Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why a Good Credit Rating Is No Guarantee; Unconvinced by a Reference Agency Report, Victoria Whitlock Digs Up a Tenant's Renting Past and Uncovers Disturbing Details onlineThe Accidental Landlord

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why a Good Credit Rating Is No Guarantee; Unconvinced by a Reference Agency Report, Victoria Whitlock Digs Up a Tenant's Renting Past and Uncovers Disturbing Details onlineThe Accidental Landlord

Article excerpt

Byline: Victoria Whitlock

YOU MAY consider a credit report is a pretty good way of guaranteeing that a tenant is rock solid. Well, think again because even the most "comprehensive" checks made by some credit reference agencies -- supposedly delving deep into a tenant's past -- can be laughably superficial.

A tenant might have been turfed out of their previous property for not paying the rent -- they might even have trashed the place or turned it into a drugs den -- but you wouldn't necessarily know that from a credit report.

I received an offer on one of my flats from a woman who seemed okay, but there was something about her that made me a little uneasy, so I accepted on condition that she passed the most thorough credit and reference check money could buy.

Two days after she completed the forms online I had heard nothing from the credit reference agency, so I called to find out when I would get the results. I was told that they were just waiting for her current landlord to provide a reference.

"If you want to speed things up, the tenant can just get her landlord to call us and we'll do it over the phone," I was told.

How did they know this tenant wouldn't get a friend to call and pretend to be her landlord, I asked? "We don't," said the chap at this wellknown reference agency. "A lot of this process is done on trust."

I had too much to lose to risk leaving this in the hands of a boxticker, so I rang the mobile number the tenant had provided for her landlord myself. He sounded hesitant when I asked about her, but after an awkward pause he said she was fine and she had always paid her rent on time.

However, when I asked how much she was paying, he was vague. He was similarly uncertain when I asked him how long she had been renting from him. After a few seconds he said: "About a year". I wasn't convinced so I asked him to email me a copy of her tenancy agreement and then suddenly he remembered that she had only moved into his flat a month earlier on a short-term contract. …

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