20th April 2021
Whether you own or rent your property, our homes are very important to us. Especially over the last year, many people have realised the value of a warm, safe and comfortable home as millions have been stuck isolating or working from home. They are often our biggest investment and highest risk.
The relationship between landlords and tenants can often be a strenuous one. It is mainly built on trust, which is key to its success.
In this article we take a look at how the relationship between a landlord and their tenant/s can be improved, how good communication is vital and what to do when a dispute gets out of hand.
Essentially, a landlord is looking for a ‘good’ tenant and a tenant is looking for a ‘good’ landlord. What ‘good’ looks like may differ from person to person based on their own circumstances and personal priorities. But both sides of the coin may look something like this:
A Good Tenant
A Good Landlord
A positive relationship will work both ways and give peace of mind to both the landlord and the tenant. By having a good landlord-tenant relationship in place, landlords will be able to reap the rewards of their investment and tenants will enjoy a stress-free tenancy.
There are many different hints and tips on how to be a model landlord and probably plenty of books or webpages to read for inspiration.
From a legal perspective, it is important to think of your buy-to-let as a business. Essentially you have decided to rent out a property and take on that associated risk in order to make a profit. Treating your letting as a business should mean that all your paperwork is in good order. You should have a bespoke tenancy agreement that is up to date, fit for purpose and in line with your long-term objectives. You should ensure you are compliant with your obligations on gas and electrical safety certificates and you are keeping records to satisfy the Right to Rent requirements. You should have a plan for your business and an exit strategy.
It is important to treat tenants as customers, not friends and to always maintain a professional relationship. To aid this, set boundaries from the beginning, outline your expectations, communicate well, be firm when needed and honour your agreements and commitments to them as tenants.
For some landlords it might be a good idea to use an agency to manage the letting of the property. Particularly if you have several properties that you let out, have a busy lifestyle, or spend time some distance from the property. An agency can take care of a lot of the paperwork, administration, vet tenants, manage any maintenance issues, communicate with the tenants, collect rent and deposits. It is equally as important to build a good relationship with the agent you appoint, as they will be responsible for various aspects of your property’s security and informing you of any problems that arise.
Landlords need to keep an ear to the ground for any changes in legislation around property, insurance and tenancy agreements / contracts. This is an area of law that shifts quite frequently, so it is important to be aware of any changes so that you remain compliant and protect yourself from any claims, fines, prosecution or from being barred from evicting troublesome tenants.
From time to time, issues can arise between landlords and tenants and these can be stressful from both perspectives. Problems could include issues around disrepair, damage to the property or its contents, complaints from neighbours, late payment of rent, poor communication or either party not adhering to the agreed terms of the rental agreement.
A bubbling dispute that threatens your home or where you live can be very worrying. Both sides are likely to be keen to resolve matters swiftly.
Understanding your legal rights may not be as straightforward as you think and a nasty dispute with a tenant can leave landlords out of pocket and their investment open to further risk.
If you have an issue or complaint about a tenant, it is best to start by having an initial discussion. Communication should start informally, by raising issues and getting their feedback or response. If an open conversation does not work and matters persist, then landlords should take a more formal approach by writing or emailing their tenants, creating a paper trail and some clear expectations. Landlords should tread carefully when writing to tenants, not to make threats or harass their tenants.
If informal discussions and writing to your tenant does not resolve matters, then you need to consider other routes to find resolution. Understandably, landlords who have lost out on money from tenants in rent arrears, or who have damaged their property which needs repairs, may be reluctant to jump straight into legal proceedings and are feeling cost-conscious. A Fixed Fee meeting with a solicitor can help you keep a close rein on your finances and help to inform you of your legal rights, where you stand and what options are ahead.
There are some more dignified ways to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants, which can pave the way for a continued relationship allowing the tenancy to continue. If this is something that is important to you, then mediation or arbitration is a good option. These non-conflict methods see discussions happen with a trained, impartial mediator in the room or over conference call guiding the conversations to find a resolution for both parties. This takes place outside of the court room which can help to keep both stress levels and finances lower.
When issues become too big or the trust is completely lost in the relationship then you may have no choice but to terminate the tenancy, evict tenants or attend either a small claims or county court. A solicitor who specialises in landlord, tenant or property disputes can help you navigate the process and give you stringent legal advice throughout.
If you are a landlord who needs advice or legal support with a conflict you have with a tenant, neighbour, or lettings agency, then please get in touch today to see how we can help.
Call our office on 01256 844888, email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to our online chat assistant who can take your initial information and put you in touch with our dispute resolution team.
We look forward to speaking and helping you to find a way forward from your stressful property dispute.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
Lamb Brooks LLP
Victoria House 39 Winchester Street Basingstoke Hampshire RG21 7EQ
f: 01256 330 933
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