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Tenants- T for Trouble

I’ve just conducted a viewing of one of my buy-to-let properties. It’s the first one in ages as most of my properties are let to longstanding tenants. Originally, it was going to be done by the letting agent but as I was around I thought I’d go do it myself. I always prefer to meet a tenant before agreeing a let, so I can make my own judgement about them. Even if it is sometimes inconvenient (more of which later)

As per usual it was a last minute scramble to clean and tidy before the tenant turned up (picture a scene from an episode of Changing Rooms, with a vacuum and bottle of detergent in hand ). Things were made worse because the place I was looking to let is also where I live (occasionally) and I’d not been back for almost a month (therefore mountains of post to get through).

So how did I get on?

Tenant ‘T’ turned up prompt and on time. She was polite and well presented. Looking promising I thought. However, surprisingly she didn’t seem that interested in renting the maisonette.

Now this is where years of experience in dealing with tenants comes in. I’m a great believer in asking questions. If you don’t you won’t get the essential bits of information from the tenants that you need to make your critical decision. Do I let to them or not?

Chatty interrogation

You should always conduct your tenant interview in a chatty non-confrontational way. Make it into a bit of idol chat. After all you don’t want them to feel like they are being interrogated. It transpires that tenant ‘T’ had split up from her partner but was now with a new one, mmmmm? It happens I know, but my landlord spider sense was tingling! She was very cagey about her last partner and had no furniture to bring with her ….all sounds a bit chaotic. I’m immediately thinking of her aggrieved Neanderthal ex -partner turning up at my place and trying to smash it up! Then the bombshell.

The Tenants Bombshell

As a result of my gentle coaxing it turns out that my buy-to-let was really going to serve as a bolthole for her 16 year old son whilst she spent most of her spare time with her new beau just down the road. Now call me paranoid, but would you really entrust your rental property to an unknown child who having gone through the trauma of probably numerous separations is suddenly given a little party den with little or no parental presence. Even worse is that it’s quite clear she only wanted it for 6 months whilst she makes plans with ‘Mr Lover Man’.

Therefore, within 2 minutes of chatting I’m thinking that tenant ‘T’ actually stands for Trouble. I’ve decided that there is no way I’m letting to her, however pleasant she may be. There is only one thing worse than no tenant and that’s a bad tenant! This case highlights two important issues when letting a property.

Letting a property – key points from an old hand

Firstly, if I’d not been present then would the letting agent have picked up on these issues and would they have told me. My letting agent is good but I’m not sure they would have necessarily picked up on the fact that what this tenant really was really looking for was a bolthole for her teenage son. Either that or they may have conveniently ignored it as the commercial pressures are all about letting a property quickly and getting in the fees.

Secondly, this experience highlights the importance of a landlord meeting the tenant in person and more importantly being able to probe their prospective tenants for an insight into their real motivations for moving. Does it make sense? Are there signs of desperation? I’ve said before, if the tenant needs to move urgently you’ve got to ask, why?

I can’t say that a ‘face to face’ meeting and a thorough interview of your prospective tenant will guarantee you a good tenant. I am however convinced that it’s an important step in filtering out the wheat from the chaff at a early stage.

Here are some other useful tips on vetting your tenant.

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