Tenants sometimes find out after they have moved in – not all landlords are created equal. In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, tenants crave proper treatment:
Please don’t put a price on my soul
My burden is heavy
My dreams are beyond control…
Some landlords just fall in love with their property, or it’s been their own home and they just can’t bear the thought of others in there messing up their carpets. They love it so much they drive by every day and have a good look to see what’s happening. They let their emotions take over from what should be their business head.
These landlords act as though the property is their own home when in fact legally and in practice, while a property is tenanted, it “belongs” to the tenant – it’s their home, and under the legal principle of “quiet enjoyment” they are entitled to just that. They can live as they please to a large extent.
These landlords decorate their properties to their own tastes, not in a neutral way with wall coverings and carpets that match almost any colour and style. If you have wild preferences in style and colour, with a rental property you are inviting tenants to make changes like re-painting and decorating to their own preferred colour scheme.
You treat your tenants as best buddies, you make a point of visiting them often and getting on like a house on fire, you even send them birthday cards! Big mistake, because when they bring in the new kitten and block the drains with kitchen grease, you find it hard to tackle and chastise them, it’s even worse when they start to miss rent payments.
I only rent to friends and relatives! Again, more often than not it’s a big mistake. They say if you want to lose a friend, lend them money. Pretty much the same thing applies with tenancies. Eventually relations become strained if your friendly tenants don’t behave as you expect them to. Often they will expect favours that other tenants just would not.
Renting property is a business and needs to be kept on a business footing, always treating your tenants fairly but firmly as customers. This way you can take immediate action without encumbrances if things start to go wrong.
You’ve just got to accept that the tenant “owns his own home” and to some extent you need to overlook minor infringements of your own standards; stay calm, cool and collected when you may be fuming inside, stay courteous, professional, and in control.
In extreme circumstances the one thing to bear in mind, the one thing that keeps you calm and allows you to carry on, is that one day, assuming you know how to go about it properly, this tenant is going to pay: pay for all damage he caused or the rent he owes you, because you will pursue the matter tenaciously, through the courts if necessary, and get back every penny.
More often than not though, it need not come to that if you handle the situation properly. Remember, most tenants (around 95% in my experience) are good to excellent. They look after your property and pay their rent on time. If there are issues they will respond if their misdemeanour or lease rule oversight is respectfully pointed out to them.
A quiet word and a businesslike letter (to put it on record), pointing out their breach of the rules and its consequences, will usually bring the tenant into line and prevent any escalation of problems in the future. If this does not work, and the tenant will not listen to reason, then you have a problem tenant on your hands and the relationship may need to enter a different phase. You need to learn how to deal with difficult tenants and there are several other articles here to help you do that.
Developing a good business-like working relationship with your tenant, and often this means keeping contact to a minimum, giving them their personal space, is the key to being a good landlord, and successfully making money from the venture. Having the landlord turn up every five minutes just reminds the tenant that they are a tenant, and that at the end of the month another rent payment will be going out of their bank account into yours.
Half the battle is selecting good tenants. It’s far easier to be a good landlord if you have only good tenants and the secret to that is have a comprehensive and exhaustive selection process. That’s for another article – see Selecting Tenants.
If you always rent your property to good tenants, then you’ll have much less need to worry about the state of your property and you won’t need to be nosy. Leave them alone and everyone will be happy. I find that opportunities come naturally when you can keep an eye on things: when the boiler needs a service or there’s a minor defect and the tenant calls you in.
If you do need to call, make sure you give at least 24 hours notice, for example, if the gas inspection is due. Most tenants won’t mind if you are the type of landlord that likes to inspect, so long as they have time to get ready for you, but as I’ve said above, often there’s no need for formal inspections.
Just bear in mind that most tenants have many concerns about the landlord for various reasons, so always try to be friendly, helpful and attentive and put them at ease whenever you meet them.
Don’t be a tight wad. The number of times we get enquiries from landlords asking if it’s their responsibility to mend the fridge or toilet, is unbelievable. In a residential property the landlord is responsible for almost everything – that’s one big reason and the advantage of renting: it gives tenants the freedom from worry about unexpected bills. As a landlord you take on that responsibility for them.
If it’s broken, get it fixed or renewed pronto: it will cost you far less than losing a good tenant and your tenant will think you’re the best landlord ever!
There’s always two sides to every story and in the landlord-tenant relationship, that’s down to the tenant. As a tenant you can help that relationship along and keep the landlord’s attention off you by playing by the rules.
Keep the property reasonably clean and tidy, try to get along with the neighbours, don’t introduce pets or other residents without permission and make sure your rent is always paid on time.
From a tenant’s point of view – and just like bad tenants there’s a small proportion of bad landlords – if that does not work, then think about leaving when your tenancy ends. It might teach the bad landlord that looking after good tenants is the way to run a landlording business successfully, but don’t hold your breath!
By Tom Entwistle,
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©LandlordZONE All Rights Reserved – never rely totally on these general guidelines which apply primarily to England and Wales. They are not definitive statements of the law. Before taking action or not, always do your own research and/or seek professional advice with the full facts of your case and all documents to hand.