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Landlord lessons: avoiding tenancy disputes

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Most landlords will tell you that the buy-to-let business can be hard work with many overheads and potentially expensive mistakes involved. The majority will also tell you that the key to a successful and secure business is looking after tenants and keeping them in your property rather than someone else’s. And so, Simple Landlords Insurance has put together a guide to help you keep your tenants on side.

Make tenancy rules clear from the beginning

It is common practice for tenants to sign contracts without fully reading them but it is in landlords' interests to ensure their terms are completely understood from the outset. If tenants are aware of what they are signing they are much more likely to stick to its stipulations.

Deal with tenants' complaints as quickly as possible

A key indicator of good customer service is how quickly a problem is responded to.

So, with the example of houses of multiple occupation, it may not be a major hassle for you that one of your tenants is keeping the others awake all night with loud music and parties, but sleepless nights can make a person’s life a misery.

Likewise, sitting in your living room in a coat and woolly hat and gloves because the boiler has broken down is no fun at all, so landlords should make sure they tackle big problems quickly – in no more than a week’s time at the most.

Some issues are more trivial than others, so cosmetic concerns such as a new paintjob may wait a little longer but ones which affect immediate quality of life should be addressed straight away.

Create a property inventory

Doing this should help settle any disagreement over the condition of a rental property and its contents when a tenancy comes to an end. It protects not just the interests of landlords but tenants as well.

A property inventory, also known as a statement of condition, is a detailed list and description of all the contents of a rental property when a tenant moves in. Note should be taken not just of the items but their condition as well, and that of more permanent fixtures such as walls, doors, windows and carpets.

The inventory maker should be as detailed as possible and if a buy-to-let contains high-cost contents photographing them is advisable. Landlords should also ask tenants to sign and date the photos.

Landlords should know that they shoulder the burden of proving a claim over a property's condition in court.

Keep your property well-maintained

Rental properties which look down-at-heel and grubby are not going to encourage tenants to look after them – they are more likely to take pride in presentable accommodation, feel comfortable inviting guests inside and thus more likely to stay long-term.

But do not over-decorate your buy-to-let. A minimally furnished buy-to-let with quality, durable fixtures will save you money in the long-run and ensure new tenants feel they have permission to make their own mark.

Conduct regular inspections

These will not only ensure your property’s condition is maintained properly but are a good way of checking there are no unauthorised persons living there, but landlords should always ensure they give tenants sufficient notice before an inspection.

Respect your tenants' privacy

While it is of paramount importance to ensure a property is properly maintained, it is essential to remember that inspections can feel very intrusive to tenants. Help make the process more comfortable for them by giving at least 48 hours' notice.

It is a good idea to set out arrangements for inspections in a tenancy agreement, so both tenant and landlord know where they stand.

If you found this guide useful then please visit the Simple Landlords Insurance News section for more helpful tips and advice.

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