Your role as a landlord involves many responsibilities. Ones that go beyond the basics of maintenance, finding and keeping tenants, and collecting the rent.
Successful landlords know the market. They comply with all current legislation, keeping up to date with changes and understanding the implications.
And they know how to communicate effectively with their tenants.
So when those tenants ask questions, they have the answers. Informed, helpful answers that will improve the landlord-tenant relationship and make life easier for both parties.
Here we share some tips about how to respond to the most commonly asked tenant questions.
When Can You Increase My Rent?
Your business model relies on making as high a return on your investment as possible. But this goal needs to be balanced against the needs of the tenant and the market as whole.
Regardless of type, all tenancy agreements should include how and when rent will be reviewed and therefore potentially increased.
For fixed-term tenancies, which run for a set length of time, you can only put the rent up at the end of the fixed term. The only exception is if the tenancy agreement has a rent review clause which clearly states you may increase the amount during the fixed term.
For periodic tenancies, which roll on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis, you typically can only increase the rent once over a year-long period. Doing it more than once requires agreement from your tenant.
If your tenancy agreement outlines a process for increasing the rent, you must stick to this carefully.
If not, you should follow these guidelines:
Renew the tenancy agreement at the end of the fixed term with an increased rent
Agree a rent increase with your tenant and produce a written record of an agreement signed by both parties
Use a ‘Landlord’s Notice Proposing a New Rent’ form which increases the rent after the fixed term has ended
Additionally, you need to give a minimum of one month’s written notice if rent is paid weekly or monthly. For yearly tenancies, this notice period increases to six months.
Increases within both types of tenancy need to be fair and legal while also realistically reflecting any increase in value to your property. Alongside this, communicating any change to your tenant amicably and sensitively will lead to a smoother, more successful process.
How Much Can You Increase My Rent By?
Since the introduction of the Tenants Fees Bill, 55% of letting agents have seen landlords increasing rents to help make up the shortfall. Against a backdrop of numerous legislative changes, they’re finding ways to adapt to the new rules while also turning a profit.
But there’s a limit to how much this increase can be. Price your property too high and you won’t attract any tenants at all.
Government guidelines suggest any increase should be “fair and accurate” and in line with average costs in the local area. Exactly what % increase you can introduce will depend on the local market, rather than simply taking national statistics into account. Price hikes in central London won’t be reflected in smaller suburban towns and cities.
So keep a close eye on rental prices in your area and ensure yours is within a similar range and in line with inflation to be competitive and appealing to likely tenants.
In answer to your tenant’s question, reassure them of your local market knowledge and stress that you’re charging a fair price for the size, location and condition of the property. Have some examples of similarly priced properties to hand if they challenge this.
Also be prepared to negotiate. If your tenant is reliable and trustworthy, insisting they pay slightly more when they’ve explained that they simply can’t afford it could result in a costly empty property or even a legal challenge.
If a tenant believes the increase is unfair, they have the legal right to take the dispute to a tribunal where an independent jury will decide on the level of rent that can be charged.
Getting the balance right between protecting your investment and treating tenants fairly can be a tricky challenge. So make sure you’re informed, transparent and open to communication, and you should enjoy the best of both worlds.
What Tenancy Terms Can You Offer Me?
The appeal of a long-term tenancy for those living in your property is obvious: greater stability, the reassurance they can relax and enjoy setting up home, and the hassle and cost savings that come with not having to move house regularly.
In fact, research by the homelessness and housing charity Shelter reveals that almost nine in ten renters want the security of a long-term tenancy. But it also shows that one quarter of them have had to move home in the last five years.
As a landlord, maybe you’d also appreciate this kind of arrangement as it’ll provide guaranteed income over an extended period. In addition, void periods are less likely, your tenant will be invested to care more about the property and you’ll step off the merry-go-round of constantly having to find new tenants.
But you may also have concerns about restricted flexibility if you decide you want to sell or move into the property yourself. Or maybe you’re wary of being saddled with a nightmare tenant who never pays the rent on time and treats your property disrespectfully. Nobody relishes a trip to court to settle a dispute.
So if your tenant asks what tenancy terms you can offer, be ready with your answer. Are you committed to sticking to the standard six or twelve-month contract? Do you value its flexibility more than the income promised by a longer agreement?
Or rather than always saying a straight no to long-term requests, assess each one on its own merits. What references can the prospective tenant provide? Have they reliably paid their rent in the past? What are their family circumstances? What are their career plans?
As the market struggles to keep up with demand for long-term tenancies, becoming an advocate for them could be a wise business move.
Can I Keep My Pets at the Property?
Many landlords have a blanket ban on allowing pets to get their paws under the table of their rental property. Why would they choose a tenant with a barking dog if a pet-less hassle-free alternative is ready and waiting to move in?
But with a quarter of renters deciding to keep their pets a secret from landlords, the demand to share living space with a furry friend is as strong as ever. And refusing them could mean missing out on a great business opportunity.
If you’re among those who steadfastly won’t permit pets, make sure you have a well-rehearsed answer to the question ‘why?’ Highlight your concerns about potential damage, noise and smells while remaining understanding of their dilemma.
But if you empathise with their situation and appreciate the benefits pets can bring, being willing to compromise could open up your property to a wider pool of potential tenants.
Faced with limited choice – currently only 7% of homes for rent welcome pets – they’ll welcome your willingness to discuss any concerns and come to a mutually agreeable solution. Ensure your tenancy agreement addresses any potential issues and covers you for any damage or disruption. You could also consider charging a slightly higher deposit for further peace of mind.
And be aware of proposed legislation to overhaul the model tenancy agreement. In January, the government announced plans to make it easier for tenants to find pet-friendly property to rent.
The change centres on encouraging landlords to allow ‘well-behaved pets’ in their properties. The aim is to reduce the number of restrictive contracts and open up the possibility of renting with pets to more people.
The next time a tenant asks a potentially awkward question, keep these tips in mind. Be knowledgeable and accommodating, while protecting your investment, and you’re more likely to develop a landlord-tenant relationship based on trust and transparency that’s beneficial to all.
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