Shona Davison, the National Landlords Association’s representative for Sheffield, explains how best to deal with a problem tenant.
As professional landlords we have the pleasure of meeting many lovely tenants, most of whom care greatly for their homes. However, there are occasions when we simply recruit the wrong tenant for the property so dealing with problem tenants is something that all landlords – new and experienced – need to be prepared for.
The best way to deal with problem tenants is to avoid them from the start
You can reduce your risk of letting to the wrong tenant by carrying out stringent checks. NLA members benefit from discounts on the NLA Tenant Check facility. This is a good place to start. Credit checks and references are designed to establish how suitable the tenant is for the property you are advertising. These checks should tell you whether they will be able to afford the rent and whether they have a good record with their previous landlord.
If you want to ensure a potential tenant will look after your property, you should arrange to meet them personally. A meeting in their current home will help you establish whether they look after their home environment. You will also be able to discuss their ability to meet the rental payments and if this is questionable, ask for a guarantor. This kind of meeting is also an ideal opportunity to start building a good relationship; a good rapport will ensure your tenant is comfortable to discuss any problems with you in future.
Take and protect a deposit
Damage to your property is another common symptom of rogue tenants. Your selection criteria should have helped you avoid this risk but there are other measures you can use to help resolve the problem.
At the start of the tenancy, be sure to create a thorough inventory detailing the furniture included in the tenancy and the condition – photos are ideal for this – and ensure that you and the tenant have signed and dated the document to agree the details.
Also, be sure to take a deposit and protect it. By law, a landlord must protect a tenant’s deposit in one of three government authorised schemes. Note that there is a slightly different system in Scotland. Taking a deposit will make the tenant less likely to damage the property as they will want the money back.
At the end of the tenancy, be sure to carry out a thorough checkout. Having protected your deposit you will also have the benefit of an alternative dispute resolution service in case your tenant were to challenge any funds deducted as a result of damage or lost rent
Spot problems early
Rent arrears are a common problem, particularly in today’s economic environment. The trick to limiting and even preventing rental arrears is to spot the problem as early as possible. Make sure you keep in regular contact with your tenants – having a good tenant-landlord relationship is important when it comes to tackling delicate issues such as financial arrears. If you are able to communicate with the tenant it may be possible to work out a way to bring their rent up to date that is acceptable.
If making contact with your tenant isn’t easy, be sure to keep a close eye on your accounts. This will help you pick up any missed payments quickly.
If the tenant fails to keep to promises of reducing their arrears, or worse – if they avoid all contact, you will need to consider seeking possession. Obtaining possession can be a lengthy and expensive legal process (expensive mainly because rent may not be paid throughout the process) so it is important not to delay the proceedings.
Make sure you have comprehensive landlords insurance
Consider whether getting rent guarantee insurance would be beneficial. This will depend on your attitude to risk, how many properties you have and how dependent you are on the rent to meet your costs, such as the mortgage. Be sure to consider whether you would be able to meet your own financial commitments if you didn’t receive several months’ rent.
Have you had any experience of difficult tenants? What advice would you give?