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Tenant Management

What is a rent guarantor and when should landlords require one?

What is a rent guarantor?

A rent guarantor is, as the name suggests, a person that will guarantee the tenants rent. They do this by agreeing to share responsibility. Should the tenant fail to pay rent or be unable to the guarantor agrees to pay it in the tenant’s stead.

A rent guarantor can be anyone, a friend or family, who meets the income requirements for the property.

Whilst they don’t need to be a homeowner themselves, they must live in the UK. Most often rent guarantors are used by younger renters or students who may not have a previous rental history and the guarantor is a relative, though not always.

Why should a landlord require a rent guarantor?

A rent guarantor provides landlords with a level of certainty and financial security. Whether or not a tenant needs a rent guarantor is usually determined during the tenant referencing process.

Common reasons landlords will require a guarantor include:

  • have poor or no credit history in the UK
  • are a student or renting for the first time
  • are unemployed or have a low income
  • they recently moved to the UK from overseas

It’s important to note that landlords cannot charge additional fees as part of the tenant referencing process even if they need to request a guarantor. For example, they can’t charge for a credit check or a guarantor agreement.

Do I need a rent guarantor if I’m self-employed?

If you are self-employed, especially if this is a recent change it can be hard to prove the stability of your income. As such landlords will generally request one of the following:

  • At least 6 months of personal bank statements
  • At least 1 month of business bank statements
  • A copy of your SA302 form
  • Confirmation of your income from your accountant

For individuals that have been self-employed for less than 6 months, it can be difficult to prove that they meet the required income levels. If this is the case, landlords may ask for a UK-based rent guarantor.

Do retired people need rent guarantors?

Retired people may find it difficult to prove that they fit the minimum criteria that are generally required for a tenant. For example, if they are planning to pay from their pension or from their savings, they won’t be able to provide an employment reference or evidence of income. In this circumstance, you may ask for a rent guarantor. Alternatively, you might accept rent in advance.

Rent guarantors and bad credit

Generally, tenant referencing includes a credit check. The credit check contains financial information that is held against your name for the last six years. If the credit check reveals any county court judgements or large outstanding debts then you might request a rent guarantor in this circumstance as well.

Rent guarantors and rent arrears

A history of rent arrears is a sign that a tenant may very well fall into arrears again in the future. Previous rent arrears should be highlighted as part of the tenant referencing check. If a prospective tenant does have a history of rent arrears, but you still want to rent to them you can ask for a rent guarantor in this scenario. This gives you as the landlord an extra layer of security.

Rent Guarantor Income Requirements

Should you require a guarantor, for example, your tenant applicant has no previous rental history or doesn’t meet your income requirements you can ask for a guarantor. Before accepting their guarantor, however, you will want to ascertain that the guarantor themselves has the required income to meet the rent payments should the tenant default.

Much like the tenant, you should determine that the guarantor has a stable income and they have the financial capabilities to cover the rent amount should the tenant prove unable to pay. If they are required to pay at any point you need to be sure that they are able to.

The guarantor agreement

The guarantor agreement is a legally binding document. It should be read carefully by all parties involved and signed by the guarantor, tenant and landlord before the tenancy begins.

Make sure your tenant understands:

  • when you will ask their guarantor to pay
  • how long the guarantor agreement lasts
  • what happens in a joint tenancy

Finally, it’s a good idea to ensure that the guarantor is happy with what they are being asked to agree to.

When your guarantor can be asked to pay

This should be clearly stipulated in the guarantor agreement. Generally, landlords can ask a guarantor to pay in one of the two following circumstances.:

  • The tenant fails to pay rent
  • The tenant causes damage to the property

Should neither party pay, landlords can pursue a county court judgement (CCJ) against both the tenant and the guarantor.

How long a guarantor agreement lasts

A guarantee agreement signed by all parties is usually open-ended, meaning that the guarantor can be liable beyond the fixed period of the tenancy and if any changes are made. If the agreement isn’t open-ended, it should specify when the guarantor’s liability starts and ends and the guarantor should be informed of any significant changes made to the tenancy agreement.

If the guarantor doesn’t want their liability to continue after the end of the fixed-term tenancy they should discuss this with you and this should be added to the agreement to make it clear to everyone when the agreement ends.

Does the guarantor agreement end if there’s a change to the tenancy?

Should there be a change to the tenancy, such as a rent increase of a new tenancy begins, this generally means that the guarantor agreement no longer applies. That is unless the guarantor agreement either states that the agreement will continue in these situations, or the guarantor agrees to the change.

A court can decide if the guarantor agreement is still in place if it’s unclear.

Guarantors for a joint tenancy

A joint tenancy or a tenancy in which the tenants are “jointly and severally liable” is when each tenant can be held responsible for the entirety of the rent – not just their share.

This means, should tenants skip out on the tenancy the landlord only needs to track down one of the tenants. Or if one tenant fails to pay, the landlord can pursue the full amount from the others.

A guarantor agreement for a joint tenancy works in much the same way. The guarantor will be liable for the total amount of the rent, not just their share or the share of the tenant that they are a guarantor for unless the agreement states otherwise.

If there’s more than one guarantor, each one should sign the guarantor agreement and agree to any changes.

Final Words

Just because a tenant doesn’t meet your criteria doesn’t mean you have to turn them away. However, renting to a tenant with a history of rent arrears, or who is unable to prove sufficient income, is a risk. A tenant defaulting on rent can cost a landlord thousands and may lead to requiring an eviction. The best way to mitigate this risk is to take preventative measures.

A rent guarantor is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risks associated with renting your property. With a guarantor, you can feel some security and reassurance that even should the tenant be unable to pay you have options you can pursue in order to recover lost funds.

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