Especially if you’re new to letting out property, you may, understandably, be feeling slightly nervous. After all, you’re allowing relative strangers to live in a house or flat you own, knowing that you depend on their rent for at least part of your income. 

The reality is that there are various reasons why someone can potentially be a poor tenant – from anti-social behaviour to persistent late payment to causing extensive damage.

Clearly, your time is precious, and bad tenants can take up far too much of it, as well as costing you money. What’s more, eviction can be a protracted, costly, complex and unpleasant business. (And indeed at the time of writing has only just resumed again following a pause of several months.) It should only ever be a last resort, and it’s certainly not a process anyone actively wants to go through.

So one thing we’re often asked is how to spot potentially problematic tenants early on. Clearly, it’s best if you can do this as soon as physically possible, ideally before people have even moved in, so that you can act swiftly and decisively.

Here are our top things to watch out for – and what you can do about them.

  • Late payers

This is definitely something many landlords worry about. But don’t worry the first time it happens – the issue could just be down to a delay at the bank. Ask your tenant(s) to sort it out. Remind your renters assertively that they need to pay on time. As ever, communication is key. Tell tenants they need to talk to you if they’re having problems paying, and build the relationship so that they feel comfortable doing that.

  • Refusing access

As the owner of a property, you have every right to be granted reasonable access to it. Include a clause in your tenancy agreement which allows you to visit every three or six months to carry out inspections, even if only brief ones. This should put your mind at rest regarding the tenancy. And as long as you give enough notice, it’s something you’re perfectly entitled to do. Make it clear from the outset that’s what you’ll be doing; equally, you can always ‘sell’ this as a chance to discuss any issues with the property with your tenant(s).

If someone seems unhappy with this notion when they’re being shown round, or persistently refuses to grant access, that should set off loud alarm bells. And if this refusal continues, ultimately it’s even potentially cause for eviction.

  • Before someone moves in

There are various things you can do before someone starts unpacking in your property to minimise the chances of a problematic tenancy.

Because patterns of poor behaviour can repeat themselves, get two references, ideally one from a past landlord and one from an employer. Start to build up a picture of the person or people who will be living in your property.

But references alone are not enough. Vetting should also include payment of a security deposit, in full, along with a month’s rent in advance. You may also want to consider running a credit check, although you will need tenants’ permission for this.

  • Constant complaining or radio silence?

Either of these things can be a cause for concern. If there’s constant complaining, does the tenant have a genuine grievance, or are they really looking for an excuse to hold back some rent? (This can be a particular issue late in a tenancy, if someone is starting to fret about whether they’ll get their deposit back.)

If you deal with any maintenance concerns promptly, however, your tenant will have no reason to complain.

On the other side of the coin, if you’re getting the silent treatment, especially after late or no payments, and calls or emails or letters aren’t being returned, that can be just as bad. Poor or no communication is probably the quickest route to eviction.

  • What do the neighbours think?

It’s worth building up a relationship with the neighbours to your rental flat or house. Let them know you’re not asking them to act as a spy, but that they can report any incidences of anti-social behaviour to you.

And, obviously, if a neighbour complains to you directly about a tenant’s behaviour, that’s a massive red flag.

How we can help

At Oakfield Estate Agents, we’ve been in the lettings industry nearly a quarter of a century. We’ve definitely seeing renting becoming hugely popular in our offices across Bexhill, Hastings and Eastbourne, and we’re expecting that to continue well into next year and beyond as people continue to enjoy the flexibility it offers, not least in uncertain times.

Our chief executive, Neil Newstead, says: “We believe a lot of our success is down to the good communication we foster with and between our landlords and tenants. There’s a lot of detailed information prospective landlords can see on our website. But, essentially, we’ll rent out your home quickly and efficiently to thoroughly vetted tenants, and provide an excellent property management service, taking a weight off your mind.

“Get in touch today for a valuation – just drop a member of our friendly team and we’ll get the ball rolling right away.”