December 15, 2020
What to do if your tenant ...
In last month’s blog, we talked about finding the perfect tenant for your property. Finding that gem of a tenant is the key to peace of mind as a landlord, but once they are in situ, things will run from strength to strength.
Once we find them, we need to know how to manage certain situations as and when they arrive. A good letting agent always supports the landlord’s journey; however we think the more information we’re armed with, the better!
These 7 top troubleshooting tips are worth keeping in the back of your mind.
So here we go!
What happens if…
Your tenant gets a dog
Dogs. A human’s best friend. The friendly face sat by the door when you get home after a busy day. There is no love like the unconditional love of a dog – it’s a wonderful thing.
But when we pop round to discuss something with our tenants and a Newfoundland that we weren’t aware of greets us at the door, it can come as a bit of a surprise!
Many landlords simply refuse dogs (or other pets) outright and advertise this policy at the outset. But tenants sometimes want to get a dog after the tenancy starts. Some even buy a dog without their landlord’s permission and hope they won’t notice.
So, what does the law say about your rights as landlord, if your tenant gets a dog?
If having a dog living in the property is in breach of the Tenancy Agreement, you can, in fact, evict. But before you take such drastic action, you may want to weigh up the pros and cons of the situation. If they have otherwise been a good tenant, having a dog may actually ensure they remain in the property for longer, thus saving you the time, effort and expense of having to re-let it.
But what about possible damage or increased wear-and-tear?
If you’re letting your property unfurnished, you could ask your tenant to agree to, for example, a twice-yearly carpet clean. All you need to do is to add the pet to the Tenancy Agreement, together with a condition your tenant must comply with. If your property is furnished, you may need to take a view on how much damage could potentially be done to your furniture by a dog, and assess whether the current deposit will cover it, or if, in fact, you need to request a higher deposit. (Note that you’ll need to also take into consideration that the maximum deposit you can request is only five weeks’ rent.)
Our conclusion is that sometimes, a pet-owning tenant can be of higher value, respect and value your property more, and stay longer. Ultimately though, as the property owner, the final choice is yours.
Your tenant gets married
If your tenant is the sole name on the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement, and they get married, the new Mr or Mrs will need adding to the Agreement. Just as with any new tenant, you’ll need to carry out the usual credit checks and their ‘Right to Rent’ and create a new AST with both names listed.
Of course, this happy news is definitely something to be celebrated by tenants and landlords alike, so why not send them a bottle of fizz and a card to congratulate them and let them know you value them as tenants.
Your tenant makes a DIY disaster
We’ve all been there, right? That ‘little job’ we thought would take ten minutes turns into a situation… We strip a wall and the plaster falls off, that beautiful sunshine yellow paint we thought would add some warmth to our hallway feels like we’re walking literally into the sun every time we come through our front door now it’s on the walls… not ideal.
Our tenants may want to make the place feel more homely for them, but they can come unstuck too. We need to know how to manage things effectively when things don’t go according to plan. Assessing the situation objectively will help move things forward.
If your tenant’s actions cause immediate damage, such as a burst pipe or severed cable, call in a professional to fix it straight away. Your Agreement – if drawn up by a professional – will detail who is responsible for what, and a DIY disaster should be a bill footed by your tenant – not you.
If their decoration is simply not to your taste, then maybe take a view. Royal purple may not be our choice of kitchen wall colour, but our tenants love it. If they pay their rent on time, look after your property and communicate well with you, maybe let them have their way with the décor. After all, a tenant who redecorates will typically stay longer, and you can always make sure your Agreement stipulates they have to repaint in magnolia or similar before they leave.
Your tenant passes away
Sometimes things happen that are unforeseen and just can’t be helped. The death of a tenant is one of these times. We need to know how to handle it, should we be in the rare position that it happens.
Reach out to the family to send your heartfelt condolences and, if appropriate, talk about next steps. The fact that a tenant has died does not mean that the tenancy automatically comes to an end. The tenancy becomes part of the deceased tenant’s estate and so must be dealt with by the executor of the will, until the probate is granted.
You don’t want your property left vacant for months, however, so find out who has been appointed executor and contact them. If yours was a sole tenancy, ask for the tenancy to be surrendered, if appropriate, so you can take over the property. It’s the responsibility of the estate to clear the property and have it cleaned ready for handover, just as if it was the usual end of a tenancy. If you have to do this yourself, make sure you document all costs so you can claim them from the estate.
Ask your letting agent for advice as soon as you can, and they will lead you through the process.
Your tenant gives notice early
When and how much notice a tenant needs to give you depends on the Tenancy Agreement. The minimum term is usually six months, and after that, the tenant can give one month’s notice at any time. You as the landlord, on the other hand, need to give two months’ notice to terminate the tenancy.
If your tenant wants to leave before the end of their Agreement, they can ‘surrender’ their tenancy.
You don’t have to agree to end their tenancy early, and you can insist they pay the rent and all bills (e.g. Council Tax) until the end of their tenancy. Most landlords will take a view, and if their tenant’s reason is valid, they tend to release them early. Most importantly, take advice from your letting agent, who will make sure you act appropriately and legally, in the circumstances.
Your tenant stops paying the rent
If your tenant suddenly stops paying the rent, and perhaps even does a flit, it can be a real worry for you. However, you must follow the legal process to give yourself the best chance of recovering both your rent, and your property:
- Talk to your estate agent and ask their advice about exactly how to proceed to keep you compliant and legal.
- Whilst it’s tempting to change the locks and re-advertise your property, unless your tenant has been officially evicted (read more here), they are still legally the property’s occupant.
- Where possible, try to open up communication channels with your tenant. There may be valid reasons for their non-paying, or leaving the property without notice, and you may be able to find a way to compromise and negotiate with them.
Your tenant wants to buy your property
Your tenant loves your property so much they want to buy it? Great! But before you rush into drawing up the paperwork, here a few things to consider:
- Are they offering the full market value? Ask an estate agent to give you a market appraisal and realistic valuation to make sure you aren’t underselling your property.
- Check your Agreement – you may still be liable for your agent’s fees, either selling or management fees.
- Weigh up your options – how much is it going to cost you to replace the income from your tenant? Also take into account the amount of time it will take you to find a new tenant, reference them and have them move in. A good short-term sale price may not make up for the income lost over time, so do your sums before you commit.
Your letting agent can provide a guiding hand through it all, advising on the best course of action.
If your tenant has done something you’re not expecting, don’t be blindsided – we can help. Just give us a call on 01264 652652 or drop us a line at email@example.com and let’s figure out the best way for you to protect your financial investment.