Landlord v Tenant: How to avoid and resolve disputes

Posted 25 September 2014

Demand in the lettings market continues to be strong, with a lack of quality supply in much of the UK resulting in around five tenants chasing each available property. According to recent research by Countrywide, 15% of properties now spark a bidding war and achieve more than their asking price.

This demand does not mean that landlords should be complacent, however. Finding quality tenants and keeping them happy is a vital part of avoiding costly void periods. Data released last week by Property Let By Us suggests that tenants are becoming more demanding about the standard of their homes, and the government is continuing its push to adequately punish rogue landlords.

Finding and keeping the ideal tenant can be tricky, and even if you have carefully vetted your new tenants before signing a contract, there is still a chance that the tenancy may end in a dispute. With an appropriate contract in place and good communication between both parties, most disputes can be solved relatively easily, and only a small minority of cases end with the intervention of the Deposit Protection Scheme or small claims court.

Do your bit
In addition to obtaining employment and landlord references and credit checking your new tenants, make sure you have completed all of your legal obligations before letting the property, including obtaining a gas safety certificate and taking out landlord insurance. Also ensure that you are clear and concise when formulating the contract, avoiding common disputes such as who is responsible for dealing with mould and maintaining the upkeep of the garden.

Talk it through
The most common problems between landlords and tenants surround the big three – deposits, rent and repairs. In addition to ensuring that you are covered in instances of rent going missing or the property being damaged, sit down with your new tenant and discuss each other’s responsibilities. Forging a positive relationship and making yourself approachable increases your chances of avoiding disputes. Most landlords are okay on this front, with a recent survey revealing only 12% of tenants would like their landlords to be more approachable and friendly.

Deposit protection
You must place the deposits of your tenants in a Deposit Protection Scheme. These government-backed schemes ensure you will receive appropriate remuneration should your tenant fail to pay rent or damage your property. This service also acts on behalf of the tenant, ensuring they will receive a reasonable amount of their deposit back if they behave in line with the terms of their contract. In the event of a dispute at the end of the tenancy, the scheme holds the deposit and offers a free dispute resolution service until terms are agreed between the landlord and tenant. Both sides can provide evidence to support their case and an independent decision is reached.

Eviction
If there is no way back and evicting your tenant is the only solution, there are strict procedures you must follow to avoid illegal eviction. The gov.uk website provides a detailed guide to this process.

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