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Rented Focus: Can I use social media to carry out checks on a potential tenant?

If you want to know what a prospective tenant had for breakfast, by all means check them out on Facebook. But, as Anna Pettinger explains this month, social media is no substitute for formal referencing…

Can I use social media to carry out checks on a potential tenant?

A recent study conducted by Foundation Home Loans revealed increasing numbers of landlords are turning to social media platforms, such as Facebook, to find out more about potential tenants.

Whilst this is not a new method of digging into a person’s background, it suggests more landlords are choosing to carry out their own checks, rather than use professional referencing companies or formal tenant referencing.

Social media can provide some useful details, such as information on relationships, hobbies or pets, but it has obvious pitfalls. It cannot tell you whether someone is currently able to pay their rent, has defaulted in the past or is a genuinely good tenant. It should, therefore, not be used as an alternative to professional checks.

For your peace of mind, it is important to know who you are renting to, so you can be assured they will pay on time and your investment will be looked after. If you are letting your property privately, you are also obliged by law to confirm a prospective tenant is legally allowed to rent in the UK, although if you use an agent, this will be done on your behalf.

Referencing doesn’t cost the earth. In fact, some agencies, including RentalStep (partnered with Experian), have set up free services for landlords, to ensure you don’t become the victim of a problem tenant.

Someone who doesn’t pay is a landlord’s worst nightmare and it is not always as easy as you may think to carry out an eviction. We are instructed regularly by clients who have rented properties to people without carrying out detailed checks and subsequently need to regain possession. There are several options open to us, but taking precautionary steps to reduce the risks of eviction inevitably cost less time and effort and are far less stressful.

So, in answer to the original question, by all means find out what you can about a prospective tenant on social media, but not at the expense of formal referencing.

If you want to know more about tenant referencing or evicting problems tenants, don’t hesitate to contact me or Sarah Coates-Madden on (0114) 218 4000 or email info@tayloremmet.co.uk.

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