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Dos and don’ts of tenant referencing in London

You’ve found your ideal property to rent in London and agreed the terms – but you can’t call it home just yet. You must pass the tenant referencing process first. Our dos and don’ts will help you do this successfully and without delay.

Dos and don’ts of tenant referencing

From establishing your finances and searching for properties to tenancy agreements and deposits, renting a home in London can be confusing. To compound the issue, anyone moving from another country must also contend with head scratch inducing rules and regulations.

One cog in the rental process wheel that’s often an afterthought for prospective tenants is the preparation of reference checks – an oversight that has the potential to derail their plans. In the UK, it is normal for the landlord or letting agent to conduct detailed financial checks and to request references from previous landlords to assess your suitability.

There are two approaches to referencing: the agent collects and checks the references themselves or – as is typically the case – the referencing process is outsourced to a separate company to process. Either way, to successfully pass referencing you will need to avoid some common pitfalls – and our dos and don’ts will help you achieve this.

Don’t underestimate the importance of referencing

By entering a tenancy agreement and handing their property over to a stranger, the landlord is taking a serious financial risk. To mitigate this, they are within their rights to request information that is relevant to your suitability as a tenant that can be independently verified, such as your income, identity and credit history.

You haven’t been singled out for referencing because the landlord or letting agent thinks you’re dodgy. All applicants go through the same verification process to provide protection for the landlord.

Don’t pay referencing fees

Don’t fall foul of unscrupulous landlords that try to trick you into paying referencing fees – because you don’t have to. Since June 2019, tenants are no longer expected to pay for their reference checks, which must be covered by the landlord or letting agency, including the cost of any guarantor references that could be required. If you fail the reference check, you still cannot be charged for the service.

Don’t be uncontactable

The landlord, letting agent or third-party referencing company might need to contact you after you’ve filled in the forms to clarify the details you’ve provided or your additional paperwork. Prevent any delays by checking your emails and voicemails regularly and answering numbers you don’t recognise on your phone.

Do examine the referencing criteria first

Referencing should be about proving that your circumstances meet the criteria, not finding out if they do or not. For example, if your income won’t be high enough, it’s better to realise this as soon as possible so you can arrange a guarantor’s application.

To pass the referencing process, you will need to meet the affordability criteria. The general rule is your monthly gross salary needs to be at least two and a half times the monthly rent.

Do be transparent

Be transparent about your past and present circumstances because this information will be validated as part of the referencing process. Failure to disclose something important or providing inaccurate information that’s later flagged up will count against your application and you will risk missing out on the property.

Do confirm willing referees

Your previous landlord will be contacted to confirm that rent payments have been made on time and the property is kept in good order – so inform them that their assistance is required. If you don’t have a previous landlord, provide details of referees who are willing and able to provide references on your behalf – otherwise, valuable time will be wasted.

Do check which forms of ID are acceptable.

Don’t assume a certain document will be considered eligible proof of identification. Confirm with whoever is overseeing the referencing process to confirm what documents are acceptable proof of identity and address – and how recent it needs to be.

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