When you rent your property you want everything to go smoothly, with monthly payments that come in on time, every time, with no cause for concern and little contact with your tenants except for friendly greetings and an exchange of Christmas cards. That's the ideal, and it may be just how it works out for you. But life isn't always perfect, and it's becoming increasingly easy to end up in a dispute or property disagreement with a tenant.
What are the common causes for disagreements and disputes? Excessive and constant claims for repairs from your tenants. Tenants who don't look after your property as well as they should do. Tenants breaking the terms of the lease, for example, by keeping pets surreptitiously or smoking in a non-smoking property. Withholding or non-payment of rent. Disagreements over the return of bonds or deposits given at the beginning of a tenancy.
Once you are in a dispute, what's the best way to resolve it from a landlord's point of view? Here are 5 tips for dealing with a property disagreement.
1) Know your rights
The best way to deal with a disagreement is to stop it escalating in the initial phase. Legislation regarding landlord and tenant agreements can seem complex, but it's good to have a grasp of it. Find information on the internet, or speak to experts in the field. If you can show your tenants that you have acted legally at all times, then they may have to concede the point of the dispute.
2) Make a check list before the tenancy begins
One of the most common sources of property disagreements is the return of deposits. The tenant must understand that they have a duty to look after your property, and if it's in a worse state of repair at the end of the tenancy, then you have a right to withhold some or all of their deposit. In order to do this, you need to make a full inventory of your property before the tenant moves in. Get them to agree to and sign the inventory. It can be a good idea to take photographs of your property as well. That way, it can easily be shown why you have had to withhold a deposit.
3) Talk problems over
In every walk of life, disagreements often stem from a breakdown in communication. This can be especially true in landlord-tenant disputes. Because you may not know each other, or see each other very often, it's easy for misunderstandings to occur. Being at the centre of a dispute can be stressful, especially for your tenants who may be worried that they are going to lose the roof over their head. For this reason, emails, letters and phone calls can become heated. It's much better to meet face to face as people are often less confrontational when they can see the person that they're in disagreement with. Take somebody along with you who can act as an impartial witness. Remain calm and professional at all times, but be firm.
4) Document everything
As soon as it becomes clear that there may be a property disagreement, make sure that you keep a record of all correspondence and write down the details of any phone calls or face to face meetings. This paper trail can be invaluable if your disagreement has to go to arbitration or even to court.
5) Be prepared to go legal
Taking legal action against a client is and should be your final resort, but it's an action you have to be prepared to take if you want to defend your legal rights. Many cases can be settled outside of court by lawyers or through arbitration. Make sure that you have a good quality lawyer who specialises in property disputes. Many offer a free initial consultation. Another option, of course, is eviction by giving a 'Section 21' notice. It's better to resolve the dispute by other means, if possible, especially if you are owed money by a tenant; but it's good to know that it's an option at your disposal.
Contact Greens Lettings here.
Greens Lettings is a property management company based in Shooters Hill, London. As your HMO expert in SE18, we continue to serve places in South East London such as SE2 (Abbey Wood), SE3 (Blackheath), SE7 (Charlton), SE9 (Eltham), SE10 (Greenwich South St), SE18 (Woolwich), SE23 (Lewisham) and SE28 (Thamesmead) — just to name a few. We are your local online letting agent specialising in HMO tenant find and full management. We offer free consultation and free property valuation. Contact Greens Lettings here.