In an ideal situation, tenants have a happy home, and the landlord earns a fair return on their property investment. In the majority of let properties in the private rental sector, this is the position. However, sometimes things can go wrong. But in most cases, issues can be amicably resolved. There is a fine balance of expectations set and obligations met.

What the law says

The Government publishes a guide “Landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities in the private rented sector”[1] and it is a helpful document for all the parties involved. Summarised below are the responsibilities of the landlord:

  • Items that most likely a letting agent will be employed to deal with include checking whether a tenant has the right to and can afford to rent, protecting the deposit, and checking the required safety protocols (usually gas, electrical and smoke alarms) have been undertaken and provide the required documentation.

  • Items that an agent (if fully managing) or the landlord will undertake include ensuring that the property is in good order and all systems such as heating, hot water and appliances are fully functioning. In addition, I suggest these are also suitably documented for the tenants.

  • Ongoing repairs and maintenance. As best practice, I recommend these are done in a timely manner.

The tenant’s responsibilities

Other than the obvious of paying rent on time, the tenant also has responsibilities which they need to adhere to:

  • Look after the property including (and this is a perennial issue) making sure the home is well-ventilated. This will help avoid condensation and damp. Also, carry out minor maintenance, such as changing light bulbs, and report any issues to the landlord or the agent. It never ceases to amaze me how some tenants do not do this, and it only becomes an issue when they are moving out.
  • Allow access for repairs to be carried out.
  • Be considerate to neighbours.
  • Do not sub-let or take in lodgers.
  • Undertake regular testing of smoke alarms.

The points above set expectations for both the landlord and the tenant. But there are others which can be added. These include:

  • The landlord, whenever possible, ought to carry out any significant works between tenancies.
  • Ensure that properties are regularly inspected. This can be done in a considerate way and a landlord can employ an agent to undertake inspection visits. If any issues on either side need addressing, they can be nipped in the bud.

 The financial benefits of being a ‘good’ landlord

I’ve never understood why anyone would wish to be a ‘bad’ landlord. Happy tenants in a well-cared-for property is the most financially beneficial approach. It means a regular reasonable revenue stream and a maintained capital asset. There will be occasions, such as when tenants are long staying, when refurbishments have to be put off until tenants move out. But maintained is how a property should be. Avoid the temptation to ‘churn’ tenants to get rent increases through. It can be a short-sighted approach. Moving tenants in and out incurs a range of costs. Conversely, do keep rent in line with inflation; failing to do so can result in a single larger increase which is best avoided.

If the worst happens…

Sometimes bad things happen. I was called one night by tenants of an agent for whom The 50plus provides an out-hours service. They had arrived home from holiday late one night to find a fire brigade notice on their flat door to say the power had been turned off due to a pipe bursting and flooding the flat. This type of event, thankfully infrequent, is a very stressful experience for all concerned. I found them a hotel, got in touch with the agent and between us, we instigated a series of processes to get the problem dealt with and the tenants moved back in as soon as possible.  Hint – turn off the water when going on holiday!

If we consider the above points, then it is apparent that effective communication is key. When maintenance becomes necessary prioritise human interaction. At The 50plus we ensure the team is readily available to answer calls, emails, texts, and WhatsApp messages. Often, we communicate with family or friends acting on behalf of a landlord or tenant. The agent and/or maintenance company staff must take the time to listen to concerns, preferences, and special requirements. This builds trust and establishes a rapport, fostering a more positive experience for all.

Roger Runswick, Managing Director at The 50plus

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