Tenancy agreement forms have changed a lot since I completed my first one during my university days. Way back then, landlords were only interested in getting the minimum amount of details from an applicant and securing a deposit before letting out the property. All too often, you knew well in advance that you had seen the last of the deposit, since landlords inevitably found a reason to withhold it.
Conditions have now changed and legal requirements within the full rental agreement, are stricter and are regulated by stringent legislative requirements.
It is therefore essential that all landlords obtain certain information to verify the capacity of the proposed tenant to pay all rental charges and where possible, to determine a proposers’ previous rental history. The purpose of this article is to outline those essential questions that will be used to eventually complete a legal tenancy agreement.
Contact Details – obviously, you will both need to make contact with each other and therefore the application should show the landlord’s contact details, specifically address and telephone number and the same would apply to the tenant.
Property Details – this would apply to a landlord who rents out more than one property. It will also make it perfectly clear to the applicant the full description of the property they hope to rent namely, its location, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, lounges and any other rooms. The monthly rental and required deposit, along with any other financial commitments to be made by the tenant, should also be included so there is no misunderstanding at a later date.
Applicant Details – In my opinion, these are the most essential details that you should obtain from a proposed tenant, since it will be based upon this information whether the tenant fits your requirements when you decide upon the successful applicant. I do strongly suggest that any hesitation in completing any of the details should be considered a “black mark” against the proposer, unless you receive a satisfactory explanation for their exclusion. I have listed these below.
Employment History – you need this information in order to satisfy yourself that any applicant will be in a position to fulfil the monthly rental and other payments. Therefore if employed, ask for the details of the applicant’s employer, including the applicant’s present position and length of time with the employer. At some stage later on, you may decide to obtain a reference from the employer.
Often an applicant will be self-employed and if this is the case, you will need to obtain information from either the applicant’s lawyer or better still, the applicant’s accountant, just to satisfy yourself that payments are likely to be met.
Character Reference – not all landlords will require a character reference from an applicant but it does no harm to have one on file. If, as a landlord, you require such a reference, then it should be obtained, in original form, from a professional person who has known the applicant for at least three years and is not a relative.
Guarantor – many landlords now require an applicant to provide a satisfactory guarantor who would become responsible for the failure of a tenant to meet the contractual monthly rental and other obligations. This is more applicable to younger applicants and those who do not have a satisfactory or existent rental background. Your tenancy agreement form should include a space for full details of the proposed guarantor, as I recommend you undertake a credit check of the guarantor prior to accepting the applicant as the final tenant.
Credit History – within the application form, you should indicate that you will require a full credit reference on the applicant, unless they indicate within the tenancy agreement form their disagreement.
At the same time and within the same spacing of the application form, you can ask whether the applicant has any debt problems, such as Court Judgements, Bankruptcy (both discharged and in existence) or any IVAs.
Declaration and Authorisation – this basically confirms that the applicant has provided true and accurate information and gives authority for you the landlord, to carry out any credit checks or other references you deem necessary before granting a full tenancy agreement. Do not forget to emphasise at this point that should the applicant obtain a subsequent tenancy by using false information, then the tenancy agreement can be terminated immediately.
The landlord should outline within this section of the Rental Application how they propose to use the information that has been provided by the applicant and also how they propose to meet the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 with regards to the application form. This application form should also confirm that any deposit monies landlord may take will be protected by the Housing Act 2004.
In conclusion I would just like to emphasise that a Tenancy Agreement Form is not a legal requirement but instead, a document which enables a landlord to obtain all the information that they will require from a potential tenant at the outset.