At the start of any tenancy, you don’t ever envision getting into a dispute and hope they will be noble custodians of your property, paying rent on time and having a good relationship with the neighbours.
Although thankfully this is generally the case with most tenants there are times where you’ll have to deal with a tenant who isn’t acting as you would like them to. We discuss what to do in the event that a dispute arises between a landlord and tenant.
- Avoid a dispute
This might seem a strange solution however, in this case, prevention is definitely better than a cure. Disputes can be stressful and costly and something you want to prevent at all costs. However, if you’ve not been able to prevent a dispute or just want to know if one does come along we can learn from those that have been through it all many times before.
What’re the most common disputes?
- Late or missed rent
- Noise complaints and antisocial behaviour
- Disagreements about who is responsible for repairs and maintenance
- Property damage
In most cases, avoiding the above can be achieved by having a clear and robust tenancy agreement that details all of the responsibilities that both the landlord and tenants must adhere to. The more detail the better and will keep everyone on the same page throughout the full tenancy.
As a landlord, being open and upfront about the extent of each other’s responsibilities can go a long way toward preventing disagreements and also making sure you detail how you will act as well as how you would like your tenant to act. For example, if a tenant knows exactly what to expect if the property is unsafe or inhabitable there will be no surprises for them as their expectation will be clear before the event takes place.
What if tenants breach the tenancy agreement
The better structured and detailed tenancy agreement allows for easier identification of when a tenant has breached the contract.
In most cases a situation is normally cut and dry; a rent payment was missed or a fixture was broken with a paper trail of costs to recover the costs. However, there can still be some grey areas such as a tenant not maintaining the property/garden to the level you would expect of them. This can throw up long and costly disputes that you will have to negotiate with the tenant or take to a court or deposit scheme depending on the type and size of the dispute.
Communication is key
As mentioned previously prevention is key to minimising disputes or being able to catch them early enough that they are easier to resolve. Keeping clear lines of communication goes a long way and keeping in regular contact with your tenants can show up ref flags or warning signs that you might have missed.
You can utilise Octo Property’s free management platform to keep good communication will all your tenants through their ios and Android tenant app. The app allows you to share documents, sign tenancy agreements, take payments. While also giving you all the property management features you would expect from a leading property management platform and it’s free!
Also, regular property inspections can alert you to any other potential issues before they further develop. With communication becoming easier through platforms such as WhatsApp landlords must refrain from using these channels when issuing formal notices. (for example, noise complaints, unhygienic conditions) All notices must be made in writing and should be kept on record in case the tenant disputes this at a later stage or the situation needs to be escalated further.
For an assured shorthold tenancy, landlords must keep their tenants’ deposit in a government approved tenancy deposit scheme(TDS). When there has been a breach in contract by a tenant a landlord may have to make a deduction from the deposit. This can only happen however when there has been a financial loss to the landlord due to a breach of contract such as damage. The cost of the repair deducted from the deposit must also be reasonable for the local area.
In order for this process to run smoothly, it is vital that included within your tenancy agreement a deposit use clause that outlines the circumstances in which money can be deducted from the deposit. Failure to include this clause could mean that the deposit scheme adjudicator could uphold your claim and return the deposit back to the tenant leaving you out of pocket.
In the event that a tenant owes rent and is in receipt of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, landlords can apply for managed payments, where the rent is paid directly, either through the Department for Work and Pensions for tenants receiving Universal Credit or through your local council for tenants receiving Housing Benefits. This can often be favourable to proceeding with the eviction process.
Eviction is the last resort if all other dispute resolution methods have failed. There are two forms of eviction notice; Section 8 and Section 21. If the tenant ignores or tries to dispute the eviction notice it can become very complex and tricky.
If you are in this situation we would highly recommend that you seek expert legal advice to help you navigate the process.
A Section 8 notice which is a ‘Notice of intention to begin proceedings for possession of a property inlet on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy
This will state the terms of the agreement that the tenant has broken, you must set an eviction date which must give the tenant 2 month’s notice although in certain circumstances this can be reduced to as little as 2 weeks.
Section 21 notices can be served on a tenant without reason, with a few exceptions. This notice informs the tenants that they must vacate the property before a certain date which is either at the end of their agreement or a minimum of 2 months in the future.
Octo Property management has over 100 templates and legal notices that you can use to send to tenants. Sign up now and get free access to over 100 templates and guides.
Hopefully, this has provided you with all the general information you need on how to effectively handle disputes with tenants and hopefully prevent them from happening at all. We also hope you utilise the great service that Octo offers through its free property management platform helping landlords stay on the right side of the law efficiently.