Applications and criminal history questions?

by Readers Question

11:41 AM, 13th April 2021
About a month ago

Applications and criminal history questions?

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Applications and criminal history questions?

The NRLA’s sample tenant Application Form fails to ask any questions regarding criminal history. Why is this?

I realise that any tenancy is based purely on affordability, but having tenants where the state pays the rent in its entirety, surely a Landlord can ask about criminal history and details of any unspent convictions etc?

I understand the tenant can refuse and are not obligated to answer any questions about historically spent convictions, but they are obligated to answer truthfully anything unspent at the point of application surely?

If the unspent issue concerned something where it could be a nuisance to neighbours/other tenants surely a LL has a right to take this into consideration and determine if a tenancy is granted or not?

DSR

Comments

Smartermind

9:34 AM, 14th April 2021
About 4 weeks ago

You could have clause on your application form which simply states applications will not be considered from people with criminal convictions. I previously let out a commercial premises and had such a clause in my application forms and had to turn down such an applicant.

DSR

10:53 AM, 14th April 2021
About 4 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Smartermind at 14/04/2021 - 09:34
Would a commercial let application form be considered different in some way?

I have no objection per se to considering tenants with past criminal convictions that have been served, but asking that question means they could 1. refuse to answer 2. lie.

I know that I am unable to find out about any previous spent convictions anyway, unless they voluntarily told me about what they were for. If they did, can I give this as a reason not to offer them a tenancy?

I understand that a tenant, if asked about current and unspent convictions is legally obliged to tell the truth on the form. If this is the case they I can decide to or not to let a property to them, but how can I check this? From what I understand I can ask them to provide some evidence or ask them to apply for a Disclosure form - is that right?

My fear at the present time is that I let to someone who says they do not have any unspent convictions, but as I am legally unable to check I could unwittingly let to someone who has. I am not talking about minor offences, but ones which may involve drugs/violence/child offences. I have some blocks of flats where I have single ladies with children/older more vulnerable people/those who have fled DV I have a duty of care to existing tenants above anything else.

Can anyone help with some guidance here?

DSR

Smartermind

12:28 PM, 14th April 2021
About 4 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by DSR at 14/04/2021 - 10:53
I should explain my commercial let was a shared office with a tuition centre and we would have insisted on a DBS check as part of safe guarding.

I am not sure if DBS checks would be permitted for residential lets. You could ask your referencing agency.

(DBS = Disclosure and Barring Service previously known as Criminal Records Bureau check)

If the applicant lies, then that is fraud.

David

17:55 PM, 15th April 2021
About 4 weeks ago

I understand that most HMO licensing schemes ask the landlord to demand information on unspent criminal convictions as part of the referencing process. I assume the landlord would need a pretty hefty GDPR policy to handle data of that sort of sensitivity.

Jessie Jones

9:03 AM, 17th April 2021
About 4 weeks ago

I am unsure why you think that a "tenancy is based purely on affordability"?
It is perfectly acceptable for a landlord to accept or refuse a tenancy of a range of other reasons, so long as they don't breach equality law.
I consider whether or not the applicant is likely to have long term ties to the area. Is the property suitable for the size of their family? Are they smokers? Did they respect the property when they looked around or did they walk in with muddy shoes or drop their crisp packet on the floor?
Simply ask the question and see what the response is. If they explain their position in a calm, mannered way then you will have the answer you need. Similarly if they become defensive or shouty.
Sometimes it is better to ask the questions in person rather than on an application form.
Letting agencies seem to like the use of application forms, presumably because they can score these and thus avoid allegations of discrimination. But forms don't allow you to assess the applicant very well.

DSR

15:56 PM, 20th April 2021
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Jessie Jones at 17/04/2021 - 09:03
I agree it is nice to be able to meet tenants in the flesh, but in my case this isn't always viable due to distance and of course the palava with Covid and localised restrictions/lockdowns etc.

Unfortunately I do have to always err on the side of caution with my tenants as they tend to come from the LA housing list. I know I shouldn't tar everyone with the same brush, but when my fingers have been burnt so many times, at least I can sleep at night knowing I tried to make sure I asked every question and mitigate as best I can. This one question popped up as a result of a tenant not telling me about a serious unspent/continuing criminal issue shall we say. If I had asked it on the Application form and he had stated there were no unspent issues (then finding out there may well be), I could have gone down the mandatory S8 route which is clearly quicker (apparently) than the S21 route as there would be a mandatory ground to use.
If he had said yes, then I could have genuinely asked him to apply for a disclosure so I could see. If it were something on this that I believed would make his tenancy unsuitable, I could make that call. What if it were something to do with violence towards women, and issue with children, or arson/drugs trafficking/cuckooing, and existing tenants in the block were single women, vulnerable adults??
I hate to think of everything as I do in a negative light in terms of a total ar$3 covering, but when you know the law is not on the LL side and the total financial/emotional and personal grief that comes with the whole situation when a tenant turns rouge, its a bit of a fall back.

Does everyone else not ask this info then at all????

DSR


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