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Better the ‘tenant’ you know

Better The Devil You Know?

I’ve recently advertised my rental property following the existing tenant giving his notice to leave. Like any active landlord I immediately advertised it with my letting agent to ensure that any rental void period was minimised.

Tenant bolt out of the blue

Almost immediately I get an email from a former tenant. He had recognised my property on Rightmove. He had moved out just over 12 months ago. The reason I’m guessing was to settle down with his pregnant girlfriend and was looking for something a bit more spacious than my one bed bachelor pad.

Chris had been a quiet and responsible tenant and I was sad in some ways to see him go. Obviously a lot can change in 12 months, so I still got him to send me copies of his last 6 months bank statements. This gave me an immediate insight into his finances. As before it revealed somebody who was not earning a huge salary but more importantly an individual who spent frugally. This always bodes well for the ongoing payment of my rent.

Letting agent ‘pincer movement’.

At more or less exactly the same time; my letting agent came back to me having found a young couple who wished to take my rental property. One 18 the other 20. Ok…we were all young once and I have no prejudices against young tenants if they can prove they can afford the rent. This is often the problem. Both were on part time contracts not exactly the most secure revenue stream. Obviously, my first response was to instruct my letting agent to obtain a tenant guarantor. This appeared not to be a problem.

The Politics of using a letting agent

I have used my letting agent for several years and have watched it grow from a one man band to be one of the largest independent letting agents in Nottingham. They appear comfortable with the fact that I prefer to have a hands on approach with dealing with my lettings and my tenants. They are happy to do the things that I don’t have time to do; such as the occasional property inventory and the viewings and property check ins and they don’t charge me an inordinate fee for carrying out this services. I want to keep them on side. Therefore, despite being able to rent my property and not pay a letting fee I decided to go along with the tenants they had found not wishing to ‘use & abuse’ my letting agent. Running a successful rental business like any type of business is about being able to ‘work with’ your fellow property professionals and not alienate them for a short term one off gain.

Getting an acceptable tenant guarantor

The proposed tenant guarantor, the mother of one of the tenants had a stable if not a particularly well paid public sector job; but most importantly she was not a home owner. This is not good to me. The reason for a tenant guarantor is if the tenant stop paying you have a guarantor that you can take to court to get any rent and monies owed to you back. What you don’t want is to replace a tenant who is earning ‘diddly squat’ with a guarantor in exactly the same position. That could still leave me facing the prospects of been paid £10 a month if anything went wrong and I won at court. I don’t need this kind of hassle. I told the letting agent that this was really not going to work for me. So they went back and proposed that the step father be a joint guarantor ( apparently he’s on a much higher salary).

The world of benefits

It turns out that the stepfather was a full time carer ‘earning’ over £26,000 pa looking after the care needs of an individual. Caring is an admirable occupation. However, where I remain uneasy is that having never claimed benefits, this world of pseudo jobs is one I don’t really understand. Things I don’t understand make me uncomfortable, but in this case I was prepared to give the new tenants a go as long as there were a joint guarantor in place. After instructing my letting agent to go ahead on this basis the tenants had a sudden and abrupt change of mind. Up to that point the tenants had been pressuring the letting agent & me to let them move in because they had a removal van paid for and were ready to go. The change of heart by the tenants was quick and unexpected. Out of no where they decided that they were not prepared to enter into a joint guarantor agreement.

Better the tenant you know.

I greeted the tenants’ sudden decision with relief. I’d had a bad feeling about them.

What it made me realise is now I have to manage the letting remotely I no longer have the benefit of meeting the tenants personally; which I have found invaluable allowing to make an assessment on their suitability. Instead, I am totally reliant on the judgment of letting agent and the quality of the tenant referencing.

It seemed strange and slightly suspicious that the tenant who was pressurising me so strongly to sign the tenancy agreement suddenly changed their mind at the last minute. I’m a great believer that a good tenant is one who is prepared to jump through a few hoops to secure the tenancy. If they don’t or aren’t prepared to; then maybe they are not the type of tenants you want.

I’m hoping that’s it’s a case of ‘better the devil you know’ and that my existing tenant is as reliable as he was last time. However, you never really can be certain in ‘this game’. This is the nature of being a landlord and running your own rental business. There are no absolute guarantees EVER!

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