Tenancy Referencing Warning

01/09/2011

Worries over agents allowing Tenants to sign contracts prior to any referencing, checks or guarantor qualification having taken place.

2011 has been a funny old year for Student Lettings in Leeds. The last few weeks have seen a huge scramble for the last remaining properties in both Headingley and Hyde Park, where latest Student Rental figures have shown a 3% increase on last year. A large proportion of this is due to this being the last academic year prior to the introduction of higher Student Fees.

The worrying factor is that whilst agents compete heavily to sign up new tenants in a fast paced and very competitive environment, we have seen a number of agents allowing Tenants to sign contracts there and then, prior to any referencing, checks or guarantor qualification having taken place.

The economic situation means that more people are likely to be renting for the first time and, like students, may not have any rental history to base a reference on. If the Tenant has neither any rental history nor working history then placing that Tenant in a property poses some real risks to the landlord.

It would be common practice to ensure a Guarantor is put in place to guarantee the Rent and the Tenancy, but it is of upmost importance that the qualification of the Guarantor takes place to ensure they are in a financial position to fulfil their obligations under the rental contract.

The practice of signing Tenants up there and then without any of these checks having taken place is a real worrying factor.

Let-Leeds takes referencing very seriously, allowing only the best Tenants to sign contracts, once the referencing has taken place. It is important to view the history of the Tenant, such as a previous landlord reference or credit check. At the same time, a Guarantor is essential where the Tenant, such as a Student, is not in full time employment.

The Guarantor is a fundamental part of the Tenancy and so should be treated as such, with full referencing being fulfilled. Because of this, our policy is to only accept home-owning Guarantors, and all of our Guarantors are both credit checked, as well as proof of home ownership being sought through land registry.

We would seriously advise professional and local Landlords to take note and ensure that the proper checks are conducted prior to Tenancies being signed.

Nigel Atkinson of Tenancy referencing and insurance firm Property Risks warned that references must be taken out on tenants' guarantors - and not just the tenants themselves. And even though Landlords can protect themselves with legal expenses and rent guarantee cover, this will only be dependent on satisfactory referencing of both tenant and guarantor.

We believe the Guarantor should be as referenced as carefully as the Tenant; after all it's the Guarantor that will be pursued if the tenant defaults.

2011 really has been a funny old year for Student Lettings in Leeds.

First, we saw a huge surge for Student properties in Hyde Park with the area being the most fashionable place for Students.

Whilst Hyde Park has been a fairly run-down area in the past, a large number of professional landlords in the area have invested heavily on excellent standard properties; we were seeing average rents of £80 per person per week for the best Student properties in Hyde Park. The fantastic location of Hyde Park in comparison to the Universities and City Centre made Hyde Park the location of choice the majority of Students. A large number of Students only considered Hyde Park as their property location for the 2011/2012 academic year.

After the initial rush in December 2010 and January 2011, the market saw a very slow and painful period in which large numbers of landlords were getting understandably worried, especially in neighbouring Headingley, where some agents reported the largest number of available bed spaces for that time of year.

Suddenly, the economic climate combined with the large-scale building of trendy, Leeds City Centre based, luxury student accommodation were being blamed. Landlords were desperate to fill their properties for the upcoming academic year and resorted to lowering rents.

The last few weeks have seen a large u-turn, where Students have scrambled for the last remaining properties in both Headingley and Hyde Park. A large proportion of this is due to this being the last academic year prior to the introduction of higher Student Fees. A local student halls accommodation reported that all first year student accommodation was full, and experiencing large waiting lists.

Let-Leeds has now completely let all of our stock and is experiencing our lowest levels of available property.

The successful Let-Leeds brand will be embarking on a large-scale recruitment drive in November for new professional and portfolio Student landlords for the next academic year, where property marketing will commence at the start of December 2011. Our reputation within the Student and Young Professional market-place has risen steadily thanks to our high levels of freshness and professionalism; we see that as the springboard to make 2012 as the year to triple our number of Student Properties.

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