Accidental landlord: why a failed credit check shouldn't stop us renting to responsible tenants

The accidental landlord is thrilled when prospective tenants ask where the stopcock is, so much so she doesn’t mind when one fails the credit check...

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After spending a couple of weeks trying to find a suitable tenant for my two-bedroom flat, I was on the verge of throwing in the towel and hiring a letting agent. I’d done loads of viewings and received lots of offers, but they were all unsuitable. 

Two offers were from tenants who had serious debt problems and another two were from people who were out of work but claimed they were “almost definitely” going to get jobs soon. One guy who put in an offer seemed okay, but I wasn’t keen on his pit bull terrier.  

I’d also had offers from three different groups who all planned to turn the small living room into a third bedroom so they could cram in at least one or two more sharers to help with the rent. You can’t blame them for trying to cut their living costs, but my lease limits me to a maximum of two sharers.

Then, just as I was about to ask a letting agent for help, I got an offer from two lovely lads. It was seven per cent less rent than I’d been getting but I accepted. My flat had already been empty for three weeks during which I’d had to cover the mortgage and council tax, so I was keen to see it filled. Also, if an agent did get me more rent, they would charge eight to 10 per cent commission, so I might have ended up with even less.  

Not only that, but I liked these two, they seemed pretty solid. They both claimed to have full-time jobs, they didn’t have any pets and they weren’t planning to squeeze half a dozen mates into the living room. Well that’s what they said.

So I took their offer, but a couple of days later my heart sank. One of them failed the credit check. It turned out he was working for a restaurant chain on one of those dreadful zero-hours contracts, so he had no guaranteed income. This must be a growing problem for tenants and landlords alike. According to the Labour Force Survey, this time last year 2.5 per cent of the employed workforce were on zero-hours contracts — but the Office for National Statistics said that was a 15 per cent increase on the same quarter of the year before.

I thought it unlikely the lad would have put an offer on the flat if he wasn’t sure he could afford it so I was tempted to accept him anyway. However, as I was still smarting from the last tenant who didn’t pay her rent, I wanted the comfort of rent guarantee insurance, which will only cover tenants who pass credit checks.

Fortunately, this lad’s mum agreed to be his guarantor. She passed the credit check with flying colours so getting insurance was not a problem.When move-in day came around I knew I’d made the right decision to accept these lads when one of them asked me to show him where to find the stopcock. “You know, so I can turn the water off quickly to prevent any damage if there’s a flood,” he said. 

They might not both have guaranteed jobs, but I’m pretty sure this pair will turn out to be okay.

  • Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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