And despite many landlords relying on rental income to cover expenses such as mortgage payments and basic living costs, few check to see their tenants have the means to pay their rent. Just under a third of landlords: a) carry out a credit check (31 per cent), b) ask for employer references (27 per cent), or c) ask for references from previous landlords (29 per cent).
Tenancy agreements are also an important part of the picture, giving the landlord a firm foundation to evict non-paying tenants or claim damages for financial loss caused by the tenant. AXA found that landlords are getting better on this front - this year's study revealed that 75 per cent of rentals are now based on a formal agreement, compared to just 52 per cent at the beginning of 2013.
Who are the UK's riskiest tenants?
When the results were broken down by region, gender and rental bracket, some interesting trends emerged.
All in all, the profile of the UK's riskiest tenant would be:
* Male - men were 18 per cent more likely to have infringed the law in relation to their rental (committing a crime on the premises, leaving without paying, theft, etc.).
* Aged between 18 and 24 - tenants become gradually better behaved with age, for instance, 64 per cent of tenants in this age range had broken their rental agreement, a figure which falls to just over a third in the 55+ category. A similar pattern emerged when asked about outright criminal behaviours.
* In the £700 to £1,500 per month rental bracket - just 2.5 per cent in the very lowest rental brackets (under £700 per month) said they'd committed a crime on the property, a figure which rises tenfold to 24 per cent in the £700 to £1,500 categories. This middle category also sees far higher rates of moonlight flitting and excess noise complaints (double the national average).
* Located in the West Midlands - This region had the highest proportion of tenants who admitted to breaking the law or terms of tenancy. Sixteen per cent of tenants in the West Midlands admitted to committing a crime on the property (compared to eight per cent nationally and three per cent in our, the most crime-free, region of East Anglia). They also came out worst on noise complaints, sub-letting and smoking.
So there you have it, your investment property is in safe old Norfolk and you used the services of a good agent to source your tenants - you must be feeling deservedly happy with your lettings lot in life and can prepare to enjoy the festive break without a concern. And, of course, the answer to that is a resounding 'Yes' provided you did your due diligence on your agent and you are absolutely happy with their Bona-Fides. Answer me this, "Did you actually see (and approve) the reference reports your agent obtained on your tenant?" If not, why not and if not, how do you know what the references actually covered? It never ceases to astound us when we take over letting and management from other agents how basic some of their checking is. We were told a very cautionary tale only last week by a new client of how their previous long-established agent in Norwich do not complete credit checks as part of their referencing process, even going so far as to put in writing, "we as an agency have found this to be of limited assistance when offering tenancies". No further comment required!
If you'd like to know what a fully comprehensive reference report should look like give us a call on 01603 766860. Here's a clue in the meantime, it should be backed by Free Eviction Cover and include Ongoing Credit Monitoring for the life of the tenancy.
Martin & Co Norwich
1 Charing Cross NR2 4AX