Its understandable to want to do some screening and checks before taking a lodger in. Here are a few things you can do to give you peace of mind.
Right to Rent checks
By law, you must check that potential lodgers are legally allowed to live in the UK. Youll need to make and keep copies of the documents that allow them to live in the UK and note down the date you made the check. Theres more info on Right to Rent here.
Getting a lodger's consent to do background checks
In most cases you need a lodgers permission to check their employment, personal and previous accommodation references, and to run a credit check.
The easiest way to do this is to ask potential lodgers to complete and sign an application form. The form contains the information and contact details you need to make checks, and states that you will use the information to do credit and reference checks under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Under the Data Protection Act you have certain obligations regarding the data you hold on potential lodgers. Notably, you must keep it secure, hold it for no longer than necessary, and not use it for inappropriate purposes.
What to do if they provide fraudulent contacts
Its possible that potential lodgers providing false references have committed the offence of fraud by false representation under the Fraud Act 2006. Obviously its not a great idea to accept a lodger who provides false references but what if you find out after they move in that they gave false information? Youll likely want them to leave and legally this is straightforward just give them reasonable notice.
Its fine to do research on potential lodgers via search engines and on social networking sites. But it goes without saying that trying to access secure or protected data (like hacking into their email account) is not ok.
As of 2012, CRB checks are now called DBS checks since the Criminal Records Bureau merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority. DBS checks can only be made by an employer and cant be requested by the applicants themselves, nor by private individuals (e.g. landlords).
However, you can request a basic disclosure check on an individual through Disclosure Scotland. You don't need to be a resident in Scotland to do this - anywhere in the UK is fine.
This isnt a DBS check, but will alert you to any unspent convictions. A basic disclosure certificate either contains information about every conviction of an applicant or states that there is no such conviction. The process requires three forms of identification and can be done online. If you require a prospective lodger to go through the basic disclosure check process you should offer to pay for the information.
Discriminating when choosing a lodger
In most cases, lodgers come under the small premises exemption to the Equality Act 2010. This reflects the fact that, when choosing someone to share a home with, people may have legitimate reasons for discriminating. For example they might want to live with people of the same religion or gender. However, it is prohibited to discriminate on the grounds of race when screening potential lodgers. Of course, sensitivity should always be used if you specify certain characteristics when advertising for a lodger.
SpareRoom offers Tenant (or Lodger) Referencing.