Landlord rights – how to deal with difficult tenants

Dealing with problem tenants can feel like a nightmare for landlords. When problems occur during a tenancy, there are steps landlords can take to protect their rights. Here, our property dispute specialists give their top tips to avoid problems.

Preventing disputes with tenants

Of course, we’d all rather prevent disputes from happening in the first place. Dealing with difficult tenants can be very difficult for landlords – and for many, it’s unfamiliar and potentially risky territory. After all, navigating the complex rules relating to tenants’ rights and exactly what landlords can and cannot do can feel like a minefield. 

Here are some steps you can take to avoid problems with your tenants:

Run a background check on your tenant(s)

Make sure you run appropriate background checks on your tenants before they move in. This includes checking the ‘Right to Rent’ status of all adults living in the property, obtaining a reference from their previous landlord or agency and a credit check. This is often the first step in the process, and one of the most important – any red flags at this stage should help you avoid potentially problematic tenants altogether. 

Maintain an up to date inventory

Draw up a thorough inventory of the property, and its contents. If you are letting the property furnished, ensure that all furnishings and appliances are accounted for and checked prior to check in. An up to date, comprehensive inventory is invaluable if your tenants cause damage to the property. 

It’s important to take out the right type of insurance when renting out your property.  Insurance designed for owner-occupied properties isn’t suitable for rental properties. Landlord Insurance is specifically designed for the needs of landlords. It covers damage to the property itself, as well as any content supplied by the landlord (such as furnishings or appliances). Additionally, it offers insurance against other risks such as the loss of rental income if your tenants are unable to pay.

Check your tenancy agreement

Before the tenancy commences, have the tenancy agreement checked by a solicitor who specialises in property law. The solicitor will help you ensure your rights as a landlord are fully protected, and that you’re in the best possible position if any problems were to come up during the tenancy.

Your tenancy agreement forms the foundation of your relationship with your tenants. You may need to rely on the tenancy agreement later, particularly if there are any problems. Taking the time to ensure it’s legally sound and compliant can help you avoid a lot of trouble, and expense, in the long run.

The Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme

Under Tenancy Deposit Protection legislation, landlords and agents are required to protect deposits in one of three government-approved schemes. If your tenants honour the terms of the tenancy agreement, then the deposit is returned to them in full at the end of their tenancy. If they don’t, then the landlord is entitled to make deductions from the deposit to cover things like breakages or damage. Carrying out regular inspections of your property, giving your tenants reasonable notice (at least 24 hours) in writing, can help ensure any problems are identified at an early stage.

Problems during and after a tenancy

Sometimes, problems with tenants arise – even if you’ve done everything you can to protect against it. Common problems with tenants include:

  • Damage to your property and/or furnishings
  • Noise complaints and problems with neighbours
  • Rent arrears
  • Refusal to vacate the property once the tenancy has ended

If your tenants are causing damage or being a nuisance, start by communicating clearly, politely and firmly with them, explaining why their behaviour isn’t acceptable. If your tenancy agreement contains clauses regarding unacceptable behaviour, remind them of their responsibilities. It’s worth pointing out to them as professionally and calmly as possible that if the problems can’t be adequately dealt with and you are forced to seek possession of the property through the courts, you will not be able to provide them with a satisfactory reference and this will severely restrict their ability to take a tenancy with a different landlord. 

If the tenants are in arrears with their rent, then start by issuing a polite reminder that the money is due. Keeping in touch with them and documenting all the steps you take to recover the rent is extremely important if you find yourself needing to take legal proceedings against them at any point.

Evicting a tenant

If all other steps have failed, then you may need to consider evicting a tenant.

It is very important to do this is in the right way, and follow the correct procedures and guidance. Failing to do so could cause delays, and incur extra expense or loss of income. In particular, following the correct procedures helps protect landlords from being accused of harassing or illegally evicting tenants. At Tees, we offer advice and guidance to protect your position and ensure the eviction process proceeds smoothly.

If your tenant is renting under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement and hasn’t paid the rent for more than 8 weeks, has damaged the property, or is causing a nuisance to neighbours, or breaching any other terms of their rental agreement, we can explain how to use a Section 8 notice to regain possession of your property. You will need to give them between 2 weeks’ and 2 months’ notice to leave, depending on which terms they have broken. If they don’t leave by the specified date, we can help you apply to the court for a possession order. 

Alternatively, we can explain how to use a Section 21 notice, which is often referred to as the ‘no fault’ route, as here the landlord doesn’t need to prove that the tenant has done anything wrong. This gives the tenant at least 2 months to leave. When using this form of eviction, it’s vitally important to ensure that you comply with all the requirements, as failure to do so will render the notice invalid, and you would have to wait for a new notice period to expire before issuing a fresh Section 21 notice.

Your property dispute specialists

Darren Perks, Partner at Tees, is a specialist in property disputes and regularly deals with complex cases for a wide variety of clients.  Darren’s work includes disputes relating to commercial, agricultural and residential leases, adverse possession, easements and covenants, boundaries, overage, transactions, construction and statutory compensation.
Darren has successfully resolved many claims for landlords, involving both residential and commercial properties, and with more than 10  years’ experience in this area of the law has the practical experience to help you find a solution. To contact Darren directly, please telephone 01279 710619 or email darren.perks@teeslaw.com.  

If you are a landlord and would like some advice on dealing with difficult tenants, then do call us on 0800 013 1165 for an initial chat, at no obligation, or fill out our enquiry form. One of our property dispute specialists will get in touch, and help you get things back on track.
 

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