This is a topic that needs to be talked about more!
Whether you are a self-managing landlord or using the services of a letting agent like ourselves on a fully managed basis, you will have a business relationship with your tenants.
It is vital to understand, that as a landlord, you are obligated to provide a safe and compliant home for your tenants and that no one, not even an agent on a fully managed basis, can divest you of that responsibility.
At the time of writing, there are over 160 Government statutes and regulations that landlords have to adhere to, and this is one of the main reasons landlords choose to using a lettings agent.
However, even if they do, there is still a relationship to nurture and build. Of course, you can to some degree determine the extent of that, but it is important to understand that you have a commercial relationship with your tenant, even when working with a lettings agent.
At the start of the tenancy, you may like to ask your tenant their preferred method of communication - whether that be by phone, email, or text.
First of all, landlords need to understand that tenants are entitled to what is known as “quiet enjoyment” of their rental property.
This means that the landlord cannot turn up unannounced or enter the property without the tenant’s consent.
Any visit by the landlord has to be notified to the tenant in writing, giving at least 24 hours notice that the landlord intends to come to the property.
The tenant may have many legitimate reasons why they might refuse - it might be an inconvenient time, they might be a shift worker, they may be ill, they may be nursing a new baby - so the landlord has to respect that.
Should the tenant refuse to allow a visit, then the landlord should try and find out why and seek to find a date and time that works for the tenant.
Communication is everything in business, and polite and respectful communication will help maintain relationships, so bear this in mind when looking to contact your tenant.
Once that communication breaks down, it can very often lead to a tenancy turning bad, so it is worth putting in that effort to keep it open and friendly.
When deciding on which lettings agent to use, you should seek an agent who is going to treat your tenant in the same way that you would yourself i.e. with respect.
You do not want your tenants being bullied or harassed or ignored by a rogue agent, as ultimately you will pay the price for this.
So when choosing an agent, you should not only look at reviews by other landlords but also reviews by tenants.
Even when you have a fully managed service, there may be situations where you need to be involved.
For instance, should a tenant stop paying the rent, you will need to decide what action you wish the agent to take on your behalf.
Clearly, an agent will automatically chase the tenant if the rental payment is late. They will also try and find out what the problem is and report that back to you.
It is worth taking into account that life throws many curveballs to people, and, as a landlord, we recommend that you be empathetic in the first instance.
It may turn out that the tenant has lost their job, is going through some kind of personal crisis, is ill or has had an accident, or is suffering from a mental health problem.
If the tenant has been paying their rent on time and looking after the property up until that point, then we would recommend that the ethical approach is to try and assist the tenant to get back on track and then work with them on a repayment plan.
For instance, if they have lost their job, you could agree to wait for them to be in receipt of housing benefit for your next payment, and then agree on a payment plan when they find employment again.
If the tenant is having other issues, try and work with them or see if you can contact guarantors or next of kin to check that the tenant is receiving support. You can also direct them to local social services if necessary.
Clearly, if communication breaks down and/or the problem is too extreme to deal with, then you will need to take a view about re-gaining possession of the property, but this should be a final resort if other avenues of getting the tenant back on track have failed.
The other communication area is repairs and maintenance. Although it is not enshrined in law, best practice dictates that a contractor should be sent out within 48 hours of the tenant calling in an issue. If this is a heating/hot water failure in winter, then clearly a more urgent call out should be arranged if possible.
With our fully managed service, we have systems in place to ensure that repairs and maintenance issues are dealt with promptly.
Whilst we do have a contact number (and this is supported out of hours by a call centre) we prefer fully managed tenants do everything through our system. This informs us and the landlord of the issues and enables them to keep an audit trail in their account and receive SMS updates through their phone.
Once a contractor reports back to us on the cost of resolving the issue, we will then contact the landlord to authorise the repair. This invoice can then be deducted from the following month’s rent, rather than the landlord paying it.
On occasion, your tenant may want to discuss things they would like to do to the property themselves, such as keep a pet, keep some chickens, landscape the garden, put in a shed, or re-decorate.
Again, we recommend that you consider the tenant’s request in the light of how the tenancy has been running and take the view that, if they are requesting such things, they are likely to be putting down roots and will stay for an extended time.
In most cases, we would recommend agreeing to the tenant’s request, but with some caveats, such as a deep clean at the end of the tenancy if a new pet has been brought in, or the decorating being done to a reasonable standard, otherwise the tenant will have to pay for a professional to put it right.
Some inexperienced landlords can feel very aggrieved by the actions of tenants and take it personally. As you are dealing with people, you should regard issues as part of running a business, and deal with them pragmatically and professionally. Tenants not paying the rent is part of the business risk of being a landlord, so, if you experience this, it is recommended to follow the advice above first, before becoming heavy-handed or letting the tenant know that you are angry, and of course, you cannot hound them for the rent as you could fall foul of harassment claims.
All in all, it makes business and ethical sense to work with your tenant, solve their problems, and give them an enjoyable and safe experience of renting through you.
If the situation becomes extreme or communication breaks down completely, then of course you must resort to legal due process, but in the first instance, our advice is to take the “softly softly” approach and try and assist the tenant in overcoming the difficulty and work with them, rather than adding to their woes.
This will create goodwill with your tenant going forwards.
If using our fully managed service, you can rest assured that your tenants will receive a first class service and will be treated with respect, just as you would treat them yourselves.
Whatever your property needs, from tenant find to fully managed, here at MakeUrMove, we are here to support you every step of the way and ensure that both you and your tenant enjoy a positive experience of being in the private rented sector.
To find good tenants faster, simply list your property with MakeUrMove and we'll list your rental property on all the major property portals.