How Let to Tenants Who Failed Referencing

A Failed Rental Reference Doesn’t Mean the End of the Road

It sounds confusing, but just because a tenant fails referencing or a credit check, it doesn’t necessarily mean that letting your property to them is a bad idea.

Finding the right tenants is the main challenge of being a private landlord, and referencing is the best tool at your disposal. But the Pass or Fail on your referencing report isn’t the be all and end all of whether an enquiry will turn out to be a good tenant.

Here to take us through just how to interpret the result of your referencing report is Priya Gill from UK referencing company Rentguard.

What Is Included in Referencing? 

Referencing can provide a deep insight into a tenant’s background, including a written verification of employment and income, a previous letting reference or homeownership check, residency confirmation, affordability calculation and a full credit history check, including any outstanding County Court Judgements (CCJs).

Getting a tenant reference is not only in the landlord’s interest, but also assures the tenant that their new landlord has a professional approach and is interested in maintaining their property in the best condition.

Order tenant referencing from OpenRent

What if my tenant fails their reference?

As a landlord, you want as much information as possible before letting someone live in your property. The more you know, the less risky the tenancy is. Referencing is the best way to get this information.

Always remember, however, that who you decide to let to is your choice. Referencing is useful because it reveals possible problems, but in the end, it is ultimately the landlord’s decision, even if the tenant fails referencing.

A tenant could fail a reference for various reasons, in different areas, yet still be a good choice for the property. But how? Let’s look at some examples here.

Example One: Tenant Has Failed the Affordability Calculation

The affordability calculation is designed to tell landlords whether a tenant’s income is high enough for them to take on the rent of the property.

A tenant can fail an affordability calculation if their income is less than two and a half times the rental amount. However, they may have significant savings which they plan to use to make monthly payments or they may be financially supported by parents or student loans.

The Solution

Asking the tenant to provide a guarantor is a simple, fast way to proceed with confidence in this situation. The guarantor takes responsibility for paying the rent if the tenant defaults, protecting you from loss without adding to the tenant’s move-in moneys.

A suitable guarantor must be based in the UK, have a good credit history and should have sufficient income to cover their own living costs as well as the tenant’s rent. Although it’s not all over if a tenant fails a credit check, it is necessary for a guarantor to pass their referencing, as a landlord cannot take out Rent Guarantee Insurance without this, should they wish to do so.

A guarantor is particularly common for student tenants, tenants on low pay and tenants with a chequered employment history.

Example Two: My Tenant Has a Low Credit Check Score

Tenant referencing also includes a credit check. It is possible for a tenant to have a low credit score, and yet still be perfectly able to pay the rent. Once again, a failure on this section of the referencing doesn’t mean the end of the line for your tenancy.

The tenant may have a low score simply because they haven’t previously borrowed money or used a credit card. Although a low score raises a red flag initially, if it is caused by these factors, it needn’t be an impediment to your tenancy.

The Solution:

In this situation, simply putting the score in context is enough to help you make your decision. Students, recent graduates or other younger people may have very little credit history, yet be perfectly suitable.

Example Three: Students and Referencing

Of all tenants, students fit the mould of tenant referencing least. They move address often and usually have no credit history, meaning they will almost always have a low credit score. Plus they’re very unlikely to have a salary of 2.5 times the monthly rent, so will most likely fail the affordability rating.

The Solution

Obviously, this does not mean that students make bad tenants: 14% of landlords let to students, after all, and most of them have no problems. Here again, it is common practice to provide a guarantor – often a parent.

To provide extra assurance to landlords, it can be worthwhile to try to get a reference from the previous landlord or student housing association, confirming that they have paid their rent on time and were good tenants. If they’re able to supply this, it should be enough to persuade you of their suitability as tenants and of the guarantor’s ability to make payments.

Example Four: My Tenant Has No Proof of Address

Being able to prove the tenant’s current address is a key step in avoiding fraud, so it is an important part of referencing. A lack of proof of address can result in a fail, but there could be a number of legitimate explanations for a tenant not being able to supply it.

Proof is usually made through named utility bills, the electoral roll or the previous tenancy agreement. But it would not be unusual for a tenant to be unable to provide any of these three things.

The Solution:

Often, tenants are not responsible for paying any of their bills. They may also have lived at their address too short a time to be registered on the electoral roll. It is also not unusual for their name not to be the tenancy agreement: e.g. if they have moved in with a cohabiting partner and haven’t been added to the contract.

 In these scenarios, requesting the tenant to show a letter from their bank should be a simple way to confirm their address.

Understanding a Fail

If a tenant fails the referencing process, this doesn’t mean that you cannot let your property to them. The truth is, if you like the would-be tenant and feel they are a good fit for your property, there are many ways to get around a failed reference.

Referencing provides you with a risk assessment and helps you evaluate how risky letting to this individual could be. Ultimately, it’s your decision to investigate why the tenant failed the referencing check and to decide whether the reason for not passing is significant enough to not let to the tenant.

Why Passing Referencing Is Important

 For some Rent Guarantee & Legal Expenses Insurance policies, it is a requirement that the landlord carries out references before the tenants move into the property.

It may not be possible to buy these policies if the tenant in question fails their reference. Often, a suitable guarantor can make the policies available once more, so even here a fail isn’t the end of your options as a landlord.

Go to the OpenRent Help Centre for more advice on tenant referencing


Priya Gill, Rentguard referencing expert

Priya Gill is a referencing expert at UK property insurers, Rentguard. OpenRent partner with Rentguard to provide an unbeatable referencing service and Rent Guarantee Insurance offer to landlords across the UK!



25 Replies to “How Let to Tenants Who Failed Referencing”

  1. I have failed my reference from landlord for rent arrears years ago but all sorted. Been here ten years and passed everything else and good reference from my employer, is there any chance I will be accepted with new landlord?

    1. Hi Caroline – yes, absolutely. Landlords are usually very willing to make decisions based on the specific tenant they’re dealing with. Being up front about your circumstances is the best way to enter a tenancy that suits both parties.

  2. My boyfriend and i have just put a deposit down on a property, however he does not have a bank account so cannot provide these details. My wages alone cover the rent for the property, would the landlord take this into account or refuse us altogether?

    1. Hi Jojo, if this is an OpenRent property then you’re able to discuss these things directly with the landlord by using the contact information on the property listing. Many landlords would be happy with such an arrangement, although depending on the rental value of the property, and your regular income, you may not be able to pass the affordability section of tenant referencing.

  3. Hi.I failed reference and I did found an guarantor. Agency told me he should have his wages 27000£, but he does only 25-26000 p.a . What If guarantor will failed as well?Do I pay rent in advance for How many months?Thank you

    1. Hi Carmen, it’s possible that your guarantor will also fail referencing if they don’t earn enough money. Most agencies are very inflexible about this and won’t let you proceed with the property without a guarantor. With OpenRent, you are free to offer landlords rent in advance because we allow you to speak to them directly. Best of luck with your search for a new home.

  4. Hi,

    I have got 3 CCJ’s but I earn well over the amount needed and certain my landlord will give a good reference as my rent has been paid on time for the last 2 years I have been there. I have a guarantor but would that be accepted considering the CCJ’s ? Also, does the guarantor need to be a homeowner?

    1. Hey – so CCJs only come into play when you are referenced by a landlord/agent. They may make you fail referencing. That’s not the end of the world, however, since as long as you can provide a guarantor who passes referencing, this will satisfy most landlords/insurers. Guarantors do not need to be homeowners, but they do need to be earning enough money to (in theory) pay your rent on top of their own housing costs. Homeowners are best placed to do this, since their ongoing housing costs are very low.

  5. I have been a remnant for many years paying the rent no problem. My partner worked away and stayed at the weekends but used the address for mail, bank accounts etc. I have now asked my current letting agent to add him to my tenancy. They are charging me 150 for a check. He hasn’t been on my previous tenancies as he always worked away. Will he fail the check because he isn’t on the electoral roll etc? I am the lead tenant and the rent is always paid on time.

  6. Am a British citizen but been living outside country in Africa for about 8years and I came back been living with family and now I got a job of 2000 a month and willing to rent a property of between 950-1000. I can get good references from my work place , Is it possible to get a property now.

  7. I will have to use a guarantor, however they are self employed will that affect things? They meet all the other requirements financial or otherwise.

    1. Hi Gee, Great Question. Self-employed income can count towards a guarantor’s (or tenant’s) affordability score in the referencing process. The details depend on which referencing company is being used.

      With our referencing partner, Rentguard, self-employed income is fully taken into account, as long as the guarantor has been operating for longer than one year, and they can prove their income.

      More info here.

  8. 5/6 yrs ago I was in arrears with my rent due to work related issues. Is that something I declare now, or is it that long ago its pointless?

    1. Hi Gee,

      There’s need to declare anything unless asked up front, and you can always decline to answer any questions. You can also decline permission for someone to run referencing on you. This can harm your application, however, and it’s best to be upfront – not least in case you get caught out later on.

      Referencing agencies usually contact your current/most recent landlord to get a reference, so if this incident happened several tenancies ago, then it might not come up if you don’t mention it.

  9. hi, my question is I’M on IVA
    due to finance situation in the past now I’m financially stable me an my partner planning to move house by renting but due to being on IVA would that impact anything.?

    1. Hi Francisca, an IVA will affect your credit rating. But all this means is that you’re less likely to pass tenant referencing. As the post explains, it’s possible to let to tenants who fail referencing – especially through OpenRent, where you’re free to contact landlords directly.

  10. I’ve never had store cards or ever got a credit card as I have always adopted only pay for with what you have, however if that affects scores when being referenced how can one best explain this to the property owners. The place I’ve applied for I am good for the affordability as my salary is over the 2.5 times rental being asked.

    Should the credit check be an issue? Or is it down to owner’s view point.

    1. Hi Gee, if the rest of your report is looking good, then it would be unusual for this alone to cause you to fail referencing.

      The credit rating aspect of tenant referencing is there because it shows your track record of paying money you owe. If you haven’t ever owed any money (e.g. if you have never had a credit card or a loan), then this increases the risk of letting to you, because you have no history of fulfilling your payment duties on the record. It usually isn’t enough to make you fail referencing, though, and if you are earning above the affordability threshold (and all the rest of your report is in order) then you’ll usually pass.

      With OpenRent, it is indeed down to the owner’s decision. Other agents may have a blanket policy of rejecting those who fail referencing.

  11. Hi,

    My husband and I are renting with another couple, and they have a cat, the thing is that we made an offer and everything was OK, even with the cat, the landlord at the moment requested 2 weeks more deposit and we agreed. Anyways, at the end, the landlord did not move forward with the letting because of the cat, after saying yes and after we agreed the 2 weeks deposit.

    My question is, can the agency charge us for the reference checks when is the landlord that said no. They did the job for the landlord, and he was the one who step back. Is that right, fair?


  12. Hi, Neither the referencing agency or I can get a response from my current landlord re reference. Does this mean I will fail referencing even though I have had no problems with my landlord and pass all other elements?

    1. Hi Tony, you won’t necessarily fail just because of this. If you’re going through referencing with OpenRent, then I’d recommend getting in touch with our referencing partners. You can call Rentguard on 01227 467 250.

  13. Hi there,
    There are 3 applicants to go through credit referencing for a property to rent. I have failed mine as I have 3 CCJ’s but always paid rent on time and work full time and earn a reasonable salary. I have a guarantor in place, but would the guarantor be responsible for the other 2 tenants or just myself. Would it be possible for the other 2 to have the property in their sole names and me be a sub-tenant.
    Look forward to hearing from you.
    Kind regards

    1. Hi Catherine,

      Yes – in joint tenancies, every guarantor/tenant can be held responsible for the rent of the entire property. We’d always recommend that every adult living in the property is a named tenant on the tenancy agreement, because this ensures your tenant rights (as well as your tenant responsibilities).

      You can read more about the duties of guarantors here.

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