The most worrying thing for a landlord is a disruptive, uncooperative tenant. Undertaking a background check on a tenant prevents more costly issues later down the line.  Although landlords can only do so much to prevent problem tenants, it’s important that those in the buy-to-let market do everything in their power to reduce the risk of problem tenants. This is what private landlords should be looking for.

The Basics

Find out basic information and ensure to get references from previous landlords. This forms the backbone of all background checks. As a minimum, look to retrieve the following information

  • Name, date of birth and contact information

  • Two personal character references

  • At least one reference from a previous landlord

  • Proof of identification

  • Bank statements/utility bills for the past three months (proof of address)

The key to getting the basics right, is to confirm all of the information that a tenant has given. From requesting to see a tenant’s passport to confirm their identity, to viewing a utility bill to check their current address, don’t take any information provided at face value. Make sure you ask for documentary evidence! You may also wish to assess a tenant’s ability to pay the rent on time, by asking to see proof of employment.  Always ask tenants for permission before looking to do so.

Have a Chat

If after performing initial checks you’re happy with what you’ve seen, it’s then important to get a better idea of a tenant’s character.  This doesn’t have to mean an interview process, but whether it’s a talk over a cup of coffee or a short meeting at home, make sure you take the time to get to know tenants during the application process.

Try to get an idea of their lifestyle; do they appear reckless? Do they tend to be spontaneous? Talking to a possible tenant doesn’t mean making too many assumptions. But ensure that you’re able to get a good idea of the person behind the basic information.


If a tenant’s basic information checks out, they’ve passed a tenant reference/ check and successfully impressed you face-to-face, it can be tempting to hand over the keys there and then. Yet while these points play a crucial part in helping you choose a tenant, references are one of the most important tools you have – so make sure they’re utilised!

Even if a tenant’s credit history is impeccable and they appear financially stable, how they have behaved under previous landlords is still your most important market. Ensure that you always follow up and get in contact with landlord references, no matter how impressive a prospective tenant appears.

Although the process of background checks can be boring, putting the hard work in now can help prevent serious trouble later down the line. Remember to be thorough, ask lots of questions as well as being realistic when going through the process. Focus on attention to detail and there’s no reason why your background checks can’t help you find the perfect tenant in no time.