Making a decision
After the interviews (discussed on Day 11) comes the decision! It is important to choose carefully, as this person will be sharing your home. This section looks at checking and references.
Remember that this is a business relationship. Although it is important that you like them, you are not looking for a friend, but a lodger who will pay you rent.
- Did they pass their ‘right to rent check’? If they didn’t, then you can’t let the room to them, however nice they seem!
- Are they are someone you could share a house with for, perhaps for quite a long time?
- Will they fit in with your lifestyle?
- Will you be able to be firm with them if they fall behind with their rent?
- Will you feel able to ask them to leave if they behave badly?
- Do they have any mannerisms which might start to grate on you after a while?
- What is their lifestyle? Is it compatible with yours?
- Do you feel happy about them having the run of your house when you are not there?
- Do you feel uneasy about them?
Remember that the quiet man with the steady job will usually be a better choice than the charismatic partygoer who seems more fun. Unless of course there is something creepy about him!
Always be alert to any feelings of unease you may have. This is probably your subconscious warning you. Remember that it is very easy to let someone in but can be difficult to get them out again. It is better to accept no-one than have a bad experience with a lodger and perhaps end up out of pocket.
When you have made your decision, you can ring the person you have selected and offer them the room. Make it clear that the offer is subject to satisfactory references. It is best to do this before referencing (particularly if using a paid for service), as they may say they no longer want the room.
For this reason also, you should not ring up your second choices and tell them the room has gone until you are sure that your first choice is definitely taking the room.
Try to be tactful and pleasant when speaking to those you have decided not to accept – you will want them to speak well of you when discussing you with other people (for example the student accommodation office, if you let to students!).
You should always follow up references. Remember that this person will be living in your home and will have access to your personal possessions when you are not there. If there is anything bad to be found out, you want to find this out before they move in.
Many lodger landlords never carry out any formal referencing, trusting on their ‘gut feeling’ to spot a problem lodgers. In many cases this will be fine. However remember that con men succeed because they are persuasive. Can you risk it?
Your main concerns will be whether they will pay the rent and whether they will be responsible in looking after their room. Nothing can absolutely guarantee this. The taking and checking of references will help to reduce the risk though. There are three main types of reference:
- Financial – such as an employer or their bank
- Personal – a responsible person who has known the applicant for at least three years
- A previous landlord – to find out why they left
Because it is so easy for people to make things up, it is best to assume, for the purpose of the checking exercise, that everything you have been told is untrue until verified independently. In particular do not trust a letter of recommendation handed to you. It might have been written by a friend, or even the applicant himself!
Double check all contact details. This can be done for example by looking up employers details in Yellow Pages or on the internet. Make sure that you are speaking to the real employer, and not one of your applicant’s friends.
If possible, ring up and speak to people given as references personally. They may say things on the phone that they would not put in writing. However, they may not be telling you everything. For example a current landlord may be desperate for the prospective lodger to leave! Listen to their tone of voice and whether they are careful in their use of words when answering your questions.
Overall, perhaps the employer is the most important, as the lodger’s salary will be paying your rent, and you need to be sure that they can afford it. Bank references are usually very bland and uninformative, but are worth taking if only to check that the applicant has a bank account.
You will find all the reference letters, letters of authority and forms you need in our New Lodger Pack >> here
Getting the applicant checked out by a credit reference agency is also recommended. You will find these on the internet, for example, Experian’s tenant checking service, or Tenant Verify from the LandlordZone web-site (www.tenantverify.co.uk). These services will tell you if there are any county court judgements outstanding, check creditworthiness, and validate their identity. The Tenant Verify service has a delinquent tenant database.
Note – if you are a bit worried about your prospective lodger’s ability to pay the rent, you an always ask for a guarantee. These are more commonly used for tenancies, but there is no reason why someone should not guarantee a lodger’s rent. Make sure however that you check the guarantor in the same way that you would a tenant – there is not point in taking a guarantee from someone who has no job, and no assets.