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The Tenant's Guide to Reference and Credit Checks

Saved up for your deposit? Check. Know your responsibilities as a tenant? Check. Ready for the rental checks? We let you know what to expect as part of the reference and credit checks when renting.

Faye deGavre

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Mar 26, 2021

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7 min read

The Tenant's Guide to Reference and Credit Checks

Being a renter has many advantages, including being able to enjoy different properties without committing. However, before you get going on your rental property journey, you need to pass reference checks. With many interested renters, most landlords have the luxury of being picky when it comes to choosing a suitable tenant. 

All reputable Letting Agents and landlords will first perform a rental check – so it’s best to be prepared if you want to get your foot in the door to your favourite rental. Below, we peel the lid on the credit check and rental referencing process.

Basics of rental checks

What documents do I need to rent a flat or house?

When renting a home, whether it’s a house, flat, room, bungalow or otherwise, you need to go through various checks that determine if you’re going to be a suitable tenant. The information you provide will give a good overview of your credit history and current circumstances. The landlord will want to make sure you can afford the rental payments and will look after the property. 

Prepare your renting references by gathering the following:

  • Proof of identity
  • Address history
  • Proof of employment and proof of income
  • Reference letters from previous landlords and employers
  • Bank statements for the past three months
  • Previous tax returns if self-employed
  • Letter from an accountant if self-employed
  • Guarantor (if required)

Tenant affordability

Typically, you’ll need to earn 2.5 times more than the annual rent. For example, if you’re looking at renting a property that costs £900, you will need a household income of at least £27,000. It’s worth remembering that some properties come with bills included, while others don’t. In either case, you’ll also need to make sure you have adequate insurance.

  • Do I need a guarantor to rent? If you’re a student, self-employed, have a low credit score or are earning little more than the rent, you may be asked to secure a rent guarantor. 
  • Who can be a guarantor for renting? Typically, this is someone who will be willing to pay the rent if you are unable to do so – often, it’s someone in your family. Your guarantor will go through the tenant reference process in the same way as you do, but they will not have to produce references from previous landlords. You can also apply for a guarantor on Rent Guarantor, provided you are a student or in employment.

Credit check

Your Letting Agent will conduct a rental credit check to see if you’ve had issues paying bills in the past. If you’re aware you have a poor credit history, it’s best to be honest and explain the situation upfront. It is possible that those who fail a credit check are able to rent by paying more months upfront or securing a guarantor. 

Under this check, any County Court Judgements (CCJ), bankruptcy and insolvency will be identified, which can show that the tenant has poor credit. It can also throw out previous addresses and their details on the electoral roll. 

Right to Rent

The Right to Rent referencing check is done to ensure that the renter is legally allowed to rent a residential property in England. Your Letting Agent will ask to see your passport and immigration documents, as well as documents of any other adults living with you.

What is a reference check for renting a property?

Generally, there are different checks for different tenants. The type of check conducted will depend on whether you’re:

  • Employed
  • Self-employed
  • A student
  • Claiming benefits
  • Retired

For example, a student will likely need a guarantor. The self-employed can only be verified by a chartered or recognised accountant and must provide copies of their recent tax returns. Retirees must submit their annual pension statement, bank statements and a reference from their pension administration.

Why would a tenant fail referencing?

In some cases, tenants do not pass the checking procedure. The most common reasons for failure include:

  • The applicant has insufficient income
  • The applicant has credit history problems
  • There are concerns over the employment status of the applicant
  • The applicant is unable to provide proof of self-employed income
  • The current landlord of the applicant provides a poor reference
  • The applicant’s history of residency or identity cannot be verified

If you are rejected, it is best to talk it over with the landlord or Letting Agent who can advise where you failed. You may still be able to rent by providing more documentation and paying a larger deposit or more rent in advance. 

Your rental search starts here

Searching for a suitable space? Whether you’re stepping out on your own for the first time or are a seasoned renter who knows exactly what to expect, Boomin makes it easy to find your next rental property. Our advanced property site offers a wide range of suitable spaces, and you can be the first to know about hot properties coming to the market as well as those not yet listed.

From a simple one-bedroom flat to a shared house, Boomin gives you the ability to book viewings online 24/7 with trusted and experienced Letting Agents. Get started today – search for properties to rent.

Faye deGavre

Content Writer