Since 2004, the private rental sector has almost doubled in size to 4.5 million households.
This may be good news, but this growth has also meant an increase in tenant expectations, whether it’s respecting their living space, fixing appliances quickly or being responsible with the financial investment made by tenants.
These expectations can lead to a greater chance of conflicts when these are not met.
The secret to avoiding this problem is to create a positive landlord-tenant relationship, which will not only provide a good quality of life for the tenant, but also deliver a solid return on investment for the landlord.
Keep lines of communication open
It may seem obvious, but communication is key for tenants and landlords alike. Landlords or letting agents who need to carry out inspections should forewarn tenants of any impeding site visits or upcoming maintenance, whether within the property itself or in the local area.
At least 24 hours’ notice should be given and the landlord or agent should not enter the property without permission. Landlords also need to listen to tenants’ suggestions about possible home improvements and try to address these, within reason. To prevent complaints, agents should not put unfair terms in the contract or fail to protect the tenancy deposit through an authorised scheme.
For their part, tenants should raise any issues about the property appropriately – immediately for any urgent problems and when necessary for any on-going maintenance. If renting a property through an agent, the tenant should use acertified company (NALS, ARLA, UKALA or NAEA), as agents only act on behalf of the landlord.
In addition, tenants who want to break their lease for any reason will need to give correct notice as per the terms they’ve agreed with the landlord.When having these conversations, it’s important to remember that the relationship between tenantand landlordshould be viewed as a professional working relationship, with both sides working together for the benefit of all.
Fair approach to wear and tear
Wear and tear comes with time; that is unavoidable. Frequent use of household items is bound to lead to chips, scratches or marks, and most insurance companies will not cover this. Even the most perfect tenant will leave a few of these behind when they leave, so any charges for minor repairs should normally be covered by the landlord.
Tenants should, however, treat their rental property as if it were their own. Returning the property to its original condition as much as possible will help tenants to avoid any additional costs at the end of their tenancy. For tenants renting a property for the first time, many like to believe they are the first people to step foot in the property, so a professional clean provided by the landlord can be a good investment for starting the relationship on the right foot.
Fix major repairs quickly
If the boiler breaks down in winter, the washing machine packs up or the shower becomes a trickle, tenants will expect it to be fixed as soon as possible. Most major repairs are the responsibility of the landlord. But for some landlords who use an agent, it is the responsibility of the agent to sort repairs. Others, however, prefer to deal directly with tenants.
To avoid any misunderstanding, tenants should check what the contract agreement says about reporting problems and who is responsible for arranging repairs. Letting agents are usually allowed to arrange small repairs without the landlord’s permission but for bigger repair jobs, the landlord may have to agree before the work can go ahead, which can cause delays.
Tenants rightly expect major appliances to be in good working order, so fixing any of these problems quickly is a good opportunity for landlords to build trust, reassurance and confidence.
Above all else, tenants want a landlord who is responsive, approachable and easy to reach. Responding quickly and effectively will increase the chance of tenants wanting to renew their lease or recommending the landlord at the end of their contract.
Safety and security are also a key concern for most tenants, so finding a reputable and reliable contractor to deal with the on-going maintenance of the property is also a good idea.
Better safe than sorry: Have the correct insurance in place
As a result of a flood, storm, fire or escape of water incident, an entire buy-to-let investment can be lost. By having landlord insurance in place, cover for the cost of alternative accommodation for the tenant, or loss of rental income if the home is made inhabitable,will be provided and certainly welcome. There is up to £40,000 cover for alternative accommodation or loss of rent under Legal & General Landlords Insurance, as well as £2m property owner’s liability cover in the event of this.
A rental property is a solid investment for a landlord if tenants pay their rent on time. However, if a landlord is not covered, or has bad luck, it can quickly become a financial burden.
Some tenants can – and do – fall behind on rental payments, and the latest figures from the Ministry of Justice show that it can take up to 37 weeks to evict a tenant. In scenarios like these, the relationship between the landlord and tenant tends to breakdown very quickly.
Optional extras to landlord insurance can provide peace of mind, in the form of rent guarantee cover if a tenant is in arrears, helping to protect a landlord’scash flow, as well accidental or malicious damage by tenants, and legal expenses.
Of course, it’s important for tenants to consider potential risks as well. Although the landlord’s property, fixtures and fittings are covered by landlords building insurance, this does not mean the tenant is.
In the event of a fire, flood, burst pipes or burglary, the tenant is responsible for taking out their own contents insurance to cover any personal fixtures and items owned by them. As a result, tenants should be made aware of what is and isn’t coveredbybuilding insurance and encouraged to take out further contentsinsuranceto avoidany surprises later down the line.
Homeownership is now at its lowest level since 1985. As the rental sector becomes an increasingly important part of our country’s housing supply, landlords will have a crucial to play in providing an alternative and affordable living solution.
By having a good landlord-tenant relationship in place, landlords will be able to reap the rewards of their investment, tenants will enjoy a stress-free tenancy, and the private rental sector continues to grow even further.
Phil Bird is pricing and underwriting director at Legal & General.