How to manage problem tenants

Learn how you can resolve any issues with tenants whilst meeting your Landlord responsibilities.

Landlord tenant disputes are the exception, not the norm, and you will find the vast majority of tenants act with honesty and integrity. But of course, that will come as no consolation if you have excessively noisy tenants, complaints from the neighbours, or a tenant not paying rent. Here’s how you can resolve issues with problem tenants whilst meeting your Landlord responsibilities.

1. Act quickly if your tenant falls behind on rent
If you don’t receive payment on the monthly due date, you shouldn’t delay before contacting your tenant by email or telephone for an explanation. You'll want to establish the facts before jumping to conclusions, as it’s possible there may be other reasons for the non-payment, such as a banking issue, or if the tenant’s salary hasn’t been paid. Remember, your Landlord responsibilities include giving 24 hours’ written notice if you wish to enter the property to discuss the matter.

If the tenant simply has cash flow problems, a flexible approach on your part could help you avoid a protracted legal battle. For example, you could agree to a flexible payment plan or a partial payment if the tenant’s financial problems are temporary. The tenant has an interest in maintaining a good credit history, so if you can make the effort to find them a cheaper property elsewhere, they may be persuaded to move voluntarily. In general, it’s a good idea to set the rent due date close in the calendar month to the tenant’s pay day.

2. Choose your tenants wisely
Doing your homework in advance means you may avoid the most common landlord tenant disputes. Before you agree to a tenancy, you can lawfully ask your prospective tenant for their last three months of bank statements. In doing so, you can assess their ability to pay rent and make a judgement call if their expenditure appears too high in relation to their income. Moreover, you can follow-up their work references by contacting their past employers to verify their employment history. It may also be worth speaking to the tenant’s previous landlord to hear how their experience went. Taking these practical measures can reduce the risk of any landlord tenant disputes.

3. Insert a clause for noisy tenants
Your tenants are ultimately to blame for any noise they make, but it’s worth remembering your neighbours or local authority can hold you responsible for any ‘statutory nuisance’ they cause – which includes excessive noise. In order to stay on good terms with your neighbours, you should include a noise clause in your tenancy agreement. This ensures noisy tenants are fully aware they risk eviction if they continue to cause a nuisance to people living nearby. If the problems persist, you can make a complaint to your local authority’s Environmental Health Department who can assess the noise and make a judgement, giving you the evidence you need to terminate the tenancy.

4. Understand your Landlord responsibilities towards your neighbours
As a landlord you have responsibilities towards your neighbours and local authority. You may receive complaints for ‘statutory nuisance’ caused by your tenants – such as loud parties, dumping rubbish and noisy animals – so you have an interest in keeping the peace.

If your tenants and neighbours become involved in a dispute, you may want to recommend a mediation service so they can resolve the issue without your continual involvement. If you establish clear lines of communication with the neighbours, they may appreciate your efforts to deal with problem tenants in good faith.

5. Inspect your property regularly
Even the most challenging problem tenants may seem perfectly reasonable when you first meet. So it’s sensible that you or your letting agent inspect your property every few months in order to ascertain its condition. If you attend the inspection in person, it’s an opportunity to develop a personal rapport with the tenants, respond to any maintenance queries, and prevent problems from escalating.

Regular inspections can also bring to light illegal activity within the home. For example, you may discover illegal drug taking, or that your tenant has unlawfully sublet all or part of your home to a subtenant. Such actions would represent a breach of the tenancy agreement – if stipulated – and you could serve an eviction notice to your tenant. If you discover serious illegal activity that could lead to a criminal prosecution, you should inform the police straight away. If your tenant is caught, you could be questioned as part of any investigation.

In order to claim Landlord Insurance against tenant damage, you may want to take dated photographs of the property before the tenancy begins. This way, you’re not just relying on your word against the tenant’s in the event of any Landlord tenant disputes. It’s also a good idea to create an inventory of the property’s contents so you can check your list once the tenancy ends.

6. Take legal action as a last resort
Unfortunately, not all Landlord tenant disputes end on civil terms, so for serious breaches of a tenancy agreement, you shouldn’t rule out legal action. Before you do anything, take professional legal advice to ensure you understand your landlord responsibilities and rights. If you wish to pursue the eviction of a tenant, you'll be advised to issue a Section 8 or Section 21. The former usually refers to cases where tenants are behind on their rent, whereas the latter can enable you to secure the property; for example, you can issue a Section 21 when tenants are waiting to be re-housed by the council. It’s possible that the simple act of issuing the notice will encourage the tenant to voluntarily leave the property and prevent a court hearing.

If you decide to progress with legal action, it’s essential that you follow the correct procedures in order to establish a sound case. For example, you'll need to have registered the tenant’s deposit through a Tenancy Deposit Scheme, otherwise you could lose your case and face expensive legal costs.

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