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Traditional tenant referencing is ‘not fit for purpose’, says PropTech entrepreneur

Traditional tenant referencing is dead as it uses old and slow systems, has little technology support, and is grossly overpriced, according a Sheffield-based letting agent and PropTech entrepreneur.

Carrying out thorough tenant referencing is one of the most important processes a landlord or letting agent should undertake when choosing to let a property, as it helps mitigate the risks from loss of income and damage to a property. But Simon Tillyer, director of SheffLets and Vouch, says that consumers who use traditional referencing suppliers are paying too much for an “expensive, out-dated service”.

Tillyer points to the fact that some traditional referencing suppliers are owned by large insurance companies which, he claims, use referencing simply as a lead generator to sell insurance products.


He believes that ‘old school’ referencing firms use a ‘tick-box process’ that is unable to cater for the changing economy and employment trends, including the growing number of UK workers that are now part of the gig economy - contract, temporary and freelancers.

Recent stats from The Office of National Statistics show the level of self-employment in the UK rose from 3.3 million in 2001, to 4.8 million in 2017.

Tillyer commented: “With traditional paper-based referencing, a host of potential tenants have failed the out-dated checks, set up by large insurance firms. Many of these providers are resistant to change and have been slow to adopt emerging technologies. Furthermore, they don’t have the technology to support Right to Rent. 

“As a letting agent I know these systems do not work in the real world – there is no common sense approach and they fail to help agents and their landlords. To put it bluntly, their products are not fit for purpose.

“Agents have been paying upwards of £25 for a reference, which is grossly overpriced when you compare it with tech-driven references. The only reason tenant referencing has always been this expensive is because the insurance companies could get away with it. 

“Agents have always had tenant fees to supplement the cost, but that is all about to change. Agents can’t continue to pay the bill when there is no money coming in to cover it.”

Tillyer believes that Vouch has developed what he describes as “leading-edge” tenant referencing app to offer agents a fully automated, web-based system delivering significant cost savings, via a comprehensive, time-saving solution that costs £5 per full reference.

He added: “Technology and applicants perform the tasks, meaning that agents simply monitor progress. Vouch creates efficiency in the tenant application process and improves business-wide productivity and profitability.

“In addition, Vouch can also help agents supplement their revenue by providing them with commission on a range of media and utility packages, which can be offered to all tenants signing new leases.  We designed Vouch to simplify the tenant application process and help agents and landlords save money and benefit from a passive income stream.”

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Poll: Do you think that traditional tenant referencing is still ‘fit for purpose’?


  • Andrew Hill


  • Jeffrey Cunningham

    Thanks for the article.

  • icon

    Landlord referencing should be in letter or email form Not a phone call from agent to landlord.
    Person referenceing should be the same as if applying for a 10k loan, No previous bad credit,no bankruptc.,No ccjs, no defaults, then an employer reference confirming permanent position, basic salary covers rent leaving min 2 thirds of income surplus.
    Current loans.simple thorough checking.


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