Lettings agents deal with a whole host of tasks on behalf of their landlords – from sourcing and vetting tenants to arranging for routine maintenance, collecting rent money and resolving disputes. One of the most common reasons landlords come to lettings agents in an emergency involves problems with their current tenants. Whether that’s an ongoing dispute, an argument over payment or maintenance gone wrong, often lettings agents can offer a less costly alternative to solicitors, using negotiation and mediation to solve the issue swiftly and with minimal hassle.
No landlord wants to come up against conflict and difficulties with their tenants – so here’s the first part of our handy go-to guide for new and experienced landlords alike when it comes to potential tenancy issues – and how to deal with them.
I got on really well with my tenant and gave them a bit of leeway on a couple of late payments, but now I can’t locate them
Friendly relations with tenants are of course beneficial for a number of reasons – but there are a few drawbacks when it comes to being too close and allowing tenants to take liberties. The first issue with this is that if any of your other tenants find out, you could be accused of favouritism – but the biggest risk is the possibility that this tenant may take advantage of your generosity causing you to end up considerably out of pocket. Some people are very manipulative and are unsurprisingly very good at striking up a great relationship with their landlord then doing a disappearing act. Always protect yourself with legal documentation before the tenant moves in – however friendly you may be with them.
My tenant is refusing to pay. What next?
If a tenant refuses to pay, then this is a legal matter as they owe you money. However they’re only legally obliged to pay you if you have written agreements in place which prove there is a contract between you. Far too many landlords rely on verbal or make-shift contracts quickly typed up from an Internet template – only to find that later down the line they’re not covered in the courts when they try to recover their damages. In this situation, prevention is better than cure. Make sure that you’re covered with legally-binding contracts for each and every one of your tenants – so if they don’t pay up, you have the power to obtain a court order to locate them and recover the money you’re owed.
I have a tenant who tells me their financial situation has changed since they signed their agreement. What should I do now?
If you have employed a solicitor or lettings agent to aid you in the process of obtaining and vetting a tenant, then they should have signed a contract and declaration of their financial status – which acts as your security and a guarantee that you should receive your rent money each month. However inevitably life can intervene and tenants may find themselves in financial difficulty unexpectedly – they may have lost their job, or be going through a divorce, for example. In these situations, sensitivity is key. First and foremost, you want to ensure you’ll get your money – and part of that is dealing with the situation with humility and fairness. If the tenant has found themselves in a difficult position due to unforeseen circumstances, then you may be able to work with them to organise an official credit agreement to help them to spread the cost of the rent in line with their original contract. However there is a limit to how generous you can be – as you are running a business. If the tenant can no longer afford to live in your property, then you will need to offer to help them make arrangements to live elsewhere.
There’s more to come on this subject – watch out for the second instalment of Tenant 101 next month on the blog.