Claims about referencing for Overseas tenants is disingenous

My girlfriend and I are moving back to the UK. I’m a British National, having spent 5 years abroad, while she’s a Canadian citizen with no history in the UK. Due to personal circumstances I’ve returned to the UK this month, while she’ll be arriving in March; as such, I’ve been looking for a place for both of us to rent with both of us on the tenancy application.

Looking online, I saw that there had been several discussions about referencing overseas applicants (such as this one: Credit checks overseas applicants) and so felt comfortable using OpenRent. Cut to now, three weeks later, where we’ve just found out that her referencing was failed because she doesn’t have a UK bank account, nor could they run a credit check. As such the landlord we’ve been dealing with is unable to get Rent Guarantee Insurance, and is (understandably) getting cold-feet about renting to us.

The situation is absurd. I make more than enough on my salary alone to pay for the flat we’ve applied for and passed the referencing without issue. She has a perfect credit score, significant savings, and has been renting / employed without issue her entire adult life - but OpenRent / Rentguard don’t care.

I’m sure the company line is that landlords can choose not to purchase Rent Guarantee Insurance - but why wouldn’t they, when they could just pick another applicant who’s less “difficult” to deal with? It’s disingenuous to suggest that applying from overseas is worth attempting. Perversely, it incentivises me to hide the fact that my girlfriend will also be a tenant - which is not only ethically dubious, but potentially illegal due to Right to Rent laws.

At this point I feel like I should just go back to using an Agent, at least that way it feels like there’s room for discussion or compromise.

Hi Peter, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a frustrating time trying to move into an OpenRent property.

I agree that Rent Guarantee Insurance (RGI) is something many landlords want. It’s a product that is offered by insurers to reduce risk for landlords. Insurers are, by their nature, conservative in their products and services. I would be very surprised if there was a rent guarantee policy on the market which did not require the signatories to pass referencing.

Some possible solutions:

  • RGI is available even when tenants fail referening, as long as they can provide a guarantor. If you have passed but your girlfriend has not, then adding a guarantor to the agreement is (a) free and (b) will make the tenancy qualify for RGI.
  • Landlords want RGI because it reduces risk and a referencing report that says ‘medium’ or ‘high risk’ makes landlords think the tenant is more likely to not pay their rent. OpenRent always advises landlords that referencing is just one piece of information, and should not be the be all and end all of how to choose tenants. If you can demonstrate to the landlord that you are not riskier than average, then they may be very happy to let to you without RGI. You can tell them about the OpenRent advice (that referencing is just one part of the picture). You could also offer to pay several month’s rent in advance., if possible.

It’s not that we don’t care. We definitely do, which is why we always tell landlords not to overeact to a ‘fail’ at referencing. Once you cut through all the intermediary insurance brands in the UK, there are very few individual insurance underwriters in the UK. Currently, they are able to dictate the terms of insurance provision, and they currently demand passing referencing. You have to be FCA approved to offer insurance, so this isn’t something we’re able to quickly fix ourselves, sadly.

Going to an agent would not necessarily help in and of itself. The agent would run an almost identical referencing report, and if you failed, then the landlord would, again, not be able to buy RGI, and the agent, having high costs and not being able to make money on the insurance policy referal fee would probably recommend to the landlord to reject you. On OpenRent, we encourage and advise each landlord to take each application on its own benefits and keep all things in mind, not just referencing.

We’ve made hundreds of tenancies with tenants enquiring from overseas and while that will often be less smooth than applying from the UK, it is possible and indeed quite common. At the end of the day, however, it is down to the landlord who they chose to let to. We are not the kind of middle-man agent that pressures tenants into letting properties they’re not sure about or pressures landlords to accepting tenants when they have concerns.

Best of luck setting up this tenancy, and let me know if you have any more Qs.


Hi Sam,

Thanks for the response. I apologise if my frustrations came across a little too strongly - I hope you can understand my position! Your point about the limited number of underwriters makes perfect sense, even if unfortunately it leaves little room for negotiation.

To clarify; the landlord that we’re dealing with is under the impression that a successful reference for all tenants is required to validate the contract and purchase Landlord’s Insurance through OpenRent (not just RGI). Is this accurate? I’m perfectly happy to offer rent in advance, etc, but asking someone to forgo even basic Landlord’s insurance seems an unreasonable request.

The guarantor option seems the only available route, but even that requires knowing someone who makes 3x rent of a London flat - which is not something that I imagine many overseas applicants have.

I’d love it if OpenRent had a dedicated page detailing these considerations from an applicant’s perspective. I don’t think I’ve been more stressed than trying to understand what is expected and what to I can do about it to secure a home for my partner and I.

Hi peter, if you can afford the rent in your own name then just put yourself on the tenancy agreement and the landlord will be able to get the rent guarantee insurance.

I’d also recommend giving the landlord three months bank statements to paint an accurate picture of your stable finances. As a self managing portfolio landlord, I ask for bank statements and don’t do any other referencing. The bank statements tell me everything I need to know and I don’t need rent guarantee insurance. I have a large portfolio and have never ever had a tenant miss a rent payment. Perhaps talk to your potential landlord about that.

I also don’t understand why you are so fixated on having both of you on the tenancy agreement. I rented in london for years and was rarely the person on the tenancy agreement. Maybe I’m not aware of some legislation down south as I live in glasgow but I have friends still renting in london that aren’t on tenancy agreements and are very happy.

Good luck.

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Hi Paul, thanks for the feedback from the perspective of a landlord!

The root of the issue is that the landlord seems to believe that both of us need to be on the tenancy agreement due to OpenRent’s rules. I can’t speak to how accurate that belief is, but I agree that it would certainly make everything easier if it was just me on the contract!

Hi Peter,
Landlord could legally put you on the AST as sole tenant with your partner listed as ‘a person authorised to occupy’.
I’ve previously been satisfied to let to a non-EU male, who’d been resident here for Uni, then took up a job here, whose wife (also non-EU, who obtained a visa as his spouse)joined him 3 months later. I got references on him and put AST in his sole name. Common sense dictated that spouse wouldn’t have any Credit Ref. entries - so I didn’t even attempt it. When she joined him, I just added her to the AST as an equal tenant.