Most tenants in London never check their landlord’s credentials

The vast majority of people who rent a home in London don’t bother to check the landlord’s credentials leaving them open to dodgy landlords, new research suggests.

Some 92% of London renters take what they can get and despite typically having to pay for the privilege of having a background check conducted on themselves, they don’t perform the same due diligence on their potential landlord.

The study, by London removals firm Kiwi Movers, also found that highly competitive property marketing is cited as the number one reason for not doing checks on landlords and overall only 20% of UK renters do any sort of check on their landlord before agreeing a tenancy.

Renters in Liverpool most likely to check out a landlord online before renting. . A third of the city’s residents say they’ve performed a background check on a landlord before agreeing to move into a property.
Some 31.63% in Swansea would check the landlord, 26.83% in Southampton, 24.33% in Leicester, 24.07% in Glasgow, 23.37% in Sheffield, 23.3% in Brighton and Hove, 23% in Cardiff, 21.73% in Portsmouth and 21% in Birmingham.
The research also found that women are more likely than men to background check a landlord at 24% compared to 15% of men and 44% of women would prefer to rent from another woman.

Also one in five believe renting from an agency meant they didn’t need to worry about landlord credentials or history and but 53% of those that found negative information, in the form of a review, news article or details of legal issues, said it influenced their decision to rent from that person.
Just 8% of London residents do any kind of background check on their landlord, 62% below the national average of 20%. London residents are also the least likely to act on information about a potential landlord, with fewer than half (44%) of them saying negative the information had influenced a housing decision. In other words, the need to secure a property was greater than their need to rent with confidence.

One of those who prefer a woman landlord is PR manager Billie Gianfrancesco who has been renting in London since 2008 and is on her fifth rental property.  ‘In my experience, female landlords tend to work more closely with property managers or put a system in place whereby tenants can resolve any issues quickly without needing to bother or chase them,’ she said.

‘I've found that male landlords prefer to try and resolve the issue themselves first. This often means repeat visits in person, which makes any tenant nervous, and a greater recurrence of botched DIY repairs. In one situation an upstairs bath was leaking, and our male landlord visited four times attempting to fix the issue himself. Because of this, the problem wasn't resolved for over a month. I faced a similar issue a couple of years later with a female landlord, she called in a professional and the issue was resolved within a week,’ she explained.

‘As a female tenant, I also prefer to deal with a female landlady as in my personal experience, I have at times felt intimidated by male landlords. This is particularly true when dealing with the inventory check out and deposit negotiations at the end of a tenancy. I've also had a great male landlord. It's just that if I had a preference it would be a female,’ she added.

Dan Wilson Craw, policy manager of Generation Rent, pointed out that anyone with a spare room or flat can let it out with no checks involved. ‘There is an unknown number of dodgy landlords out there. For the tenant, there is no way of finding out what their prospective landlord is like beyond a Google search, and even then it might be too late to back out of a contract without forfeiting fees. This is why we need to open up the list of convicted landlords for tenants to access, and, better yet, introduce a system of licensing,’ he said.

Regan McMillan, boss of Kiwi Movers who conducted the research, believes the rental market is so cut throat that tenants are putting themselves in the hands of potentially dodgy landlords, just to secure a property.

‘We see the sharp end of the rental market. We get to meet and speak to a lot of people who, quite frankly, are at the mercy of the highly competitive rental market. Rental properties are snapped up in a flash and most people know that if they want to secure a place to live, they need to act quickly. This means they simply don’t have time to check out a landlord and even if they did, I think a lot of them would take the risk just to get a place to live,’ he said.
‘The problem is less pronounced outside of the capital, but it’s still a sad state of affairs for renters all over the UK. That only 20% of renters nationally are checking out their landlord before renting is hugely concerning. As a nation, we probably take more care when buying a car than we do when choosing a person from whom to rent a home,’ he added.