How to resolve common private landlord and tenant disputes
No one enjoys confrontation. But for a private landlord in business for any length of time disputes with tenants are inevitable. Of course, disputes will vary in seriousness and many can be quickly resolved with a little common sense on both sides. Consulting the tenancy agreement is often all it needs to come to an agreement or to iron out any difficulties.
But some disputes can escalate and need some work to resolve. Others are difficult to sort out because it's hard to pinpoint responsibility. And it's safe to say certain disputes are far more likely to occur than are others.
Common private landlord and tenant disputes can occur both during and after the tenancy. These are the ones we see most often during a tenancy.
Disputes around tenants keeping pets are very common. They are also easily avoidable. Every private landlord should make a decision on whether or not they will rent their property to tenants with pets.
Use the tenancy agreement to make your stance very clear. If you don't want the tenants to have a pet in the property say so. If you don't include a pet clause in the agreement you only have yourself to blame if the tenant's dog digs up the lawn or a cat shreds the skirting boards.
The only grey area with pets is with assistance dogs. Don't class assistance dogs as pets. You may need to revise your tenancy agreement to reflect this. You may fall foul of discrimination laws if you bar assistance dogs from your property.
Tenants subletting the property without permission understandably annoys every private landlord. The rise of Airbnb and couch surfing has seen some tenants dabble in subletting to raise extra cash. Others just let friends or relatives stay for longer periods than can be called sleepovers.
If you've proved your tenant is subletting you do have cause for eviction. Before taking that step it may be preferable to remind the tenant of their responsibilities and allow them to rectify the situation. If the tenant continues to sublet legal action may be your only recourse.
Always a contentious issue. But again many common private landlord and tenant disputes are easily avoidable.
As a private landlord, you are responsible for maintaining the property and features such as the wiring, boiler and plumbing.
You can head off possible disputes by:
- Sticking to a regular maintenance schedule.
- Service and repair fixtures and appliances.
- Replace old appliances.
Similarly, making sure the tenant is aware of their responsibilities will keep disputes to a minimum. The tenant should know wilful or some accidental damage to the property will become their responsibility.
Remember most repair disputes ultimately boil down to who is responsible. Minimise the risk of those disputes by ensuring you meet your commitments as a private landlord. Above all ensure there's no ambiguity in the tenancy agreement.
Post tenancy disputes
Post tenancy disputes occur when a private landlord wishes to make a deduction from the tenant's deposit. Common disputes include rent arrears, damage to the property and cleaning.
Again, spelling out tenant and landlord's responsibilities in the tenancy agreement will prevent many of these disputes. As can make an extra effort to reach a compromise with the tenant. One acceptable to both parties.
If not the dispute can only be resolved by arbitration. Either through Alternative Dispute Resolution or by taking action in the courts.
Whichever process you use to resolve the dispute ensure you go armed with plenty of evidence to prove your claim. The legal position is the deposit money belongs to the tenant. You have to prove you are entitled to a slice or all of that money by showing the tenant has breached their tenancy agreement.
In the case of rent arrears that should be easy enough to prove with copies of bank statements, payment schedules and arrears notices.
With damage and cleaning disputes the private landlord's most potent weapon is the inventory and check out the report.
Before and after photos are a must. They enable the adjudicator to compare and contrast the condition of the property before and after the tenancy. You must make it as easy as possible for the adjudicator. A comprehensive inventory signed and dated by both yourself and the tenant will go a long way towards proving your case. Especially if is drawn up by an independent inventory clerk.
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