How to keep your tenants happy
Keeping your tenants happy just makes good business sense.
Happy tenants look after your property and stay put.
That means you don’t have to face the time, hassle and expense of finding and vetting more - or the possible periods of unoccupancy inbetween. Plus getting into a dispute with un-happy tenants can get really stressful and really expensive...
So how DO you avoid tenant disputes, deal with difficult tenants, and generally keep your tenants happy, smiley, and paying you rent?
Here’s 5 ways to keep your tenants happy and your bottom line healthy:
1. Find the right tenants
The first step to a happy relationship is making sure you’ve got the right tenants, with the right references, in the right property for them.
Whether you use a letting agent or do your own marketing and referencing, make sure you’re thorough, and follow all the rules – including Right to Rent checks to make sure your tenants are eligible to live in UK.
Simple tip: A quick telephone conversation with a potential tenant can often help to work out whether you’re right for each other -before you invest your time (and theirs) with a physical viewing.
2. Start as you mean to go on
Once you’ve got the right tenant, it’s important to start off on the right foot. That means having a clear tenancy agreement (like this one from the National Landlords Association), a comprehensive inventory, and a house manual, so everyone knows what to expect.
• Tenancy agreements
It’s common practice for tenants to sign tenancy agreements without fully reading them, but it really is in your best interests to ensure they completely understand the contract from the outset.
If tenants are aware of what they are signing they are much more likely to stick to what it says! Don’t be tempted to bury stuff in the small print.
Make sure you also provide copies of all the other documentation your tenants need, from details of your Tenancy Deposit Scheme through to the government’s How to Rent Guide
Remember, if you can’t prove they were provided, it might invalidate a Section 21 notice if your relationship with your tenants does go bad.
A comprehensive inventory is absolutely key to keeping your tenants happy and avoiding future disputes. Include photographs detailing the condition of the property and any furnishings, and get your tenants to see and sign the inventory when they move in.
Doing this should help settle any disagreement over the condition of a rental property and its contents when the tenancy comes to an end. It protects not just the interests of landlords but tenants as well!
• House manual
In addition to your Assured Tenancy Agreement and inventory, it’s also useful to provide new tenants with a house manual. This should include details about waste collection and recycling, emergency contact numbers – including your own – and any house rules (for instance in a House of Multiple Occupation where multiple tenants are sharing living areas).
For tenants moving in from outside the immediate area, you could also include details for local services and amenities, like Doctors surgeries, local gardeners and the local council.
Simple tip: Talk through the tenancy agreement, inventory and any house rules in person. It’s worth spending a bit of extra time with your tenants to make sure everyone is on the same page.
2. Conduct regular inspections
While your tenants have the right to ‘peaceful enjoyment’ of their property, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be conducting regular inspections to keep an eye on your investment.
We know that 1 in 4 landlords haven’t inspected in a year or more, and that’s a long time not to have seen what’s going on inside your property.
Make sure you set out how inspections will take place in your tenancy agreement, and ensure you give at least 24 hours notice in writing before each visit. This could be a simple text or email.
For new tenants inspections might be scheduled quarterly, moving to every 6 months after a successful first year.
Remember, even the very best tenants might not notice or report things that could be red flags for you – whether that’s mould, brown water stains, cracks, a dripping tap, or broken guttering.
Fixing the little problems before they become big ones will end up saving you money, and maintaining your property and garden well is a sure-fire way to keep your tenants happy.
- Make sure you go into every room – including the loft.
- Make sure you check everything off on your inventory as you go round.
- Check all pipework and taps for drips and leaks.
- Check all appliances for signs of damage, wear and tear.
- Don’t forget to look up! Ceilings can tell you a lot about what’s going on under the floorboards.
- Bring a gift for your tenants, and make sure you ask them about any issues they’ve noticed.
3. Deal with tenants' complaints as quickly as possible
A key indicator of good customer service is how quickly a problem is responded to. Whether it’s a small issue or an emergency, how you deal with the situation and how quickly will have a big impact on your relationship with your tenants.
Make sure your tenants have emergency contact numbers for you, your letting agent, or someone managing your property. Keeping on top of maintenance is a great way to prevent issues before they arise, and it’s important to always be clear with your tenants how long something will take to resolve and why.
Simple tip: If you can’t be on hand 24/7 but don’t work with a letting agent, taking out a Home emergency policy means your tenants would have a number to call to get immediate help with things like a broken boiler or leaking pipe.
4. Be prepared
No one wants to plan to fail, but sometimes tenants don’t work out, for whatever reason. The good news is that only 0.5% of landlords in the UK will have to make an evictions claim through the courts. The bad news is that a court eviction will cost an average of £4,341.22 in legal fees and lost rent.
For that reason, it’s always best to be prepared for the worst. That means making sure you understand the rules around evictions, the basics of issuing Section 8 or Section 21 notices, and having insurance to cover you for legal costs or damage to your property.
Section 8 and Section 21
A Section 21 Notice is used by landlords in England & Wales when they want to evict tenants and gain possession of a property at the end of a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy (AST).
A Section 8 Notice is used to terminate an AST when a tenant has breached the agreement or fallen into rent arrears.
There’s very specific rules to follow for each type of notice, and landlords need to understand make sure they’re following them, or your submission could be thrown out of court.
Legal expenses insurance will cover you for legal costs that you might incur as a landlord – from tenancy breaches to pursuing rental arrears or an eviction.
You can also look at Rent guarantee policies, which could guarantee you an income even if your tenant stops paying, and extra cover for Malicious damage, if tenants deliberately cause damage to your building or its contents.
What you add to your basic policy will depend on your property, tenants, and your own situation, but it’s well worth looking into your options to make sure you’ve got the right cover for you.
How to avoid tenant disputes
- Set expectations at the beginning of your tenancy, and make sure your tenancy agreement is completely clear and water-tight.
- Keep records of all of your interactions and correspondence, dated and signed by your tenants where possible. A clear paper trail is very hard to argue with.
- Keep in touch with tenants and keep on top of maintenance, so small issues can’t fester and escalate.
- Make sure tenants know who to contact in an emergency.
- Deal with any problems as swiftly as possible.
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