What do tenants’ questions tell you?
As investment property managers, you can imagine we get asked the same questions by tenant applicants time and again. All give a clue as to the type of person the tenant is. Some are red flags, proof that if we take the questioning tenant on, we’ll need asbestos gloves to handle them. Here are the five red-flag questions that tell us to avoid an applicant for your buy-to-let property.
1. “Can I move in this weekend if I pay six months’ rent in advance?”
You’d think that having several months’ rent paid in advance is a dream for an investment property manager. Not so. In our experience, it’s a sign that the tenant knows something that they don’t want us to find out. They hope that the offer of a big wedge of cash in advance will tempt us to forego tenant vetting. We won’t. We always run comprehensive background checks to track down top-class tenants for consistent rental income.
What does this big up-front rent payment indicate? Perhaps the tenant is about to lose their job, become divorced, or they have a terrible credit history. They may not have the job they have told us. The rent money could have come from an illegal source.
Prepaid rent can cause huge problems if we need to evict a tenant, and it doesn’t stop the tenant from being a risk. When the prepaid period has come to an end, the tenant is equally likely to refuse to pay any more rent.
When we let your buy-to-let investment property to a tenant, we take a tenancy deposit and make sure we collect rent on time every month… After ensuring the tenant is a good fit for your property, of course.
2. “I haven’t got the deposit together yet. Can I pay over the next three months?”
A tenancy deposit that hasn’t been paid is not a deposit. It’s a promise. And promises won’t protect your property from damage or unpaid rent.
When a tenant can’t afford to pay the tenancy deposit, it’s a clear sign that their money management skills are not up to scratch. An investment property manager who accepts this proposition is asking for trouble later, and that trouble will directly impact you. The tenancy deposit probably won’t ever be lodged.
Our policy is that the tenancy deposit must be paid in full before the tenant can move in. We’ll ask the applicant if they can find the funds elsewhere. Usually, they can. Family or friends come to the rescue. Why would otherwise great tenants try to delay paying the deposit? Because they have other more important things on which to spend their money. By insisting on the deposit upfront, we make sure they understand that paying the rent should be the most important consideration in their monthly budget.
3. “If I pay the rent today, can I move in now?”
If we’re asked this question, we ask why the tenant wants to move in immediately. It’s never good. They may have been evicted, lost their job, or have personal issues that could become problems for the landlord during a tenancy. It’s tempting to let a tenant move in straight away, to reduce the effect of void periods. But a couple of days is usually needed to ensure the tenant has been vetted correctly and the property is fully prepared for a new tenant.
4. “My girlfriend wants to live with me, but doesn’t want to be on the tenancy. Is this okay?”
The answer to this question is no. We never allow this type of arrangement. Any investment property manager that does is asking for trouble. It’s a similar situation with subletting a buy-to-let property – we don’t allow this, either.
There are two big issues here. The first is the reasons the ‘secret tenant’ has for not being on the tenancy agreement. These reasons are never good. They may be trying to hide where they are living, or don’t want their background checked. Either way, it’s bad news.
Second, if the tenant moves out, the secret tenant could have a legal right to remain without a contract. It could make it more difficult to evict.
Anyone over the age of 18 who plans to live in the buy-to-let property must be on the tenancy agreement and must be properly vetted. No ifs and no buts.
5. “What happens if I don’t meet the criteria to rent this property?”
If an applicant asks this, we know they won’t meet the criteria for renting. They may have a poor credit history or irregular employment. While these issues are usually a reason to reject the applicant, other reasons for not meeting the criteria for tenants may not be. For example, it may be that this is the tenant’s first rental property – perhaps a young couple setting up home for the first time. In such a situation, we’d seek more clarification, and perhaps a rental guarantor.
Contact Ezytrac today on +44 01522 503 717. As investment property managers, we go the extra mile to make sure your buy-to-let property benefits from the very best tenants. That includes understanding what their questions are telling us about them.
Yours in effortless property management,