Despite your best efforts to fill your property with reliable and trustworthy tenants, this doesn’t always turn out to be the case. Unfortunately for landlords and managing agents, dealing with difficult tenants is something we need to be prepared for.
Troublesome situations can be dealt with in different ways, but you should be professional and know your rights as a landlord. The process of evicting tenants is not something you want to be doing, but as a last resort, it is an option.
Get to Know Your Tenants and Communicate With Them
Checking the tenant before they move in is a good way to gauge what kind of tenant they might be. The National Landlords Association (NLA) are able to carry out a tenant check for a small fee. The basic check includes confirming that tenants are who they claim to be. You can also get a full tenant check, which will provide references from the previous landlord and the current employer.
Problems that may occur between landlords and tenants are often due to a breakdown in communication. Situations can frequently be solved with clear conversations from the beginning. Use communication to set up rules with the client and give warnings if necessary. For example, if they can’t pay the rent, ask them when they can, and what they can pay in the meantime.
Use the Tenancy Agreement to Clarify Issues
Make sure you know the essentials of what to include in a tenancy agreement and use the correct tenancy agreement, depending on the property type. Issues which may occur, such as late rent or disputes about noise, can be specified and outlined in the tenancy agreement in order to reduce problems later on.
When tenants first move in on a fixed-term contract, making the contract six or twelve months, with a six-month break clause, is advisable. If the tenant(s) wish to stay longer and they have been good tenants, you can then think about extending the tenancy agreement.
An inventory is also crucial for the moving in and out processes. Write up an inventory of everything included in the property which is owned by the landlord. Include big items such as carpets and note the colour and condition it is in. Have the tenant check the list and send it back to you with their signature. When they move out, go through the inventory and check everything is still there. It’s often beneficial to have this carried out by a third party.
Get Insurance and Use a Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) Scheme
Landlord insurance is crucial. The insurance will cover the standard aspects covered in house insurance, as well as third-party liability, such as damage to property by the tenant, or if they injure themselves within the property.
Since 2007, it has been a legal requirement to put the tenant’s deposit in a tenancy deposit protection scheme (for all Assured Shorthold Tenancies). Ensuring this is done swiftly will help any disputes which may arise later with tenants. There are various tenancy deposit schemes which you can legally put your deposit in.
Solutions to Potential Problems
Difficult tenants come in many different forms, from a lack of rent payment to using illegal substances within the house. Here are a few potential issues with tenants and advice from our East Dulwich estate agents on how you can proceed with the situation.
Tenants Can’t Pay The Rent
If the tenant can’t pay the rent on time, or is having some cash-flow problems, the best solution is to first ask why. Often it is due to hours being cut in a job or redundancy. Talking through exactly what the problem is — and when it can be resolved — is the first step. A good tenant will already be stressed about the situation, so being empathetic and talking about a solution is the best way forward.
If, however, you can’t get hold of the tenant and the rent has not been paid, you need to go through a step-by-step process on how to deal with this issue. In some cases, this can lead to the eviction of the tenant.
Disruptions With The Neighbours
Including a clause on neighbourly disputes in the tenancy agreement is a good idea. There are always two sides to every story, and you don’t want to be seen taking sides. If noise is the issue, get the neighbours to talk to the tenants directly. However, if the tenant is unresponsive to the neighbour, you should intervene and talk with them. If this doesn’t work, refer to the tenancy agreement for notes about noise. If the issue persists, the neighbours can call the police, which could lead to an anti-social behaviour order for the tenants.
Illegal Use of the Home
Tenants taking illegal substances in your property is something which should be dealt with straight away. Checking up on the property should be able to give you an indication if this is happening. If you feel this is the case, contact your local police station. The last thing you want to do is be questioned about involvement in the matter if your tenant is caught by the police.
Subletting a Room in the Property
This can be a real problem. How do you know for sure if this is what they are doing? It may be a friend staying for a few days, or checking up on the property while the tenant is away. Contact your tenant to find out if any of these scenarios are the case. If you can’t get hold of them, this could be an indication of something suspicious. Outlining in your tenancy agreement about subletting is vital; it can be used as grounds to investigate further and take action if necessary.
Damage to the Property
It’s natural for parts of the property to get worn over time. The inventory which tenants go through at the beginning of the tenancy is particularly important when claiming damage to the property. The tenancy agreement should outline whose responsibility it is to replace certain damaged areas and keep the property clean.
Visiting the property mid-way through the tenancy is a good way to check up on the property in terms of cleanliness and damage. Be sure to give twenty-four hours’ notice before visiting the property. Arranging a good time for both yourself and the tenant(s) will help to maintain a good relationship.
Anthony Sargent has been the Managing Director of East Dulwich estate agent Fish Need Water for over five years. During this time, Anthony has empowered homeowners and landlords to sell and rent their own properties by making the process simple and beneficial for everyone involved.