If you’re looking to rent a property in the UK, you’ll need an extensive list of documents. You'll need to prove your identity, employment, character and most importantly, that you’ll be able to pay the rent.
One of the most time-consuming and stressful elements of finding a property to rent is often not the house-hunting itself, but getting together everything you need to be considered as a trustworthy prospective tenant by an estate agent or a landlord. This can involve a lot of paperwork, so it’s best to put together all of the necessary evidence before you start house-hunting. As the rental property market can be very competitive, particularly in London, landlords often have a choice of tenants and may be swayed by a complete dossier of documents which is ready to hand over rather than delay the transaction.
Preparation is key. Start your property search process by putting together a physical folder and a computer file containing all of the documents we list below, and bring it with you to any viewings or meetings in case your credentials are questioned. While not every landlord will require the same level of detail, it's best to cover all possible bases so that you don't have to keep hunting for documents or requesting evidence when you're about to close on a property. In addition, although it can be rather a long process putting the rental dossier together, especially when requesting letters and references, it’s an excellent collection of documents to have for anything you may subsequently be doing, particularly if you are new to the UK and need to rent or buy a car, apply for a credit card or change employment. We also recommend that you photocopy and scan any documents in case of loss or damage!
If there is a reason why you are unable to provide certain pieces of evidence, it may be possible to circumvent this by paying more rent upfront. Speak to the letting agent or landlord about this directly to explain the situation as early as you can to give yourself the best chance of finding an alternative solution. It is also likely that a credit check will be run against you, to confirm that you have a good credit rating in the UK. If you know that you have a bad credit rating, be honest about this in advance before you pay any fees or continue the transaction. Depending on your landlord, you may be able to pay a larger deposit or provide a guarantor instead.
If you’re studying, self-employed or earning little more than the rent, it may be necessary to have a guarantor for your property. This is a representative who will co-sign on the tenancy agreement, and who will be liable to pay rent if the tenant is not able to. The guarantor must provide similar documents, earn three times the rent, be in full-time employment and own their own home, although the strictness of these requirements depends again on the agency. Most people use a parent or relative as a guarantor, but there are no restrictions on your relation to the guarantor.
Finally, many estate agents charge fees for document and reference checks, so remember the costs when you're drawing up a budget for renting a property. Good luck!
Proof of Identity
According to the law, applicants for a rental property must be aged over 18 and be a legal UK resident. Like any other legal transaction, proof of identity and current address is required and verified before any more detailed discussions take place. This can come in the form of:
- Photo ID (such as a valid passport or driving licence)
- An official letter dated within the last three months (such as a utilities or tax bill)
- An Electoral Register entry
- If coming from abroad, a copy of your UK visa and associated documents allowing you to rent in the UK will also be required
Proof of Employment and Earnings
While renting a property as a self-employed individual or freelancer is possible, it’s more straightforward if you are in full-time employment and can prove your position is stable. Some landlords and estate agencies require tenants to earn at least 2-3 times the rent unless they can provide a guarantor, but this is not a legal requirement and depends on the discretion of the person who owns or manages the property. Either way you will need to provide proof of your employer and what you do earn, such as:
- Recent pay slips for the last three - six months
- A letter from your employer confirming your job title, salary and contract length
- A current employment contract
- A tax return for the most recent tax year
If you’re self-employed, you might be asked to provide evidence of earnings and accounts for a much longer period - some landlords have been known to ask for as much as three years worth of income evidence! You’ll certainly be required to provide more documents, such as bank statements, company details (if working through your own limited company), and invoice records if the landlord is particularly nervous. If you’re unable to sufficiently prove that you can support yourself through your work, you may have to provide a guarantor or a significant amount of rent upfront.
- Evidence of income (for one to three years) via bank statements or invoice records
- Company details (such as certificate and tax returns)
As well as running a credit check on potential tenants, it’s likely that your potential landlord or estate agent will require references to confirm your identity, employment and character. Some of these can be obtained in writing, but it’s best to prime your referees when you begin the house-hunting process so they are aware and will not be surprised by a phone call or email to confirm some of the details you have supplied. References from a previous landlord are always helpful, although sometimes not possible if you had a difficult relationship or left the property on bad terms. In that case, proof of a previous tenancy agreement and rent receipts to show timely payments might be sufficient. Proof that you had a full deposit refunded is also helpful for confirming your behaviour as a tenant.
- Reference from a previous landlord, stating that payment was timely and that you are a trustworthy tenant
- Reference from an employer, confirming both your employment and character
- Reference from a friend or colleague confirming your character
Many agencies now use dedicated referencing companies to check potential tenant’s references, so you will just need to provide names and contact details and they will do the rest. This can often cost around £200 per tenant however, so be aware that the agency will charge you for your references before you start the process. Unfortunately, if the agencies use referencing companies then you also won't have a choice but to pay if you want to continue working with them. For more information on the complete costs incurred when renting and moving house, check out our article on how much it costs to move to London.
Main image credit:Long Nguyen