Tenants may not realise that by giving an estate agent or landlord permission to do a credit check on them before signing a lease, they are effectively giving that agent or landlord permission to look at their credit score anytime during the lease period.
Just paying your rent is apparently not enough of a guarantee that you can afford to rent where you live. “If you miss a payment on other accounts, it can be seen on your credit record and may be a red flag against you when it comes to renewing your lease,” says Natalie Muller, regional head of rentals at Jawitz Properties, Western Cape.
Tenants are usually quite relieved when they secure a space to rent. “So it really is in your best interest to stay in good standing, not only with your landlord, but with all your other creditors as well, and that means paying all your bills timeously and effectively,” Muller says. “This gives you the best chance at your lease being renewed so you won’t have to be looking for a new home at the end of the lease period. Being served notice and having a black mark against you financially won’t bode well for your next renting opportunity either, so do everything you can to avoid getting into that position.”
Of course times are tough economically and we are all trying to stretch our rands as much as possible. “It can be difficult to keep up with all the bills but consider that it may be best to be honest with your landlord if you are struggling financially, as it will come out anyway if you have had a credit check,” Muller says.
You are not able to prevent the credit checks from being done but you can try to protect your name. “Some landlords may be understanding provided you have not yet defaulted on the rent. Honesty goes a long way and perhaps you have plans in place to recover financially,” Muller says.
For those who are first time tenants, or looking to move on to a new rental soon, it is worthwhile getting yourself pre-approved with your rental agent, so that you are able to secure a rental quickly and have a sense of what you can actually afford to rent before setting your sights on a property. “With rental demand as high as it is, a pre-qualified tenant who has already done a credit check is easier to place than a tenant who has not done a credit check, and frankly a more appealing prospect to a landlord. If you are credit worthy, you can secure a property to rent immediately and put yourself in a better position compared to other interested tenants who have not yet been pre-approved, and thus get to rent the property you want,” Muller concludes.