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Dealing with Difficult Tenants

For many people, being a landlord is undoubtedly a very rewarding experience, not least financially. Inevitably, however, problems can emerge and, when they do, previously straightforward and friendly interactions with your tenants can rapidly become difficult. When any relationship deteriorates, people can start reaching for legal paperwork.

25 July 2016
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From excessive noise to property damage, and from non-payment of rent to the abuse of on-site car parking, there are many ways in which tenants can make both your life, and the lives of their neighbours, increasingly frustrating and unpleasant. Here are eight points to remember when planning for, and dealing with, difficult tenants:

  • Take thorough precautions in the first place. Screen potential tenants and conduct a meticulous inventory check (including dated photographs to show the condition of items) across your property before the tenant moves in. (Better yet, engage an independent third party to prepare the inventory. In disputes, the landlord’s own inventory is not always considered impartial.)
  • Prepare for the worst. Make sure you have a written agreement in place, such as an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreement. ASTs are the most common form of tenancies in the UK. If you want your tenant to leave before the end of a fixed-term period stipulated in the AST agreement, you can only ask your tenant to do so if you have grounds for wanting possession covered by the Housing Act 1988, such as rent arrears or the use of the property for illegal purposes (e.g. selling drugs). The required notice period varies from two weeks to two months, depending on the grounds.
  • Ask tenants to pay rent by standing order, to ensure continuous, regular payments are made and recorded.
  • Be realistic. Wear and tear is inevitable and accidents will happen. Not every coffee stain on the carpet represents grounds for a frosty letter or legal action. Most tenants respect landlords and their property.
  • Although you might feel angry about your tenant’s behaviour, do not allow that anger to weaken your position by driving you to act impulsively (which might actually mean acting illegally). Ensure you maintain your standards as a landlord, such as continuing gas and fire safety checks on the property and continuing to carry out essential repairs. Engaging a solicitor is a very effective way of ensuring you take the calm, legal steps needed to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
  • A ‘standard possession order’ will address a situation in which your tenant owes you rent but you can use an ‘accelerated possession order’ if you are not claiming unpaid rent.
  • Strict procedures must be followed if you want a tenant to leave your property. Attempting to harass or force tenants out of a property, without following the correct procedures, is a crime. Your tenants might then have the right to claim damages. Harassment can range from stopping services (such as electricity) through to physical violence or arranging for a third party to behave anti-socially toward the tenant on your behalf. Similarly, you might be guilty of illegal eviction if you, for example, change the locks on your property.
  • If you have correctly followed all the necessary procedures and your problem tenant has still not left your property by the date given on an eviction notice, you can arrange for a bailiff to carry out the eviction.

As in so many legal matters, good advice and thorough initial planning are key elements to minimising the problems of difficult tenants.  Guillaumes property litigation solicitors in Weybridge are available to advise you on such disputes, no matter how complex. Let us know how we can help.