As the buy-to-let market grows, so does the number of landlord and tenant disputes. From lease renewals and damage to property, to forbidden pets and getting a security deposit back in one piece – without proper communication, there’s a lot that can go wrong.
Here are some of the more common disputes and how you, as a landlord, can get around them.
Subletting is where an existing tenant lets all or just a part of their home to someone else, who is known as the subtenant. Most tenancy agreements do not allow tenants to sublet, but given the often transient lifestyle of some renters, the practice of subletting has become more common. This, however, is a breach of the tenancy agreement by the tenant and could put you and your property in significant danger.
Tenants will need to get the landlord’s permission before a sublet occurs (providing that the tenancy agreement does not prohibit subletting in the first place). The reason for this is that the original tenant will have been put through a variety of tenant checks (for proof of a regular income and lack of criminal record) and, if a sub-tenant moves in without the landlord knowing, then this process is rendered void.
Where unlawful subletting occurs, the landlord is not given a choice as to whom lives in and uses their own property. After all, this is what tenant checks are for.
What you can do if your tenant is subletting
If your tenancy agreement states that subletting is prohibited, or you have decided to prohibit your tenant from subletting, then you can take action to evict them from the property. Of course, you need to make sure that the tenant is actually subletting – they might have let a friend or relative stay for a short while.
You need to follow a very specific process when evicting a tenant, some of which will depend on the kind of tenancy you have. First, you need to serve the tenant with an eviction notice and, when the notice period expires, apply to the county court for a possession order. For more information on the process, get in touch. Here’s what gov.uk says about evicting tenants.
Not having a proper inventory
This poses a huge headache for both the landlord and the tenant. Without an inventory, nobody can prove the condition of the property at the beginning of the tenancy. How can the landlord prove that the damages in the property have been caused by the tenant and are not just ‘wear and tear’? Of course, it applies the other way around, too.
When it comes to returning a tenant’s deposit, having a proper inventory is vital and will prevent either party from unnecessarily losing money.
While many landlords like to build healthy relationships with their tenants, this doesn’t make bringing up the subject of money any easier. And, if you’re a landlord, you have to remember that this is still a business, no matter how friendly you might be with your tenant.
There’s a balance to keep in mind. If you have a reliable tenant then you do not want them leaving over a couple of hundred pounds (then you’ll have to go through the process of finding a new tenant and risking lengthy void periods). On the other hand, you’ll want to keep up with the market rates and if rents in the area are going up then why should you lose out?
Here are a few ways that you can approach rent increases fairly without losing your good tenants.
Increase rents incrementally (rather than one big increase every 3-4 years)
To make sure that you cover the likes of inflation, mortgage interest rates and any repair or maintenance costs, you could increase the rent on an annual basis by small increments. Tenants are less likely to leave over a £20 pound increase per month, but if they’re hit with a an increase of a few hundred pounds after years of nothing then they’ll probably contest it.
Getting the timing right is the best way to do it
If you want to keep a good tenant but you still need to put rent up, you need to time everything right.
- Advise your tenant no less than two months before the end of the letting period (although this will depend on whether the contract is fixed period or rolling).
- Write them a letter/email and explain the situation (although a landlord doesn’t have to explicitly give reasons). Ask if the new monthly payment is acceptable to the tenant. Always include a rent review clause to ensure that the process is all above board.
- Get their agreement in writing.
If your tenant has stopped paying rent, it is understandably frustrating for a landlord with any number of overheads and other associated costs that need to be paid.
Find out why your tenant is in arrears
Begin making respectful enquiries as to why your tenant is missing payments. Whether it’s simple forgetfulness on their behalf or something more serious like them having lost their job, a landlord is well within their rights to enquire so that the issue can be resolved.
If the tenant has provided a guarantor, then the best course of action is often to contact whoever is responsible for covering unpaid rent. If this doesn’t solve the problem, a landlord can then begin proceedings to reclaim the property under The Housing Act 1988 but you must first give them notice as suggested above.
We help make life as a landlord easier
A good landlord is one who recognises that things can be kept businesslike and professional, while maintaining decent relationships with their tenant – both parties will benefit from this kind of approach.
If any landlord/tenant disputes arise, you need to brush up on what you can and cannot do. Get in touch with our team of landlord specialists for everything from resolving rent arrears to keeping your tenants happy.