Letting in London:the accidental landlord decides an empty flat is better than an unreliable tenant

The accidental landlord is told a pack of porkies by a man who wants to rent her flat. And he’s not the only one being economical with the truth.

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There’s something about the guy who has turned up to view my two-bedroom flat that is making me uneasy. He is friendly enough, very chatty and easy to talk to, but he is in such a rush to move in and I’m not sure why.

When he rang to make the appointment to view he told me he had just moved back to the UK after an overseas contract finished unexpectedly early.

However, now he is here he is saying he is back in the UK because he felt homesick, then he says he is looking after his sick dad. Later he claims a colleague is arriving from Asia and he needs to sort out accommodation for them both, which doesn’t sound right, but then, as the viewing is drawing to a close he says he has recently bought a run-down property and is waiting for it to be done up.

Which story should I believe? Or are they all lies?

He is also a little too eager to give me his photo ID and he insists on fanning out his credit cards in front of me, even though I tell him I don’t need to see them. He says he has recently checked his credit rating and it’s good, but who does that unless they think there might be a problem? Even though I have often accepted tenants without bothering with credit checks, I decide not to in this case, despite the guy trying to hurry me into a deal.

I am as eager as he is to sort out a new tenancy, especially as the flat has been empty for a couple of weeks, but no tenant at all is better than a bad one. I’m particularly wary after being forced to evict the last tenant, who stopped paying her rent and rubbished the flat. I had to replace the carpets and some of the furniture and completely redecorate.

However, this guy appears relaxed when I tell him he needs to pass a credit check to get the tenancy, and texts me later to say he has sent all his details to the referencing agent I am using. But when I get the report back the next day it shows that he has an active county court judgment for several hundred pounds.

That’s a big no-no as far as I’m concerned. I can’t afford to take on a tenant with bad debt unless they have a guarantor. The guy claims there has been a mix-up, the CCJ is nothing to do with him and when I call the referencing agency it admits that sometimes mistakes are made.

The report has set off another alarm bell, however. He told me he had been working abroad as a self-employed contractor for the past five years, but the report shows he has been working in London since 2012.

Anyway, since he failed the credit check I can’t take out insurance to guarantee his rent. I decide not to accept him. Research is an essential part of letting procedure and after the last tenant I have learnt my lesson.

So, as the next tranche of people applies for the flat, I check them all. One chap puts in an offer more than £100 below the asking price, but then admits it’s pointless running a credit check on him as he is on a debt management programme; a single mum claims she is working as a nanny, but when I check her online profile I discover she is unemployed, while another guy is keen but admits he is planning to turn my little flat into a crash pad for several of his male relatives by putting extra beds in the living room.

The flat is still empty — but better empty than a flat full of trouble.


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