I agree with David. It is, of course, personal but it is directly relevant to reasonable considerations about lending a property. I also entirely agree that it acts as an early filter. The requirement for bank statements in addition to the various details the referencing agency will ask for should be advised as soon as they express an interest but it is courteous to forewarn of your own requirements, perhaps at first viewing.
Play that one by ear.
I always prefer to deal with i.e.view bank statements personally rather than through the refs agency because, frankly, it is often seen as a bespoke request and agencies aren’t keen on it generally. They tick their own to-do boxes and prefer to keep it that way, it seems.
So, you should see bank statements yourself. Six months is sufficient to show, not least, a regular employer or income. If they state they are self-employed, you will require the same while advising the refs agency you want three years of professional accounting, where at all possible. Stated self-employed but no accounts yet…? Highly risky even with rental paid in advance. Pension statements, Premium bonds etc…? No good per se; can be cashed in at any time.
It might be helpful to remind applicants that seeing bank statements prior to formal referencing may save them time and money should you consider there may be an affordability issue. If you take that route… choose your words carefully.
They might as well be in no doubt though, that while a referencing agency ‘advises,’ it is the landlord that makes the decision to accept or decline. Landlords often don’t see it this way. Big mistake, potentially.
Where I do think it would be unecessarily ‘intrusive’ is to insist on retaining originals. Further, I think you should accept sight of copies as they may be downloaded as print-outs, in any event. Don’t push it by insisting on originals. Finally, as a point of etiquette for the inexperienced or insensitive landlord, don’t ‘study’ the statements in front of them, unless the applicants direct matters that way. Place them out of sight in a folder which indicates you aren’t going to lose them! Keep hold of the folder, especially if you are in a public place. If they want them back next time you meet, give them back. You are at liberty to make a further copy although this shouldn’t be necessary.
It is absolutely vital, should you be intending to retain this information -rather than just take a glance at it before handing it back- that you register as a data controller in Property Management with ICO. (Information Commissioner’s Office.)
It costs £35 although may have increased since last year. This protects you legally. To be sued for alleged data protection breaches is too scarey for words. It is a very easy, online process with a helpline should you need advice. Your registration becomes a public record so, where possible, you may prefer to give a correspondence address - such as another rental rather than your home address. A P.O Box is not acceptable.
If using another rental as a corres address, your contract there should stipulate all mail addressed to you is to be promptly advised for collection. In that way, you have done your best to ensure you are contactable (accountable) via that address.
Advising all enquirers in your listing that you are ‘registered as an authorised data handler with UK authorities and therefore conform to the requirements of Data Protection Act’ is impressive, professional and should offer the genuine, intelligent enquirer the reassurance they quite rightly need. You are not compelled to register with ICO every year unless you are continuing to retain personal data. The information on a standard Tenancy Agreement such as full names, previous addresses is reasonable to retain without registration last time I asked ICO that question. Check the latest for yourself though, please. Retention of passport photo page scans, bank statements etc. needs registration due to its level of sensitivity.
In my view, if interested parties have objections beyond all that, it rather answers for me an early vetting question in terms of either affordability, credibility… probably both. What would their objection be? “We don’t think our financial affairs are any of your business.”
Oh, yes they are!
A more reasonable objection might be that they can’t just submit to the refs agency. They can if you are happy with that. I used to be so but bank statements give so much useful information including about lifestyle and spending patterns which the refs agency will not summarise for you that I play it this way now. It is revealing. It is relevant.
It’s a serious business. Their financial situation and track record is the most crucial aspect and carries the greatest risk of all if you are too shy or weak to ask.