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Help, I’m Being Referenced! The Do’s & Dont's of Tenant References

February 25, 2014Tags: tenants | tenant referencing

So you’ve found a property you want to rent, and the letting agent says you’ll need to be referenced.  Had you bargained for this?  Is it really necessary, and what can you do to prevent this formality turning into a headache?

Here are some useful tips for approaching referencing from the right angle, and ensuring the fastest possible turnaround by working with the referencing agency, not against them.  Would these pointers have helped you in previous applications?  Let us know in the comments below.

DO appreciate the need for referencing.
A tenancy agreement is a serious financial arrangement, and by putting their property in the hands of a stranger, the landlord is taking a risk.  To minimise that risk, information that is relevant to your suitability as a tenant, such as your income, your identity, or your credit history, must be independently verified before assessment.

DON’T take offence to being referenced.
You haven’t been singled out for referencing because somebody doesn’t trust you.  All applicants go through the same verification procedure, for insurance purposes and as standard protection for the landlord.  You may be the perfect tenant but i’s must be dotted and t’s must be crossed consistently.

DO examine the criteria before you apply.
Ideally, referencing should be about proving that your circumstances meet the requirements, not finding out whether they do or not.  If your income won’t be high enough or you’re on the wrong type of contract at work, then it’s better to realise this right away and get the ball rolling on a guarantor’s application if it’s already apparent that one will be required.  Also be sure to check whether all of your income can be taken into consideration or if certain kinds won’t be included in the referencing.

DON’T be unreachable.
There are many situations that may call for your further involvement in the referencing process after you’ve filled in the form, such as clarification of particular details on your application or additional paperwork being required.  To prevent delays during this time, ensure you check your emails and voicemails at least once a day, and make an exception to your personal rule about not answering the phone to numbers you don’t recognise!

DO confirm the best contacts to offer as referees.
And wherever possible, inform them that they will be contacted.  Considerable time can be wasted if the original contacts supplied are not in a position to provide references, or require authorisation from the applicant before agreeing to divulge information.  Giving the most appropriate person’s details first time can make referencing a much quicker and smoother process.

DON’T rely on the post if you can help it.
If you’re in a hurry to move in, the last thing you need is for referencing to be carried out by snail mail.  Try and provide as many alternative means of contact for your referees as possible, such as email addresses, fax numbers, and both landline and mobile telephone numbers, to maximise the chance of contact being made and the swiftest possible response obtained.

DO check which forms of ID are acceptable.
Not all referencing agencies are alike, and while your friends may assure you that certain documents will suffice, their experiences may be with different companies.  Avoid the frustration of additional trips by confirming with the agent that what you intend to bring into the office to prove your identity and address will meet their specific criteria.  If they require a bank statement or utility bill, how recent does it need to be?  If you don’t have a passport, will your work ID card be okay?  Just ask.

DON’T cut it too fine.
While every effort will be made to complete the referencing process quickly, there are many unavoidable circumstances that can slow things down, such as busy HR departments unwilling to prioritise one employee’s reference, or a previous landlord who really must do everything by post.  The more time you can allow for these unforeseen delays before your intended move-in date, the less stressful these speed bumps will be.

Referencing is a crucial part of the lettings process but is easily overlooked in the excitement of finding a home to rent.  The majority of times it’s only a minor inconvenience, and by utilising these tips there’s a strong chance that yours will be one of these times.  Even if you currently find yourself unlikely to pass referencing, a better understanding of the process can help avoid prolonging the inevitable and get you moving swiftly towards discussing the next best solution with your letting agent, like a guarantor or advance payment options. 

Good luck, and don’t forget to share your experiences in the comments below!

by James Hamill, Progression Co-ordinator, Your Move