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Communication key to avoiding BTL conflict

Friday 06 October 2017

Letting agents should communicate more closely with landlords and tenants to prevent disputes, a buy-to-let expert has said.

Kate Faulkner says conflicts typically involve money, maintenance, deposit disputes, rental arrears and agents’ fees, in her report for the Tenancy Deposit Scheme’s charitable foundation, which aims to raise standards in the industry.

She said: "Anyone who has ever been a landlord or tenant will likely have experienced some level of conflict – whether with an agent who won’t fix an issue, a tenant behind on rent, or a deposit deduction dispute. They are remarkably commonplace but they don’t have to be.

“There is a clear lack of education on where rights and responsibilities lie.

"Tenants may expect too much of an agent, assuming their rent covers small maintenance issues like changing lightbulbs and many landlords also fail to consider or budget for essential maintenance that any property may need over multiple years of occupation."

Faulkner argues that the entire sector must take more responsibility to educate landlords and tenants in particular about the divisions of responsibility during a tenancy.

"Many conflicts could be easily avoided with a full and comprehensive, professionally undertaken inventory that clarify what qualifies as ‘wear and tear’ and what constitutes damage to a property,” she adds.

Lenders, insurers and mortgage brokers also play a part in preparing landlords for the costs of maintaining a rental property, she suggests.

It’s something Simple Landlords Insurance has certainly taken to heart. Alex Huntley, Head of Operations, said: “The more informed landlords are, the better the decisions they can make. That’s why we aim to make things clear and simple, so landlords can pick the right insurance for their tenants and properties at the right price. It’s also why we set up our Landlord Hub - with all the latest news, views and opinions from the property sector.”

Faulkner goes on to look at agents, recommending landlords take time and care in their selection, and suggesting that government-prescribed regulation of letting agents would make the entire process 'more transparent and user-friendly.'

While recognising there are many 'brilliant, hard-working and honest agents', she points out there are still 'rogues who let unsafe or illegal properties.'

She said: "When faced with a conflict with an agent professional support bodies like ARLA or RICS are there to help, so landlords and tenants should choose agents who are members of them or similar organisations.”

Only around half of landlords questioned for this report knew where to turn to resolve a problem with an agent.

The report by Faulkner - founder of PropertyChecklists and consultancy Designs on Property - is the fifth in a series of analyses for TDS.

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