How a landlord can solve a dispute with a tenant
Fostering a good relationship with your tenant is one of the best investments you can make as a landlord. But, unfortunately, it’s rare you’ll always enjoy a friction-free landlord/tenant relationship.
Here are some tips on avoiding a fallout with your tenant.
What causes disputes?
The biggest reason for landlord-tenant fallouts is end of tenancy cleaning – or rather a lack of it. This can be avoided with some clear communication and well-drawn up contracts. It is usual to have a clause in a tenancy agreement stipulating the property must be professionally cleaned when the tenant moves out.
To leave no room for doubt, write to your tenant in the weeks before the end of a tenancy reminding them of their responsibilities, including a copy of the inventory and schedule of condition.
Delaying acting on repairs
As the landlord or letting agent it is your responsibility to keep the property in good order, and repairs shouldn’t be put off for longer than is necessary.
Don’t wait until a problem arises to scrabble around trying to find reputable tradespeople; have several on your books and don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest as this will not work in your favour in the long-term. Having a one-size-fits-all odd jobs man to fix everything from the boiler to a dripping tap doesn’t look very professional in the eyes of the tenant and shoddy results will only fuel discontent.
If, despite your best efforts, there are delays to getting repairs done, make sure your tenants are fully aware of the situation. Tenant frustrations often arise from a belief that you don’t care. Showing them you do can help smooth an otherwise difficult situation over.
Understandably, a tenant being behind on their rent is an issue that can cause a major rift between landlord and tenant. Being in rent arrears is a breach of a tenancy agreement and can be a case for eviction. But try not to let it get that far – if your tenant is on Universal Credit you may be able to arrange to have the rent paid directly to you. If it is a private rental, write to the tenant reminding them of their obligations and give them a chance to explain – in all likelihood it’s a one off issue that can be easily remedied. If, however, it isn’t as easy a fix as that, you may have to consider eviction. As the law stands at the moment, if you’re looking to notify your tenant that you’d like them to leave your property you can serve either a Section 21 or Section 8 notice under the Housing Act 1988.
Read more: How to evict tenants legally and fairly
A lack of inventory or inspections
Disputes often arise at the end of a tenancy when there is no clear record of the condition of the property or its contents. Inventories should be thorough enough to stand up in court if the dispute ever gets that far. You need to get the tenant to sign off a check-in agreement once the inventory has been done so there’s absolute transparency and no room for debate on the condition of the property when it’s time for them to move on.
Not understanding obligations
Again this comes down to having a clear, legally-tight tenancy agreement and a good communication channel that highlights any potential sticky points such as who maintains the garden, who pays the council tax and understanding who is responsible for repairs, including white goods and alarms.
How to ward off any problems
- Have clear lines of communication, whether directly with the tenant or through a managing agent
- Carry out internal inspections at least once every six months (or, even better, three months). This will ensure any issues that could potentially bubble over into something bigger are knocked on the head quickly. Remember to follow the legal guidelines when requesting and carrying out an inspection
- Have everything in writing
- Be prepared to compromise and manage your expectations. This is a tenant’s home and it won’t be kept pristine. Be accepting of the odd scuff mark or worn carpet
- Use a letting agent – particularly if you are not a full time landlord. The professionals are able to dedicate more time to managing the property – and the tenant – and have the right people and resources at their fingertips that will ensure issues are suitably dealt with in good time
- Draw up detailed tenancy agreements and have comprehensive check in and check out inventories