This is an important part of the selection process. However, remember that prospective lodgers will also be checking out *you*, so put your best face forward and make sure the house is nice and clean and welcoming.
It is often a good idea to have someone whose opinion your trust with you when you interview. Their views may be helpful when making up your mind, plus it will give you some protection if the interviewee turns nasty.
You may make you mind up fairly quickly when interviewing prospective lodgers. However even if you have decided to accept them, you should take full details and deal with the interview in a professional way.
Have the details you took over the telephone with you (see Day 10), and make sure you have paper and a pen to write down other information. It is also often a good idea to get them to fill in a pre printed form first (this can include the question on previous convictions referred to in Day 3), as this will make sure that you do not forget anything important.
This can also have a box for them to tick to confirm that they consent to your using a tenant referencing service (see Day 12), if you are going to use one of these (and this is generally a good idea). Written consent is necessary if you use one of these services.
Here is a list of suggestions for points to cover at the interview. You may have other things you want to add to this:
- You will need to discuss their financial circumstances, such as their salary – don’t feel embarrassed – this is what is going to pay your rent!
- You should also ask to see some identification, such as a passport, or driving license – check it carefully! This may also be a good time to do the right to rent check (see below).
- Discuss standards of cleanliness, and say whether or not you will expect them to share the cleaning. NB If you are to do the cleaning this should be reflected in the rent
- Whether or not you will allow pets
- Your policy on visitors, particularly overnight visitors. You need to find out if these are likely – for example, if they will be regularly having their girlfriend stay overnight, do you want this?
- Tell them about the arrangements for the use of the kitchen, if you are not providing meals.
- Discuss any arrangements for using the telephone, although most people will probably now have their own mobile.
- Say whether bills are included or to be paid separately. If they are paid separately you need to be very clear about how their contributions are to be calculated
- Ask if they will be bringing any of their own electrical equipment. You won’t want them using power hungry appliances which will run up your bills, nor unsafe equipment which could cause a fire. If in doubt insist on an electrical safety test
- Many lodgers will want to use their computer in their room and may require internet access. Offering this will make your accommodation more attractive. However, if you do not have a computer or do not want to share access with your lodger, this should not be a problem as there are mobile internet services available now
- Be clear about what, if any, services you will be providing, such as cleaning, clean sheets and towels etc. It is a good idea to at least provide clean sheets, as this will give you a reason to visit the room regularly (as discussed on Day 1).
Right to rent checks
Since February 2016 all lodger landlords (in England) must check whether their lodgers have the right to rent property in the UK. If you let to someone who does not have permission, you could be vulnerable to a penalty fine from the Home Office.
Now is a good idea to do the check, as you need to do it in the presence of the applicant with the original forms in front of you. Note that you will need to keep a copy so if you do not have a copier or scanner, make sure you ask them to bring a copy with them.
It is generally a good idea to take a deposit, and if you are going to do this, you should say so now. If the lodger genuinely cannot afford to pay a deposit there are a number of schemes to help, particularly for lodgers on benefit. If you suspect your lodger may be in this situation, have a list of these to ready to give out (your local Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to let you know what schemes are available in your area).
At the end of the interview
Never accept anyone immediately, even if you have decided to offer them the room. Always take their number and say you will ring them back. Make sure you do ring them back though, even if you are ringing to say that you are sorry but you have let to someone else.
Note: There is a lodger application form and checklist in my New Lodger pack – read about it >> here.