Watching television these days, you could be forgiven for thinking that landlords and tenants are constantly at war with one another.
The penchant for programme makers to paint the lettings market as a micro-environment of hatred does nothing to inspire confidence in landlords, tenants or agents – yet the truth is that in the majority of cases the relationships in this little love triangle are largely harmonious.
But car-crash programming like Slum landlords and Nightmare Tenants is a useful reminder of why it’s important for landlords to work hard at being fair on the people who rent their properties.
When the landlord-tenant relationship does go wrong, it can go wrong in spectacular fashion. The ironic thing is that the point of difference between the two sides is very often down to something small – usually that one side hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the other.
Whether, as a landlord, you like it or not, the simple fact is that the law offers far more protection to your tenant than it does to you – and it also offers far more recourse for the tenant. In short, it’s easier for the tenant to hurt you than it is for you to hurt the tenant and whilst one hopes it doesn’t come to that – and the evidence suggests it’s only in a minority of cases that things turn unpleasant – it’s worth bearing in mind that it pays for you to be scrupulously fair.
That isn’t to say that every time your tenant makes a demand you should roll over. But treating your tenant as you would want to be treated is always a good place to start and under-promising and over-delivering on your side of the bargain is always going to reap better rewards for you than vice versa.
So, what’s fair? Inevitably, that depends on the property you’re letting and the basis on which you’re letting it, but on the assumption you’re letting out a furnished rather than unfurnished property, here are some things to think about.
Where there are repairs that fall under your responsibility, try to make sure they’re carried out in a timely fashion. Having a management agent who, like us, offers a 24/7 online fault reporting and tracking service is a Godsend in these circumstances because it means both you and the tenant know the problem is being dealt with and you can both see the progress of the repair.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Where there’s a grey area of responsibility and the cost of keeping your relationship with your tenant sweet is small, a little goodwill goes a long way and a ‘swings and roundabouts’ approach to keeping your property in a good state of repair means you’re more likely to find that your tenant is more likely to adopt the same approach.
The art of communication can never be underestimated. If you’re planning to visit the property or there’s a bigger repair that needs doing that will impact on your tenant, make sure you give them a good period of notice. Having a roofing contractor turning up and suddenly needing to get loft access through the tenant’s bedroom is unlikely to foster feelings of warmth towards you.
Make sure you talk to your agent about how you want the relationship with the tenant to be approached. Remember that your management agent (often your estate agent – though it’s worth considering having the property and tenancy managed by an independent asset management specialist to ensure their loyalty is to you) represents your wishes and should treat your client as you would.
When there’s a repair that falls within the tenant’s responsibility, be reasonable about timescales in which they need to get things done. Sometimes accidents happen and if it’s a big ticket item like a bed or sofa, they might need a bit of extra time to finance repair or replacement. Unless it happens towards the end of the tenancy agreement and as long as the only person adversely affected materially is likely to be the tenant, try to be a little bit flexible. They’ll thank you for it later.
In the end, good tenants are harder than you think to find and if you can hang on to them, you’ll find the business of being a landlord that much easier in the long run.
Good tenants are more likely to look after the property in the way you’d wish, are more likely to get things sorted out quickly, are more likely to pay their rent and bills every month and on time and are more likely to want to renew their lease.
And that’s good news, because you’re more likely to end up with a property that is always in a good state of repair, always market-ready and always at the top of its value both as a short-term source of income and as a long-term asset in your overall wealth portfolio.
So, if you want to make sure your property asset is consistently delivering the very best return for you, it makes sense to ensure that not only is your property managed properly, but also that a good tenant is managed in the best possible way at all.