What makes a reliable tenant? Is it the type of job they have – doctor versus delivery driver, civil servant versus stay-at-home mum?

Their household make up – single versus family? Or could it be their credit history – debt-free versus leveraged, clear history or a chequered past?

Husmus spent a year investigating and the results may just surprise you.  

Between 2016 and 2018, it was recorded that 20% of England’s household population rented their home from a private landlord. With more families and individuals renting year on year, conversations around what makes a great tenant grow increasingly relevant. 

For landlords, finding the right tenants is a priority. These properties cost a lot to acquire and run including mortgages, upkeep and renovation costs.

With less than 7% of landlords being career landlords, most are unwilling to take risks with who they choose to rent to. 

If you search the web for advice, most blogs and landlord tips place good credit history at the top of the list. As well as ranking highly in this ambiguous scoring system, other redeeming factors include permanent employment, decent salaries and no criminal record. 

But are these factors really the most important? Will they lead to a more successful tenant/landlord partnership? 

Credit history? 

For decades, landlords have been encouraged to focus on credit histories and the presence of permanent jobs. But consider this, if those methods are foolproof, why do any referenced tenants fall into difficulties? 

Raise your hand if you know a landlord that’s negotiated away a nightmare tenant without bothering to go to court. The great Paul Shamplina of the TV show Nightmare Tenants Slum Landlords advocates this approach. While this method works great for landlords in difficulty, it renders credit histories useless in identifying high risk tenants.  

Pre-pandemic, over 1.1 million UK residents had CCJs and bankruptcies. We’d hate to guess how many that will be post-pandemic once companies start turning the screws on arrears. Ben Beadle, CEO of the NRLA has also highlighted this problem.

Moreover, credit reports that are available to landlords do not state, for privacy reasons, who debts are to or how they were accrued. Simply put, where there is bad behaviour, it is known only by the landlord and tenant involved. Plus, young renters who are new to the rental market rarely have a credit score at all, never mind a favourable one. 

Landlords need to accept that not only is this once paramount metric no longer useful but moving forward it might be a barrier to finding any type of tenant at all. 

Changing roles

The UK’s demographics are changing. Permanent 9 to 5 jobs are no longer the norm, especially among the under 45 age bracket who are now the majority of tenants. 

Over 998,000 workers (almost all renters) rely on zero hour contracts to make a living, and as at 2021 there were 4.2 million self employed workers in the country with that number rising further since. Even highly qualified key workers like doctors, nurses and HGV drivers are often classed as self employed because a number of them work on a contract basis. 

With that in mind, does being a temp worker or self-employed make a tenant any less reliable or worthy of a home? Is asking for 6 months of rent to be paid in advance realistic when the average UK resident has less than £600 in savings? 

The world has changed since tenant selection processes were first introduced, is it time the industry changed? 

Husmus has spent the past year researching the characteristics of great tenants and the results just may surprise you. Find out more about our behavioural tenant assessment metrics and how you can reproduce the results yourself for free. 


Author bio – Sarah Wernér 

Sarah is the CEO of Husmus, a company whose mission is to make private renting more convenient, accessible and affordable for both landlords and tenants. 

An Imperial College London alumnus, Sarah spent years in the pharmaceutical industry as a strategic analyst for companies like Informa, IQVIA and Takeda. It was shortly after she got her first property that she realised the rental market was full of solvable issues, and set out to do something about it. 

When she’s not running Husmus she’s the driving force behind the Black Female Founders List, providing mentorship and support for a greatly underserved group in the entrepreneurship sphere. 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Perhaps (just maybe) if there was a shortage of tenants, then looking at “non traditional” applicants might be required.

    However, from now that’s never going to happen (unless the Gov suddenly build 100,000 affordable rental properties lol)

    So, if there are 20 or even 100 applicants for every decent property then the traditional referencing processes will work just fine – we don’t need to even consider those under 25s with limited work/rental history.

    – Rental History (LL reference and Length of Stay)
    – Credit History (no CCJ)
    – Job History (not one every 6 months so yes even Doctors can fail it)
    – Affordability Check
    – Deposit Funds
    – Speed of Communication
    – Attitude at First Meeting

    …….and good ole “gut instinct” work perfectly fine for most.

  2. I was curious – so i signed up to Husmus.

    I wanted to see what their FREE Postcard for Landlords was as it offers “Tenant Profile

    – Get a snapshot of a potential tenants circumstances” and “Landlord Postcards – Confirmation of current address through recent documentation”

    Turns out the FREE service is actually £4.95 and no FREE options are selectable.

    Also, no easy, clear way to delete my account either and no legally required “unsubscribe” option in their emails.

    OH DEAR !!!!

  3. Hi landlord man,

    Thank you for taking the time to check us out! As a relatively new company we appreciate it.

    I’m Sarah, author of the piece. I just wanted to address some of your feedback if I may.

    Our landlord postcards are absolutely free and you can access them very clearly from our home page, provided of course that you have a landlord account. Naturally, as a small, relatively unknown business with big dreams, it wouldn’t be prudent of us to annoy potential customers by saying a service was free when it isn’t.

    Regarding the unsubscribe, the laws relate to marketing emails which we do not send unless you have explicitly opted-in to receive them. If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter or product updates you may do so by stating your preference when you create your profile.

    If you would like to delete your account please contact support, the process is explicitly laid out in our FAQ page.

    Once again thanks for taking the time to check us out! I hope the above clarifies the misunderstanding. I’m sure it wasn’t your intention to misrepresent our product or accuse us of deceit.

    We’re always open to constructive and well meaning feedback, you may reach us through our website.

    Have a great day,
    Sarah

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