Before you rent a property, your landlord or their agent will carry out certain checks on you, to verify your identity and your ability to afford the rent payments. They may also take references from your employer and/or previous landlord, to be as sure as they can that you will be a good tenant, pay on time and look after their property.
Buy what do you know about your landlord?
There are a number of checks you can make, both before and during a tenancy, to help ensure you don’t get saddled with a ‘rogue’.
Check the national register
Although there is currently no national legal requirement for landlords in England – or their properties – to be registered, the rest of the UK does have schemes in place. So if you rent in any of the following locations, you can check that your landlord is registered or licensed, as required:
Some council areas in England have introduced their own schemes, including many boroughs in London. You can search here to find out if it applies in the borough where you’re looking to rent; for other areas, contact your local council housing department.
(See our article on ‘Register England’s Landlords!’)
Check local council landlord accreditation schemes
Many councils in England have accreditation schemes for landlords. While these are voluntary and there is no legal requirement for landlords to join, it may be an indication of how committed your landlord is to proving themselves to be responsible, so contact your local council for more information. In London, there is the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme.
Check whether they’ve ever been taken to court
You can check whether your landlord has been taken to court by a previous tenant and if any judgements have been made against them. It costs just £4 per register to search online.
Make sure they really do own the property
Sometimes, criminals break into properties and let them out as if they own them. Tenants can hand over a deposit and rent, then when the real owner realises the scam, the tenants are evicted because they are legally considered squatters.
So don’t hand over any money until you have been given the landlord’s name and a UK contact address, which they are legally required to provide. If you are in any doubt, either don’t go ahead with the rental (!) or, for £19.95, you can check who owns the property via the Land Registry website.
Once you’ve rented a property, you can check the deposit protection scheme your landlord uses. Landlords are legally required to protect any deposit taken for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy in one of three government-backed schemes. They should provide you with information on the scheme they use and confirmation that your deposit is protected but, if you’re in any doubt, you can check with the schemes directly:
And remember, if you have any concerns about whether your landlord is reputable and above board, you can contact Shelter for free advice and information.