Monday, 8 July 2013

Ask Auntie Rentergirl (Redux)

I’ve been sent another request for advice from a reader. I am not a debt advisor, nor am I legally qualified, so I’ll just put this out there:
‘In 2011 I graduated from university and to cut a long story short the shock of leaving university, struggling to find a job and being with the wrong person resulted in me failing to pay credit cards, phone bills and water bills which resulted in a CCJ and generally getting my finances in a real mess.
Roll on two and a half years I have secured a great job, met the love of my life and made real progress to becoming debt free (not a single default since May 2011) and I paid the CCJ off within three months of it being issued.

We are currently living in a privately rented house share however in the near future we would like to move into a small rented home for two. Just one problem I am petrified of approaching letting agents which require a credit check. I suppose what I am asking is will my poor finances really prevent us from renting - I have always paid my rent on time and all of my other bills have been paid on time for the past two years? How should I approach letting agents? Are there any really good ways of finding a private landlord?

You advice would be invaluable!’

The answer is – yes, it will cause you problems. Before you say it – ‘wants to move’ isn’t whimsical, but part of exercising the right to family life, and yes – it is a right. This problem is worsened by letting agents, who now farm out ‘credit checking’ to pricy outsourcing companies, so that some people in my correspondent’s situation don’t stand a chance. Remember, life is messy, and people make mistakes. This doesn’t mean they should forever be refused one of life’s essentials – that is, an appropriate home.

I’ve said it before hereabouts, but bankruptcy is surprisingly widespread. There are times when people simply can’t cope with what life is throwing their way, and they buckle. Must they be punished forever, and should they be punished at all? Do not judge – anyone could find themselves in this situation.

This person has paid off their debts – debts which can be incurred by anyone. What’s more, there are often two sides to any story – what seems like tenants doing a runner could be aggressive owners harassing vulnerable tenants into quitting.

Young people do some daft stuff, and hopefully they learn. Or people become ill, or disabled. Here however, the debt is paid. Remember that in times of economic crash, unemployment and cuts, this situation will become ever more common.
So do I have any advice? Sort of… First of all – try making your own ad, maybe on the can of worms that is Gumtree, openly and honestly stating your circumstances. There might be one humane, realistic landlord who thinks – ‘…there but for fate walk I.’ Indeed – there but for fate tread most of us.

Mindful of the low level of checks rentiers must endure before they let out homes, I’d suggest finding a guarantor, or – and I hate this - paying six months upfront, if the cash is available. Do not judge – anyone could find themselves in this situation. So, people - any more constructive advice, or ideas?

(NB – trolls will be deleted.)


Rich Tee said...

I think maybe it depends how keen the agency is to "get a tenant in". I expect that in London the demand is so good that they can afford to be fussy.

But where I live in the north of England the flat below mine was empty for three months before a new tenant took it. I think in those circumstances agencies will overlook a bad credit record in favour of getting some income for the landlord.

Dave said...

A guarantor or large deposit are sound options.

If the original debt has been repaid it will be marked as satisfied, which may look a bit better. As I side not judgements are not registered if they are repaid within one month, so it is generally wise to pay them quickly(if possible).

It might be worth signing up for the free Experian credit rating trial to see how bad or good the credit rating is.

Anonymous said...


+1 for seeing what your credit rating is, it may not be as bad as you think.

I would suggest being honest and up front about the issues from the start. It looks worse if you try to hide stuff and it comes out than just being up front about it.

Some agents(and LLs) may reject you out of hand, but then that may be an indication that they might not have been good ones to go with in the long term anyway.

The credit history is just one part of choosing a tenant. Of course part of the problem might be the "computer says no" attitude of some agents and LLs.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

If it is a satisied CCJ and everything else is good, I don't see it as a problem.

Alternatively, the tenancy can be taken out solely in the partners name (if they earn enough) with the CCJ tenant as a permitted occupier.

As already implied, check on the register of County Court Judgements, a large amount do not get entered on the register, if not enforced.

As RG said, get a guarantor. If neither of the tenants can find anyone who knows them to trust them, why would a landlord who doesn't know them?

6 months rent up front is becoming rejected more and more because of possible illegal activity and the legal minefield it creates for landlords.

Failing that (and unhelpfully), satisfied CCJ's and unenforced unsatisfied CCJ's automatically fall off the register after 6 years. Only another 4 years to go!

Regardsa, HB Welcome.

Anonymous said...

CCJ register here;

Costs £4.

Landlords can also check evicted ex tenants have been entered on correctly.

RenterGirl said...

Thanks for being so helpful. Wise words from you all.

Anonymous said...

Penny sorry for bloody I pad spelling above,I love it but it catches me out a lot

Anonymous said...

The fact is this person is a risk (perceived or otherwise) and have shown they are irresponsible with money/make poor money choices – if I was a landlord (which I’m not and generally agree with Renter Girls sentiments) I wouldn’t want to take a risk on that type of person. While I fully support more robust rights for tenants I can’t quite get my head around the lax attitude of people/society to those who are in debt - if you borrow money pay it bloody well back and if you don’t then be prepared to suffer the consequences in future – naïve maybe but there we go…

RenterGirl said...

The debt was paid off - fast. Why should people be punished, then barred forever for one of life's essentials, for youthful errors, even those which they have addressed. They took responsibility.

Anonymous said...

A wider debate away from renter rights but say an 18 year old (working class, poorly paid non graduate without even a hope in hell of owning their own home) had ‘borrowed’ £10 from petty cash in their workplace – they’d’ be sacked, branded a thief and struggle to find another job – however ‘youthful’ that would happen trust me. Debtors cost all of us money by defaulting and in turn pushing up the cost of borrowing - CCJ is not conjured out of thin air and serves a warning to anyone who might enter into an agreement with that person(s) that that person is irresponsible with money and/or doesn’t pay their debts on time. If you can’t afford to pay back a loan don’t borrow the money and then you won’t get CCJ’d or bankruptcy and will then be fine when credit checked – simple. This person has learnt a valuable life lesson and for now will have to suck it up…

Dazzla said...

Oh, I see. So people choose to take on a crushing debt burden, do they?

My apologies. I didn't realise it was a lifestyle choice.

Dazzla said...

Hello. Not strictly on topic but I thought you might be interested in this:


You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you with housing problems unless:

* there’s serious disrepair in your home
* you’re homeless
* you’re being evicted from your home
*the council is taking action against you because of anti-social behaviour.

There's other crap in there, like cutting legal aid for employment tribunals and non-SEN education disputes, but that's really off-topic.

I imagine that hotbed of vested-interest parliamentary lobbying Shelter will have something to say about this, and that it will delight such joyous credits to humanity as Barney from Newington.

RenterGirl said...

Yep - horrible on this long list of fresh, hellish horror.

Anonymous said...

Dazzla – yes they do by borrowing the money in the first place – in my experience and without exception all those whom I work with (mainly under 30’s although not exclusively) are in a fair amount of debt and by their own admition borrowed the money for things they didn’t need and shouldn’t really have bought, one colleague borrowed a large sum of money to buy a BMW (this is a guy of 24 on a modest income who could well have chosen to buy a more suitable car but no he ‘wanted’ a BMW)…in most cases being indebted is a choice (with perhaps the exception of mortgages which is more a necessity)…

Dazzla said...

So I suppose that because some people that you know are idiots, it follows that everyone who is in debt is exactly the same? Or have you overlooked the fact that some people borrow to cover the shortfall in their wages, and do this in preference to letting their children starve or go without winter heating a roof over their heads?

Mortgages are not a necessity. It's time we stopped believeng this ridiculous lie that's done more to entrap people in debt than any other.

Anonymous said...

Mortgages are a necessity only in the sense that a roof over my head is a necessity – but anyhow people in general are idiots, and if people don’t want their ‘kids to starve’ they should budget better…very people in the UK are genuinely poor some are I concede that and some really do need to borrow money but most people in debt have made poor financial decisions – fact whether you like it or not (btw as an example of my frugality I don’t own or watch a TV, have an ancient mobile phone and walk/bus everywhere as a car is essentially a luxury unless you live in a village)…

space cadet said...

Good stable secure housing that promotes autonomy is the priority, not mortgages.

And everyone deserves a chance to correct their mistakes, because 1. blame cultures are wholly divisive, and 2. no-one is beyond reproach.

Dazzla said...

"and if people don’t want their ‘kids to starve’ they should budget better"

They should...what? Shit money?

Have you ever had to choose between food and heat?

Dazzla said...

More gloom:

"A BBC housing calculator also identifies how renting a modest two-bedroom home for less than £700 a month is almost impossible in London and much of the South East. Modest is defined as having a rent below 75% of similar properties in the area."

Although I'm working in London at the moment and I'd love to be able to find even a 1-bed flat for £700 a month.

Still, I suppose they should budget better and save some of that non-existent disposable income.