How to Vet Tenant Applications for Chichester Rentals
The rental market in Chichester and throughout West Sussex is remarkably strong, with high-quality homes and excellent living standards attracting tenants from across the UK.
Tenant checks are a key step in the lettings process and are essential for landlords to ensure they accept great tenants who will enjoy living in their residences.
Here we explain the importance of background checks, which components never to leave out, and your obligations as a landlord before moving forward with a new rental agreement.
Tenant Referencing for Chichester Rentals
Screening prospective new tenants is necessary – and not something any interested applicants will be unfamiliar with. Excellent tenants make being a landlord significantly easier, fostering positive relationships and ensuring your property is in good hands.
Tenant checks are also a good starting point, particularly for long-term tenancies, inspiring confidence that a landlord is professional and takes appropriate steps to safeguard themselves, their properties, and their residents.
Elements of standard screening checks include:
- Credit and employment or income checks.
- Existing landlord references, where applicable.
- Affordability assessments.
- Right to rent verification.
The affordability process usually requires tenants to demonstrate an annual gross income of 2.5 times the yearly rent, including employment income, long-standing savings, and regular bonuses or commissions. Not all referencing agencies work to the same policies, so variable income may be excluded in the affordability evaluation.
Right to rent means that the tenant is legally allowed to live in the UK, such as a visa or work permit confirming they have the right to live, work or study here. The fines for non-compliance are steep.
You need to ensure that your tenant has given their authorisation for any enquiries to take place, so the best option is to use a screening application form, including all the questions you’ll need to run a thorough background check.
What to Look for in Tenant Background Checks
Getting to know your tenant means you’ll get an informed idea about whether your property is the right home for them.
Contact information for previous landlords is essential, where applicable, since you’ll be able to verify whether prior tenancies have run smoothly or whether there were issues you might need to be aware of. Landlords should be aware of any information that is not provided, as this could indicate reluctance by the previous landlord to highlight a potential problem.
Financial vetting can be a little more subjective, but in essence, a landlord needs assurance that their tenant is comfortable with the rental costs and has a stable, reliable income. Previous credit defaults may not necessarily mean the tenant can’t move forward, but further investigation would be needed to determine the circumstances. The decision to proceed will always lie with the landlord.
If there is anything untoward in a screening check, this presents an opportunity to discuss and resolve possible concerns.
Without this vetting process, both landlord and tenant have little idea about whether the agreement is likely to be mutually beneficial, and any applicant that isn’t prepared to provide any information may not be suitable.
Landlord Obligations When Letting New Chichester Rentals
While landlords benefit from running background checks, there are equally several legal responsibilities to ensure the tenant has decided to proceed armed with all the required information.
Before entering into a new tenancy agreement, landlords should provide:
- An energy performance certificate (EPC) enabling a tenant to assess how efficient a home is and how much it will cost to run. This document should be available to the tenant when the property is advertised, as it may affect their decision to view it.
- Gas safety certificates for any gas appliances – your tenant needs to know that the appliances in the property are safe and correctly serviced.
- A valid electrical installation and condition report (valid for five years).
- A copy of the latest edition of the government’s ‘How to Rent’ Guide.
- Details of the Deposit Protection Scheme being used in line with current legislation.
Landlords also need to identify which general maintenance costs they expect to cover and which are the tenant’s responsibilities. The details are covered in your tenancy agreement. If anything outside of this formal contract may prove useful, it’s worth taking the time to provide as much information as possible.
Tenant expectations have significantly increased over the last few years. Making a good first impression is important to show prospective tenants that you take being a landlord seriously and will be fair, reasonable and accommodating where possible should there be any issues or requests during the tenancy. This approach helps landlords secure the best possible tenants.
Scheduling viewings, helping applicants navigate the local area, explaining any quirks or additional property features and being open to answering questions are all important, so a good tenant is satisfied to proceed.
A welcome folder with things like bin collection days, where the stopcock is, utility suppliers, etc., is a great idea.
Managing Deposits for Rental Property Tenants
Other factors before a new tenant moves in include holding deposits and security deposits.
Holding deposits help avoid tenants making multiple applications on more than one property.
A holding deposit is capped at a week’s rent and provides a financial commitment by the applicant. Landlords can hold these deposits for a maximum of 15 days (unless the tenant agrees to a longer period) and will usually apply the funds to the first month’s rent.
As part of a tenancy agreement, and if the tenant and landlord decide to go ahead, you cannot ask for a security deposit worth more than five weeks rent or six weeks if the property lets for over £50,000 per year.
If the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy (the default for most residential tenancies), landlords must put the deposit in an approved deposit scheme, protecting the tenant from unauthorised deductions.
Deposits must be retained, and repaid provided the tenant meets the agreement terms, doesn’t damage the property, and pays the rent and any bills owing. You need to pay a security deposit into an appropriate scheme within 30 days of receipt.
Professional Support Vetting Tenants for Chichester Rentals
Many landlords find that conducting background checks is time-consuming and adds pressure, particularly when they need to follow up multiple references, along with financial screening.
As a highly experienced West Sussex agent, Tod Anstee provides a comprehensive range of services to ensure all checks are carried out and tenancy agreements are fully compliant with regulations.
Services available include:
- Marketing rental properties to a selected audience and finding appropriate tenants.
- Performing background checks, including credit assessments and collating references.
- Collecting deposits and transferring them to a suitable protection scheme.
- Drawing up tenancy agreements specific to your property and the agreed terms.
- Establishing a property inventory and details of the condition of furnishings.
- Collecting regular rent and following up on any overdue payments.
- Managing the rental for the long term, including dealing with queries, helping tenants settle in, organising maintenance or repair work, and arranging mutually convenient times for visits or inspections.
Choosing a lettings agent with local market knowledge is strongly recommended. The tenant demographic varies considerably depending on the property type, location, and proximity to amenities such as transport hubs or university campuses.
We are proud to uphold the highest standards of professionalism, with trade body accreditations and memberships including the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, The Property Ombudsman, ARLA Propertymark, NAEA Propertymark, and The Guild of Property Professionals.
Please get in touch if you require any guidance on conducting tenant background checks or support from an experienced letting agent to manage your Chichester rentals. Further guidance is also available through Tod Anstee’s downloadable Guide to Letting Your Property.