by Ben Luxon November 20, 2019 11 min read

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Article Contents

  1. Finding Tenants
  2. Marketing your Property
  3. Processing Tenants
  4. Final Notes

Getting tenants isn’t as hard as letting agents like to make it out to be. In fact, if you’re willing to put in a little of the grunt work you can very efficiently fill your rentals, often faster, with better tenants than a high street letting agent!

Letting agents supply a service that many landlords simply aren't confident enough to do themselves. It's far less scary and worrisome to pass responsibility off to the professionals.

However, when you break it down and look at the individual actions they take to secure your tenants it's quickly evident that it's far less complicated, time-consuming or challenging than they make it out to be. And certainly not worth the 8%-15% of your monthly rent that they are going to charge.

In this article, we are going to detail the methods and processes that you don’t need a letting agent for!

Finding Tenants

Finding Tenants

Online letting agents

The internet has made it easier than ever to quickly and efficiently get your property in front of thousands of prospective tenants.

Rightmove and Zoopla are the websites that generate the most high-quality leads and these are actually what high street letting agents use.

The only problem for landlords is that neither Rightmove nor Zoopla work with private landlords. You can’t actually upload directly to their websites.

However, there is a solution. An online letting agent. By using one of these agents you can list on all of these big platforms with very little cost.

Below are 3 online letting agent examples:

Related: How to List your Property and Fill your vacancies for Free

DSS Tenants

The phrase ‘DSS tenant’ refers to the Department for Social Security, an old government department that was, in the past, responsible for benefit payments. 

Landlords can sometimes be nervous about tenants on low incomes, and many fear that those on benefits may fail to keep up on rent payment. For this reason, you may occasionally come across the phrase no DSS online. However, there are legal safeguards in place in the event that a tenant in receipt of Housing Benefit goes into arrears.

In these cases, provided the arrears are at least eight weeks, you can request that the local authority pays the benefit directly to you, rather than to the tenant. The local authority will then adjudicate, and is likely to rule that the money should be paid to you unless there is an overriding reason why this is not in the tenant’s best interest, for example, if there is an ongoing dispute over repairs.

Legally, there's nothing to stop you renting a property to DSS tenants. All the terms of a tenancy agreement remain the same and you're not required to provide anything extra.

The beauty with DSS tenants is that they’re particularly easy to find and at no cost. During your search for tenants, it’s highly probable that a DSS tenant will apply, and you need to know exactly what that means and not blindly just ignore the potential implications.

Social Media

Everyone, including your cat, has a social media account of some sort. And because of this the chances are you either know someone, or know someone that knows someone, that is looking for a place to rent.

Facebook, in particular, is good for sourcing prospective tenants for several reasons. 

Facebook Marketplace

In recent updates, Facebook has been using their market place and are beginning to make inroads into the property space as well. 

You can now add your listing with a detailed description, and images and then manage the enquiries via messenger or email.

Facebook Groups

There are hundreds of active groups on Facebook with people looking for places to live. So one method that is worth considering is joining relevant groups and pushing your marketplace listing in these groups. 

Make sure you read the group rules as some will not allow this and you could find yourself quickly being kicked out.

Facebook Status Update

The final method to try is a simple Facebook status update. Add your property description and ask if your friends or anyone your friends know might be looking for a place to rent. I personally know people that have successfully found great tenants with this method!

(The second major bonus of this is that it’s completely free.) Fair warning though, the quality of enquiry may be lower than those that come through the likes of Rightmove.

Facebook property listing

Gumtree

Gumtree still gets 40M+ hits a month and their property section is popular with both landlords and tenants.

Plus it allows you to list your property for FREE.

One thing to note though, is that you may well generate more “bad” leads and get more responses from time wasters.

Word of Mouth

Our final point in this section is word of mouth. This is a little more hands-on than simply creating a listing and waiting for the enquiry to come your way.

Speak to your neighbours, talk to your friends the chances are someone will be looking for a place to rent. Another thing you can try is incentivising your current tenants to help you get new tenants. Maybe offer money off their last month’s rent. 

The chances are, you know someone who knows someone that is looking to rent. Ask around, post out on Facebook and jump at any leads that crop up.

Listing on Rightmove and Zoopla is the ideal scenario, however utilising as many channels as possible will help you get your property in front of as many people as possible.

Marketing your Property

Know how much rent to charge

Few things are as off-putting to prospective renters as rent that is too high. If others in your neighbourhood are charging less than you, then you’ll likely see their properties fill before yours. Rent eats a huge portion of people’s paychecks so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they are looking out for good deal.

Rent that is too high will likely scare off a number of tenants and make your tenant finding process longer and harder.

Have a look at general statistics on websites like: https://www.home.co.uk/for_rent/current_rents_by_town.htm

Then we would recommend having a look at other rentals in your area on other listing websites (like Rightmove and Zoopla) and seeing what the average rent is for properties in the same area with similar amenities.

A final method you could use to set your rental price is to talk to the professionals and see what they would rent your property out at.  

Tips for writing a great description

Be accurate

The key to any good sales pitch is a balance between showing off what you’ve got, and not overselling it. The answer to this fine balancing act? Tell the truth.

You want to factual informative and descriptive. Prospective tenants should know exactly what to expect. Steer clear of fluffy words that do not add any real value to your rental listing. Words like ‘amazing’ or ‘charming’ may have ticked the boxes in your elementary creative writing class, but they are not going to cut the mustard when it comes to your rental listing.

Even though your rental property may be ‘awesome’, it’s hard to know what this may look/feel like from a renter’s perspective. A much more effective tactic is to tell your renter exactly why the property is so great, by using terms that accurately describe the property and its best features. Substitute superfluous words such as ‘fantastic’ and ‘wonderful’ with terms such as ‘spacious’ or ‘well-located’ to elevate your listing.

Be persuasive 

So you’ve got your accurate description down… however, a big blog of facts isn’t necessarily the most interesting or easy thing to read.

First, you need a catchy title. Make sure the heading really stands out.

For example, which is going to attract more tenants:

  • “1 BedRm - No Parking”;
  • or “Spacious, Recently Renovated 1 BedRm Apartment in the Heart of the City.”

Put yourself in your prospective tenant’s shoes and ask; would I want to go check out this listing?

Remember to highlight your property’s best features. Whether it be plenty of storage space, loads of natural light, off-street parking space or an ensuite bathroom, your property is sure to have something that gives it the WOW factor. For older properties, why not mention the original flooring or timeless marble benchtops - you never know, it might attract the perfect tenant.

Be professional

Be professional when listing your property

Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in rental listings is equivalent to wearing track pants to a job interview: sloppy and unprofessional. What sort of landlord are you going to be, if you can’t even use spell check?

Always proofread a listing and if you know this isn’t your strength, ask a friend or colleague to run an eye over it for you.

If grammar and spelling really aren't your thing check out Grammarly. They have an awesome free software, with a Chrome extension, perfect for all your grammar needs!

Know what your tenants want

Something that landlords often forget is that their tenants are the ones who will be living ion the property. Whilst they are there they are going to be calling it home, So it makes sense to give them what they want (at least to a reasonable degree).

If you think your tenants will appreciate smart technology to make the home more energy efficient then think about installing a smart thermostat for example. If you think you’ll get a lot more enquiry if you allow pets, and there’s a garden, then think about allowing pets (with conditions!)

Related: 6 Actionable Tips for Appealing to the largest Demographic of Renters Ever

Good Property Photography

Use high-quality photographs that match the property listings description. There is no point saying a property has loads of natural light if the photos are dark and dingy. Give consideration to the best time of day to take photos and make sure the property is tidy and clean.

Property Photography

Take care to avoid classic photo faux pas such as catching your own reflection in the bathroom mirror. This will only distract from the room you are trying to photograph and will make you seem unprofessional.

Bad photographs will beat you out of the game before you even get started. Many landlords seem to forget that they are actually trying to sell an extremely expensive product (over 1/3rd of the average households income).

We have written quite a comprehensive guide on what kind of images work and how you get professional photography because I believe it’s that important (and because so many landlords/agents still don’t seem to get it).

Processing Applicants

Check applicants before you arrange viewings

One of the main pain points that comes with finding new tenants is that it takes time. And this is only made worse by time-wasters who have no real intention of renting your property. Whether they’re just browsing or if crushing the hopes of landlords is just how they entertain themselves over the weekends, if you’re not vigilant from the get go you can quickly see your time disappearing.

It can be tedious beyond belief, especially if you get inundated with applicants (which is becoming more and more common as the rental market grows).

One of the most common mistakes landlords make when processing tenancy applications is granting and scheduling every applicant with a viewing slot. There’s no need to do that. Of course, if you want to needlessly waste a buttload of time, then go for it. But remember, your time is precious.

You should only be scheduling viewings with suitable applicants. Typically, that means someone that is employed and has a suitable salary; someone that can get a guarantor; someone that can provide references; someone that fits the lifestyle of your property.

Experienced landlords will typically do two things to identify the more serious applicants:

  • Talk to them over the phone;
  • Have them fill out a tenancy applicant.

If this pre-screening process upsets prospective tenant and sends them packing, then it just means it’s working.

Arranging and doing your viewings

When it comes to arranging your viewings there are a number of reckless mistakes that landlords fall into the habit of making which can end up being costly.

  • Don’t stop taking viewings;
Not until the paperwork is signed, the deposit collected and your tenants are moved in.
  • Be Flexible;
You want to make sure you give as many suitable candidates the opportunity to see the property. If this means you have to postpone your Sunday golf game then that’s just how it’s going to have to be. 
  • Be Fast;
Tenants rarely wait around. There are a lot of properties on the market and I doubt yours is the only one they’re going to look at. If you put off their viewings then that could cost you the tenant.
  • Know your property;

The more you know the better. Things to know before you show include:

1) how much the council tax is,

2) which utility suppliers are currently connected to each service,

3) how the boiler works,

4) location of local amenities.

  • Be honest;
Don’t fall into the trap of making thigs up because you’re caught on the spot. This will likely come back to haunt you. Tell them you don’t know, make a note of their question and offer to email over the answer once you’ve checked for them.
  • Cover the essential details;
Talk about and reconfirm the rent, their ability to pay, length of the tenancy, and your policies on smoking and pets.
  • Be curious;
You want to get the best sense of your tenant’s character as possible.
    • Why are they vacating their current rental?
    • How much are they currently paying?
    • What do they do for work?
    • How long have they worked there?

Tenant Referencing Process

There are two key mistakes landlords make when it comes to referencing their tenants.

  1. They eagerly accept the first tenant that comes along in a desire to minimise vacancies as much as possible.
  2. They don’t bother to properly reference their prospective tenants.

Bad tenants can cause a whole world of grief for landlords. 

How though do you determine who is going to be a good tenant and who is going to isn’t? Who is going to pay rent on time? Who is going to look after the property and treat it respectfully, or who is going to dodge rent payments and take 6 months to evict?

Which is why you need a thorough tenant referencing process. 

Open Rent OpenRent Tenant Referencing Service

Get a comprehensive tenant referencing report from Open Rent for just £20. 

letting a propertyLetting a Property Tenant Referencing

Get a comprehensive tenant referencing report from £49 or choose one of their lettings and rent management plans with tenant referencing included.

Because this article is already far too long already we are going to direct you to our detailed guide for tenant referencing that you can find here.

Final Notes

Airtight lease

To keep the best tenants you need to be a good landlord.

Finding and securing the best tenants can be a hassle, it can be time-consuming and it can be tedious. Which is why once you have a good tenant you want to ensure you 

Using property management tools like landlord studio can go some way to helping you.

Know your legal obligations.

Before letting your property, you should ensure certain legal requirements are met, such as:

For more details on the above and other landlord legal requirements, head over to our legal pages or check out the government help pages.

Have an airtight lease.

Get a proper lease made. You can get this done fairly cheaply using services like Rocket Lawyer.

Properly maintain your property.

Our very final point is to make sure that throughout, not just their tenancy, but whilst you own the property, make sure you maintain the property to the highest of standards. There are several reasons for this. 

  1. Nobody wants to live in a dump (well some tenants… we won’t go into that).
  2. It will help you avoid expensive surprise maintenance costs down-the-line.

And with that, we are signing off. Thanks for reading. 

Got any thoughts, or anything to add, let us know in the comments section below.

Ben Luxon

"Ben is an author and real estate enthusiast. His interest in all things entrepreneurial has led him to work with real estate professionals all over the world, distilling their knowledge into articles and Ebooks. His love of travelling has taken him to over 10 countries in the last year, where he has sampled the craft beer of them all."



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