In our experience, bad tenants are in the minority – like dodgy landlords. Very few tenants actually set out to create problems for their landlords. However, like any relationship, circumstances change and the knock-on effect can be harmful. Building a positive tenant landlord relationship is one of the most commercial things you can do.
It makes sense, therefore, to anticipate potential problems with your tenants and minimise the disruption caused to you both. Remember, the abolition of Section 21 will mean that landlords can no longer evict tenants without very good reason. Even then, the repercussions and costs can be damaging if your case goes to court.
You want your property to earn you an income, like any business, but, like any business, you need to be commercial and that calls for you to take charge of the relationship between you and your ‘customer’ – your tenant. Your aim must be to provide the optimum level of service to ensure your tenant keeps to their side of the bargain and is content to continue renting the property.
At The Right Place, we observe 8 golden rules:
From returning calls to making an appointment to visit the property, clear and regular communication will help keep the tenant landlord relationship on a positive footing. Be clear about the reasons behind any decision or instruction. The classic example is access for inspections or maintenance. You have the legal right to enter the property having given appropriate notice, but often, understandably, tenants want to be present. That makes it more challenging to arrange access that suits you, your contractor and your tenant, so if it’s for something important or urgent (like a gas safety check), then perhaps you need to be insistent that the time suits your contractor, rather than the tenant. Whereas, if it’s non-urgent, then you can explain and offer the tenant several times and dates.
2. Look after the property
Anticipate problems before they happen, e.g. carry out winter maintenance. This saves you time and money and sets an example to your tenants on how to look after your property. It also earns you brownie points by showing that you take seriously their need to regard your property as ‘their home’. Leaving things until they break down will only antagonise your tenant and may cost you more money in the long run.
3. Stay within the law
Be the responsible landlord (to yourself and to your tenant). Winging it always fails, is likely to cost you more and could ruin your reputation, putting your valuable tenant landlord relationship at risk. The legislation for landlords is onerous – be in no doubt. From incorrectly claiming finance cost on your tax return to not protecting a security deposit, or overlooking the new electrical safety standards, there’s a lot at stake if you get it wrong. Crippling fines at least, custodial sentences or maybe loss of life at worst. Staying within the law is something to be proud of and should reassure and act as a warning to your tenants.
4. Stay on top of admin
Legislation is the cause of a lot of admin. The Tenant Fees Act alone can tie you up in knots, which is why we carry out contract audits with new clients to identify potential problem areas. As a landlord, you need to be super organised with great record keeping to ensure you are not losing money or breaking the law. It also signals to tenants that you know what you are doing.
5. Charge a fair rent
The biggest breakdown in the tenant landlord relationship relates to rent hikes. Sometimes, you have no choice if your costs are spiralling through no fault of your own, but don’t use any excuse to raise the rent. The less money a tenant has each month once all their bills have been paid, the bigger the risk they’ll default or leave. A reasonable and steady income is commercially sensible.
6. When something goes wrong
…we recommend you’re prepared for it. Firstly, with our total loss protection Rental Guarantee, then by following a procedure and making your tenant aware of your plans. Whether it’s simple forgetfulness or a temporary cash flow problem, the reason a tenant defaults on their rent can vary. If you have peace of mind that you can cover any of your own outgoings and remain profitable, it means you can deal with the situation calmly. The problem might be solved by agreeing a simple payment plan or it might mean legal proceedings. Either way, having a plan for income continuity and following a prescribed and trusted process is the best way for both you and your tenant.
7. Create a manual that’s easy to understand
Do you read manuals? No, I don’t either! However, if there isn’t one accompanying my latest gadget, you can be sure I’ll kick off with “how do they expect me to know how it works?” It’s the same with tenants – don’t give them any excuse to complain and, more importantly, don’t give them any excuse not to look after or use something properly. Give every tenant a comprehensive easy-to-read guide to everything from kitchen appliances to changing the batteries in the smoke alarms.
8. Consider accepting pets
40% of adults own a pet, so accepting them as tenants is worth considering in order to increase demand for your property and attract long-term tenants. It means setting out clear guidelines on your expectations and exclusions. It also gives you a legitimate reason to ask for more rent!
Long live the peaceful tenant landlord relationship
The majority of tenants are happy with their landlord and rental property because both sides have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and take their responsibilities seriously. According to the English Housing Survey 2018, 84% of tenants in the private rented sector are either ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their rental homes. The media, however, would have us believe that all landlords are rogues and all tenants are unhappily living in squalor.
It isn’t a cushy job being a (good) landlord. There’s a widely-held misconception that you just need to invest in a property, get it tenanted, and sit back while the rent pours in. Appoint The Right Place to manage your property for you and we’ll remove a huge amount of worry and admin, giving you freedom to do something else with your time, safe in the knowledge that your tenant landlord relationship is being nurtured.