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A landlords' Guide to Managing Tricky Tenants

A landlords' guide to managing tricky tenants

Over 40% of landlords have reported managing problem tenants as their greatest challenge.

The figure, revealed in our latest landlord survey, is a stark indication of one of the biggest obstacles to property letting success.

Whether it’s not paying their rent or persisting with anti-social behaviour, these tricky tenants can be a time and money drain, as well as a significant source of stress.

Here, MakeUrMove’s managing director Alexandra Morris shares her expert insight into how landlords can avoid some of the most common pitfalls. 

  1. Know Your Tenant

Thorough referencing is the single most important step when acquiring a new tenant.

While it’s helpful to do your own checks, it’s crucial to use a credit reference agency to confirm credit status. This will reveal any historic issues, such as CCJs or defaults on payments, which can sometimes be traced back to previous rent arrears for a current or former landlord.

You can also use an address verification service via an agency to confirm that a prospective tenant is being transparent about where they live and for how long.

A further useful check is to verify stated income. If you use a credit reference agency, many will offer an open banking solution to check account transactions and confirm income. You can also do an employer reference or check other sources of income such as savings, pensions and investments.

Some landlords insist on getting a past landlord reference while others say it’s not worth the paper it’s written, or usually not written, on. The reason? If you’re a landlord with a problem tenant, you could gloss over the extent of the issues just to quickly move them from your property.

They’re still worth trying to get though, especially if they rent through an agency because you can ask those questions which might not come up as standard. Did they maintain the property well? Were they ever late with paying rent, rather than being in arrears? 

And the very best check is to physically visit the property they’re living in. If they allow you access, interviewing them in their current home can unearth a whole host of tenant intel.

  1. Get the tenant agreement right

Ideal tenant found, the next step is to draw up a clear, straightforward tenancy agreement. It’s not a legal obligation but serves to protect the landlord, the tenant and the property itself. 

A thorough tenancy agreement establishes the rights and responsibilities of both parties, the legal elements of which exist even in the absence of a signed agreement.

Discover more about what should and shouldn’t be included and the common mistakes made during the drafting process here.

  1. Keep communicating

Clear communication is key to every successful landlord-tenant relationship. And when it comes to tackling anti-social behaviour, it should be the first step towards reaching a resolution.

Whether they’re regularly disturbing neighbours with loud music or parking inconsiderately, speak to them about the issue – either personally or via your letting agent. Suggesting how they can fix the problem themselves before it escalates could help avoid potential legal action.

This can be an emotive topic for landlords. It can involve police being called to your property and stressful conversations. So the biggest non-no is to turn it into a personal issue.

Instead, keep a detailed record of everything. And be reassured there are legal processes you can follow to help regain possession if the behaviour goes beyond something reasonable to deal with personally.

Also, avoid turning up at the property unannounced, letting yourself in just because you own it. And definitely don’t change the locks as you’ll land yourself in legal hot water.

  1. Understand the law

If the talking route reaches a dead end, it’s time to get serious and lean on the law. 

Currently, as of June 2022, there are two main ways to legally regain possession of a property: Section 21 and Section 8. Both are outlined in the Housing Act 1988.

They’re detailed pieces of legislation: read more here about how they both work.

To summarise, Section 21 is usually the first step taken by a landlord as you don’t have to give a reason for terminating the tenancy. You must give at least two months’ notice to vacate the property.

A Section 8 notice can be served based on specific grounds such as rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or breaking some other terms of a tenancy agreement. Notice periods vary from two weeks to two months, depending on those grounds, and can be served at any time during the tenancy, regardless of its fixed term.

Do be aware that the UK government has recently announced the forthcoming abolition of Section 21. The changes, published in the Renters’ Reform Bill, will likely be introduced over the next couple of years. The proposal includes plans to strengthen Section 8, ensuring landlords can still evict tricky tenants without going through a costly court process.

Discover more about your rights as a landlord in our helpful video.

  1. Employ an expert

When it comes to avoiding problem tenants, finding a professional lettings partner will reap many benefits.

At MakeUrMove, we’ve been working with landlords for over 14 years to help them find and keep reliable tenants. We’ve developed robust processes that help us to spot when a tenant could be a problem.

Our team either manage a portfolio on behalf of landlords or help them look after properties using our Good Landlord packages which can include rent protection and legal eviction cover. They’re well-versed in addressing difficult issues with tenants quickly so they don’t become more problematic.

Key areas of focus include conducting tenant referencing to a high standard and communicating swiftly with the tenant as soon as a problem occurs. These policies have led to us reducing our arrears rate to less than 1%, compared to an industry average of 10%.

Managing tricky tenants simply gets a whole lot easier when you have access to expert advice and support.

Our Good Landlord Protect service includes rent protection and legal eviction cover as standard. Get in touch to learn more.

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