Stop risking and make sure you check your tenants

My hands were shaking, I didn’t even know what to do, to cry or to call the police…

Around 9 years ago when most of the HMO management tasks were done solely by my partner and I, we took on a property that was a little difficult to rent out. Mostly because it was just a bit too far from the underground.

To rent out one of the vacant rooms I decided to post an advert on Gumtree. It was just to get some extra viewings as it so happened to be August, one of most quiet months of the year.

I had booked in a viewing with a potential tenant and as he was in a rush and needed to move ASAP. He wanted to see it on the same day. As I was trying to accommodate him and reduce void periods for the property, I didn’t ask any extra questions. I didn’t gather any information that we usually do, like not even his full name. Looking back, I realize how stupid it was and how the need to rent this room overtook my common sense.

He turned up with his friend. From the beginning I got a strange vibe, but I dismissed it.

I showed them around, the kitchen, the dining room, then the actual room and then the bathroom. The bathroom is this house was tiny and I have no idea why I went in it to show it.

Yes, I was in panic. He was staring and mumbling something that I don’t even remember now.

My natural reaction was to scream as loud as I can and I thank God that I did. One of the other tenants whose room was right next to bathroom heard me and rushed out to help. I’m sure it was only couple of seconds, but it felt like a whole eternity. The guy outside the bathroom saw him and just ran outside, pulling his friend with him.

There was relief and I was shocked, and I was so blessed that the tenant was home. When my shock was gone and I considered contacting the police, but I realized that the only information I had was his pay as you go mobile number and a first name.

I learned my lesson the hard way, but you don’t have to.

How to protect yourself:

Ensure you make it a rule to gather as much information as possible before booking the person in for viewings. Things like their full name, email address, existing address. Remember to take notes of reason why they are moving, when do they need to move, what do they do for work, what are their interests, etc.

We also gather information regarding referencing before booking them for viewings.

We make sure that they can pass referencing, have proof of income for the last 3 months ensuring that it’s at least 2.5 times the rent, have rights to rent in UK (visa). We don’t ask them actual referencing documents before the viewing, but we do ask tenants to confirm that they have it and can provide it on same day of the viewing if they are interested in renting the room.

So, my advice, always prequalify everyone who you invite to see the property, always!