Partners and Suppliers Paul Shamplina 05/09/2023

Tenant tracing: top tips for landlords

The NRLA has recently noticed an increase in enquiries from members interested in learning more about tenant tracing. NRLA recgonised supplier, Landlord Action - one of the UK’s best-known eviction and housing law specialists - regularly achieves a success rate of more than 80% for tenant tracing.

Here, they explain all you need to know about tenant tracing, including top tips for landlords.

What is tenant tracing?

Tenant tracing is the process of locating former tenants whose current address is no longer known, enabling landlords to reconnect with their previous tenants. In some cases, tenants disappear without notice and without providing a forwarding address, leaving unpaid rent or damage to the property, and landlords are left to cover the costs. Unfortunately, this is an increasing problem for many landlords, who can simply no longer afford to write off large sums of rent arrears.

Why are more landlords using tenant tracing services?

Landlord Action has experienced a sharp rise in landlords using our debt recovery service. Instructions for last year – April 2022 to March 2023 – were up over 100% compared to the pre-pandemic year, April 2020 to March 2021. In response to this, Landlord Action now has a dedicated debt recovery team working on hundreds of live cases ranging from a few thousand pounds right up to one where the arrears have reached £200,000. For landlords whose tenants have left a property with unpaid rent, knowing where they’ve moved to and having a confirmed address is key to re-engaging with them to recoup the debt or agree a payment plan.

How does the tenant tracing process work?

Tenant tracing can be a complicated process, so it’s best to use the services of a professional tracing agency or a legal specialist like Landlord Action, which is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and has extensive experience dealing with problem tenants. To make an effective trace, Landlord Action would ask for:

  • Tenant’s name
  • Address of the rental property
  • Tenant’s date of birth
  • Duration of the tenancy and the date the tenant left the property
  • Any previous address for the tenant
  • Tenant’s telephone number and email address

The more detail the better, but the key information needed to carry out a trace enquiry is the tenant’s name and the rental property’s address.

Tenant tracing steps:

1. The landlord provides us with a trace instruction sheet, usually sent via a password protected format/ encryption email. The essential details required are the debtor’s name and last known address where the debt was incurred. A date of birth, tenancy duration, contact number/email address is also useful information, but not necessary.

2. We begin work on the enquiry, initially using purchased licensed databases and leading credit reference agency software. We confirm all the information that is collated from such data sources, which may include middle names, contact numbers/email addresses, county court judgements (CCJs) and insolvency information.

3. When a forwarding address is identified, we confirm the address with at least one source, often a neighbouring resident of the forwarding address or sometimes a relative of the subject, or the subject themselves.

4. Once the subject's current address is confirmed, we prepare a report for the landlord client with the required information, which is returned within the agreed timescale via a password protected format email. Once the report has been sent, all data is deleted and any paperwork is shredded, in compliance with GDPR guidelines.

Top tenant tracing tips

1. The best time to submit a trace: If a trace request is submitted too soon after the tenant has vacated the address, the likelihood of locating them is reduced. Whilst it is possible to trace a new address within days, we would recommend that trace requests are instructed at least four weeks after the tenant has vacated the property, ideally six to eight weeks, to allow them time to resurface.

2. Providing essential information: The essential information is key to successfully locating a new address. A tenant may use an alias or a different forename/surname to avoid being traced, but if a date of birth is provided we will be able to cross reference this with other named tenants, should the name provided not be listed. It is very common for debtors to accrue debt or obtain credit using an alias, or a different identity altogether, so if the landlord can provide as much relevant information as possible, such as mobile numbers, an email address etc, this will assist in tracing evasive debtors. If a credit check or application form has previously been completed at the start of the tenancy - which we would always recommend - this will also be useful and could speed up the tracing process.

3. Consider requesting an employment status: Even if a forwarding address is identified, the tenant will often plead poverty – tenants don’t usually disappear for no reason and those who do have usually fallen into arrears, lost their job or owe money elsewhere and can see no viable alternative. However, if we can confirm that the tenant is employed, you will be able to apply for an ‘attachment of earnings’ and can begin receiving any monies owed. An ‘asset enquiry’ can also be carried out which will see us make enquiries into whether the tenant owns a vehicle, property etc, that could be levied upon.

4. Finding a reputable agency: Some landlords try to trace tenants themselves, for example through social media channels, but this can be a false economy. The most effective way is to use the services of a professional tenant tracing agency or legal specialist who can be trusted to get the job done sensitively, efficiently and most importantly, legally. It is important to make sure that they have the right credentials – a professional tenant tracing service should be able to provide a service level agreement or their policies/ terms and conditions upon request. A reputable agency will not require the tenant’s bank details so do not forward these on as supporting documents, as this could be a breach of data protection. Reputable tenant tracing professionals will adhere strictly to GDPR and data protection guidelines set out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Are tenant tracing services ethical?

Professional tenant tracing services will only obtain data in a legal, confidential and ethical manner using GDPR compliant techniques to find individuals legitimately. As long as GDPR guidelines are upheld, and no underhand tracing methods are used, then tenant tracing is ethical. It’s our job to advise the landlord of the tenant’s current details, where the tenant is being evasive, so that you can re-establish contact. Without tenant tracing, it is likely that the offending tenants will move from address to address, incurring more debt and evading any responsibility.

How much does tenant tracing cost?

Landlord Action will complete an address or employment trace for £96 and a combined trace (address and employment) for £150 (all including VAT and disbursements). Our aim is always to resolve issues quickly and minimise losses. For more information on tenant tracing and debt recovery, problem tenants, landlord and tenant disputes, squatters and other housing matters, contact the team to find out how they can help you.