Five easy ways to foster a good relationship with your tenants

Old habits die hard, as they say, and most of us still remember that old maxim “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Of course, life would be simpler if this ‘ethic of reciprocity’ (to give it its fancy title) was heeded by everyone; sadly, all the goodwill in the world cannot protect you from a tenant who is determined to be ‘bad’.

That said, a considerate landlord is far likelier to have tenants who stay longer, pay on time and take good care of the property – essentially, the tenant that every landlord wants. So with this in mind, here are five easy ways to help you and your tenant enjoy a good working relationship.

1. Make yourself approachable

There’s a statutory element to this: your tenants have a right to request a statement of tenancy terms detailing the tenancy start date, rental amount, rent due date, when and how you can change the rent and, if applicable, the length of the fixed term.

Being approachable extends beyond this minor legal obligation, however, and it’s probably in your best interests to welcome open communication. Whilst some landlords have stories about tenants bothering them in the small hours because a bulb needs changing, most should appreciate prompt reports of minor repairs before they become major issues.

Being receptive might also mean that your tenant might be more comfortable letting you know when they fall on hard times – for instance, if a financial setback will result in late rent. Whilst this is never ideal, a little forewarning is better than expecting a payment that never comes.

2. Keep the property in a good state of repair

This is another of your tenant’s statutory rights. Rental properties should meet a basic standard, and landlords whose properties fall short of them face steep fines and nasty sanctions.

Some repairs are your responsibility by law, such as (but not limited to) the property’s exterior, its structure, gas and electrics, heating and hot water and plumbing.

Beyond this, you can apportion responsibility as you see fit. Some landlords like to let their tenants deal with any minor repairs that crop up, whilst others want to make sure that they (or a trusted trader) take care of almost everything. Simply make sure your tenancy agreement is clear on who is responsible for what.

3. Let your tenant make the property their home

Now, this isn’t universal. Some landlords prefer letting out furnished properties, which tend to fetch a higher rent but at the expense of a quicker turnover. This arrangement likewise suits the tenants who choose it.

Tenants who opt for an unfurnished or part-furnished home, however, might prefer to add a lick of paint or throw up a few posters to make the place feel a bit more like home. And whilst the thought of salmon-pink walls covered in Blu-Tack stains might be a horrifying one, remember that you can just state in your tenancy agreement that the property should be returned to its former state when the tenants leave. If they don’t restore it, you can deduct the cost of redecoration from their deposit.

If you’d like to have a little more say, simply request that your tenants put any redecoration requests past you first.

4. Avoid onerous terms in your tenancy agreement

Like most of these tips, there’s an element of both common sense and common law in this one. Firstly, no tenant is going to want to sign an agreement that requires them to deep-clean the property from ceiling to floor on a daily basis. Secondly, no court will consider such a term enforceable.

The Office of Fair Trading states that terms in a tenancy agreement should be ‘clear and fair’. Ambiguous language, harsh terms and punitive sanctions are all ruled out, and won’t be deemed legal even if they are included in your tenancy agreement.

Unfair terms, then, sting you twice. You couldn’t enforce them if you wanted to, and your tenant is likely to be suspicious of you even before your relationship has started.

5. Remember your tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment

As long as it is tenanted, your property is also someone’s home, and people have the right to live in their home undisturbed. This right is not only moral; it is enshrined in common law, in a covenant called the ‘right to quiet enjoyment’. The covenant exists between landlord and tenant irrespective of its inclusion in a tenancy agreement.

What this means is that you can’t enter the property as you please. You need to give 24 hours’ notice and have the tenant’s permission beforehand – at all times. This includes inspections, viewings, and even during times when your tenant is in breach of their contract (such as if they are in arrears).

One exception exists: during an emergency, such as a fire or a flood, you can enter your property at will (assuming, of course, that it is safe to do so).

The reams of legislation and advice for landlords on offer are really about one thing: finding a balance between being a businessman or woman, and being the provider of a needed service. It’s rare to find a landlord who has had a perfect relationship with every tenant they’ve ever had, but by remembering that your investment is also someone else’s home and treating it (and them) accordingly, you certainly improve your chances of avoiding six or more very unpleasant months.

Thank you to Ben Gosling at Commercial Trust for contributing this article to the TDS blog.



Posted by Ben Gosling, Commerical Trust on 5 June 2014

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