well for rent payments.
There are also a number of issues that can affect credit scores that don’t necessarily mean a tenant will struggle with their finances;
Not Having A Credit History
One reason for a poor credit rating that is particularly common among younger tenants and students is not having a credit history at all. If the tenant has never taken out a credit card or loan and has never paid bills from their bank account, they won’t have a credit trail to check, resulting in a low score.
This is a likely occurrence if you rent to students or young adults who have just left home and doesn’t necessarily mean that the tenant will be bad at managing their money.
Only Making The Minimum Credit Card Repayments
Credit scores can be affected if the tenant only makes the minimum repayment on their credit card each month. The assumption is that they are struggling to keep up with all their outgoings, however this isn’t always the case.
Not Being On the Electoral Roll
Not updating addresses and personal information can affect credit score, as can not being on the electoral roll. This step is easily forgotten when moving house and doesn’t prove the tenant will be unreliable.
No Proof Of Address
If a tenant hasn’t been responsible for paying bills at their previous residence or were not named on the tenancy agreement, it can be difficult for the referencing agency to determine proof of address.
How Important Is Good Credit?
As we explored above, good credit isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to finding a good tenant. Equally as important is whether they fit your target tenant profile.
If you’ve been struggling to rent out your property or think the tenant will make a good fit, there are ways to get around bad credit.
How To Rent to Tenants With Bad Credit
Poor credit rating alone doesn’t mean you should give up on a tenant if they tick all the other boxes. Here are some ways to minimise risk;
The first thing to do when a potential tenant’s credit check comes back as poor, is to find out why. If it was down to late or missed payments it may be best to steer clear, however if it’s something as simple as a lack of credit history then it needn’t stop you from going ahead with the tenancy.
Ask To See Previous Rent Payments
Seeing proof of regular, timely rent payments for a previous rental arrangement will help to ease your concerns about their responsibility as a tenant.
Charge a Larger Deposit
If a tenant has a low credit score, it’s likely they will be prepared to pay a slightly larger security deposit to make up for it. This will give you extra leverage when it comes to recovering costs at the end of the tenancy.
Ask For A Guarantor
One of the best ways to protect yourself if a tenant has poor credit is to ask for a guarantor. A guarantor will be able to cover any costs if the tenant is unable to pay, giving you extra protection.
The guarantor will need to sign the tenancy agreement along with the tenant and have secure financial status.
Ask For A Previous Landlord Reference
One sure way to find out if a tenant is reliable is to ask their previous landlord.
Here are some questions to ask;
- Did the tenant pay rent on time each month?
- Did the tenant look after the rental property?
- How often did the tenant raise issues with the landlord or letting agent?
- Were any complaints received from neighbours regarding the tenant?
- What condition did they leave the property at the end of the tenancy?
- Would you feel happy renting to the tenant again?
Ask For Rent Upfront
While this may be a lot to ask and not always in scope, a tenant with a high risk credit score may be prepared to pay rent upfront. Paying the first six months of rent upfront will ease any initial worries and give the tenant time to prove their reliability.
Receive Payments By Direct Debit
Asking for rent payments via direct debit is common practice these days and is especially important if you’re concerned about a tenant’s financial responsibility.
Shorten The Tenancy
If you’re worried about the reliability of a tenant, setting a shorter, probationary rental period in which the tenant has time to prove their responsibility could be a good idea. If you experience late payments or other issues, you can terminate the tenancy early.
Talk To The Tenant
You can tell a lot from a frank, face-to-face conversation. If your potential tenant willingly discloses their credit issues and can provide a reasonable explanation for the low score, you will be much better placed to make an informed decision.
How To Organise A Tenant Reference Check
Although credit checks aren’t the only way to choose the right tenant, it is important to perform tenant referencing so you aren’t caught out further down the line.
As a busy landlord, you may want to delegate this task to a professional tenant referencing company. Placing this responsibility in the experienced hands of a recommended referencing company will minimise any risks and help the process go smoothly.
Protect Your Property With No Letting Go
In addition to choosing a reliable tenant, a comprehensive inventory is one of the best ways to protect your rental property.
At No Letting Go, we offer unbiased property inventory reports to help safeguard your property against damage and recover essential costs at the end of a tenancy. All the way through from Schedule of Condition, to check in and property visits, our property clerks are there to simplify the rental process and save you time.
Interested in hearing more? Head to our website to discover the full range of property management services we offer.
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