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How credit checks work for joint tenancies

When renting a property in the UK, you might often come across credit checks.

Running a credit check is a common practice used by landlords and especially letting agencies to see how reliable potential tenants are.

For joint tenancies, where multiple people are named on the tenancy agreement, credit checks can be a bit more complex. Here is how they work.

How do credit checks work for joint tenancies?

For joint tenancies, a credit check usually involves checking the credit history of all the people named on the tenancy agreement.

This means that the landlord or letting agency will look at each tenant's credit history, and the results will be considered together.

Also, the credit check will usually be performed by a third-party referencing service, which will provide the landlord or agency with information from the credit reference agencies, as well as public registers such as the electoral roll, the Individual Insolvency Register, and the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines.

Because of this extra cost and hassle, most tenancy credit checks are run by letting agencies and only very rarely by private landlords.

What will a credit check show?

A credit check for a joint tenancy will show information about each tenant's history of insolvency, County Court Judgments (CCJs), and other public records. It will also show information about how each tenant has handled debt in the past, how much of their credit limit they used, and whether they’ve repaid debt on time. This information is then used by the letting agency to assess the likelihood of the tenants paying their rent on time and in full.

However, the credit check will not show things like how much money you have, what your income is, or how much debt you took. The letting agency or landlord might ask you this separately, but it’s not part of the credit check itself.

What else might a landlord ask for?

Besides a credit check, a landlord may also ask for:

  • References from previous landlords.
  • References from your employer or a letter from your accountant if you’re self-employed.
  • Proof of employment (P60 or payslip) or proof of income if you’re self-employed (usually a SA302 form showing how much tax you’ve paid).
  • Proof of your right to live and rent in the UK.
  • On top of this, they might also ask for a guarantor, especially if one tenant has a very poor credit score.

Do each of the joint tenants need to pass a credit check?

In most cases, yes. This is especially the case when you are applying to rent a property through a you’re renting a property through a letting agency, as they have the staff and money to run multiple credit checks.

A private landlord might be more flexible, and often will not run a credit check at all.

What if one of the tenants has a poor credit score?

If one tenant has a poor credit score, what happens next depends on the landlord or the agency.

However, as long as you’re honest about any credit issues early on in the process, you might have a chance. Landlords are more likely to consider a joint tenancy application if you’re able to explain why you’ve struggled with debt before, and why these issues are in the past.

It might also be worthwhile to prepare bank statements or to sign up to a rent reporting app to show that you’ve previously always paid rent on time.

What can we do to improve our chances of passing a credit check for a joint tenancy?

If you want to increase your chances of passing a tenancy credit check, the best thing you can do is to improve your credit score.

You can do this in a number of ways, but one of the most effective ones is to download a specialised credit-building tool like Wollit.

Wollit works by reporting a fixed fee monthly subscription as a loan repayment to the credit reference agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). This helps you build or rebuild your credit history by showing that you can pay debt on time, which is the main factor that matters for your credit score.

As a bonus, Wollit also works as a rent reporting app and can report your monthly rent payment to Experian, adding another line in your credit report that shows landlords and agencies that you’re responsible and pay your rent on time.

In time, this will help you improve your credit score so you won’t need to be worried about any credit check ever again.

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Terms apply. Results may vary. Improvements to your credit score are not guaranteed. Wollit Credit Builder plans are unregulated.