Steve Bowen, a Property Redress Scheme (PRS) Tenancy Mediator with over 40 years’ experience in the property industry, addresses 10 of the most common landlord and tenant myths he has come across in the last year.
Steve has been helping landlords, tenants and agents find resolutions when disputes arise, without the need to resort to the courts. Over the past year, he and the PRS Tenancy Mediation Service team have come across several myths that prevent landlords and tenants working together to resolve their issues.
Here are the most common myths, and the truth behind them:
1. All landlords are rogues
Whilst there are some rogue landlords exploiting tenants, most landlords do not fit this profile. Most landlords are genuinely keen to nurture excellent and long-lasting relationships with their tenants, maintain their properties and deal with issues as they arise.
2. All tenants are saints
Again, most tenants want to have a peaceful existence in a property. Many tenants stay in their property for many years and enjoy good relationships and open communication with their landlords, paying their rent on time and reporting issues.
However, some act poorly and do not have respect for their property, failing in some of the basics, particularly when it comes to carrying out those repairs set out as their responsibility within their tenancy agreement.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many tenants, having been furloughed, made redundant or put on reduced hours, and have panicked. Some tenants have stopped paying their rent without discussing their financial problems with their landlord. They have stopped communicating with their landlord in the hope that the problem will go away. This approach never helps and usually leads to a breakdown in the relationship.
3. All disputes can be settled by mediation
This statement is both true and false. Practically, all disputes can be settled through mediation, however, it requires both sides to engage with the process.
Mediation is a fast and cost-effective way to settle disputes. It often proves to be more successful than court action because both sides get to participate in agreeing the final resolution. However, if one side refuses to engage with the process, it will not work.
We do come across tenants who either fail to respond to our attempts to contact them or just say we will ‘see them in court’. In these cases, there is very little we can do, other than to provide a report showing the landlord tried to engage in mediation. This may help the landlord when they do ‘see them in court’.
4. No disputes can be settled by mediation
Conversely, some landlords are skeptical of mediation and feel that if the tenant is not responding to them, why would they respond to us? We have had 400 to 500 cases instructed over the past year, and most cases have either settled with an agreed payment plan, or a non-financial agreement with an agreed ending of the tenancy.
5. Landlords cannot evict tenants for at least six months
Some landlords and tenants have been confused by the ‘eviction ban’, which was brought in during the pandemic. The ‘four months’ relates to notice periods e.g. how much notice you need to give a tenant to regain possession of a property.
From 1 June, notice periods have changed again. Notice periods for the most serious cases are as short as two weeks. Read LandlordZONE’s article for more information on the winding down of the eviction ban and the reduction in the eviction notice period landlords must give to tenants.
Steve has recorded an informational video expanding on the topics in this article.
6. Landlords can evict tenants in under a month
Whilst notice periods under certain circumstances are less than a month, it is going to take much longer than that to ‘evict’ a tenant at the moment. The court system has a huge backlog of cases due to the pandemic and it is likely an eviction through the courts will take between six and 12 months. However, mediation can help you get your property back much quicker (under a month is possible).
Serving notices should be done in line with legal advice to ensure that your eviction is not delayed in the courts. Landlord Action are experts at handling all aspects of evictions and serving notices.
7. Every element of a tenant and landlord relationship is best dealt with by mediation
In truth, open and transparent communication, established and maintained throughout the tenancy, is without doubt the best way for landlords and tenants to build a working relationship.
However, where issues arise, going through mediation is the simplest and least traumatic way of working to a mutually satisfactory resolution.
8. If agents are involved life is much simpler
This can be true if the agent has a clear mandate from the landlord and maintains an open and transparent relationship with the tenant.
However, occasionally agents are sometimes heavy handed with tenants and could be clearer in their communications. This often causes problems that could easily be avoided, and it is ultimately the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the agent enhances their relationship with the tenant rather than damaging it due to poor communication. This is the situation in most cases we deal with.
9. Rent guarantee policies will always pay out in the case of arrears
We have seen numerous rent guarantee policy claims made by landlords to their insurers, where they have been asked ‘have you tried mediation first’. You must be clear on the terms and conditions of your policy before making your claim.
We can mediate quickly and arrive at the position where either the tenant agrees to sign up to a payment plan to clear the arrears or refuses to do so. In which case, we write an ‘attempts to mediate report’, that insurers will accept as evidence that you have attempted the ‘pre-action protocol’ of mediation. This will be seen as having acted ‘reasonably’ before making your rent guarantee claim.
10. Every mediation attempt can be settled within a couple of phone calls
Sometimes mediations can be set up and dealt with within a day, however, sometimes it takes much longer. There are many reasons for this:
• Language difficulties
• Lack of understanding of tenancy agreements
• Refusal to accept any responsibility
• Listening to ‘bar-room’ lawyers, friends and family
• Other agendas such as wanting an arrears settlement linked to alleged outstanding repairs
A fact not myth: Communication is the key at every stage of a tenant landlord relationship.
Get in touch with the PRS Tenancy Mediation service today speak to one of our trained mediators who will be able to guide you through the process to resolve any dispute with your tenants.