It is no secret that Covid hit like a tsunami across the globe, bringing chaos along with it. You may have had good tenants asking to break their lease due to job loss, requests for rent forgiveness, or other unusual situations.
Make sure to keep track of any non-standard requests so you can verify whether those requests are in sync with the law and protect yourself in the event of a dispute.
What should you keep records of?
You should keep a record of everything—from telephone calls to expenses. Backing up your records digitally can also guarantee that you will not lose valuable information. This information can come in handy for future tenant claims.
1. Keep track of telephone calls
With the consent of the other party, record your phone calls or take notes on what you discuss. Also, be sure to follow up via email with what you discussed over the phone: the more comprehensive the record of the conversation, the better.
2. Keep track of all meetings
If you are in an online meeting, like Zoom, be sure to record the session. Likewise, make sure to type up meeting notes as minutes for the meetings. Include details like agreements, contracts, policies, etc. Your goal is to keep an accurate enough record that you could look back on your notes in a year—five years—and understand what was discussed.
3. Keep track of all decisions made
Did you decide to evict a tenant, or did you and a tenant reach a lease agreement? Whatever the case, document the decisions that you made in writing. That way, if a tenant comes back with something else, or if the government asks, you can reference your record.
4. Keep track of any challenges
You should also document challenges, like evicting a bad tenant or order delays due to Covid-19. Order delays could include items for tenant repairs, such as a new refrigerator, a new window, blinds, and so on. Whatever the challenge, keep a paper and digital trail for reference.
5. Keep track of expenses
Suppose Covid brought you new requirements that added to your expenses, such as extra cleaning services. Be sure to document those requirements, including a full account of exact dollar amounts with receipts to support those figures. When it comes to record-keeping, there's no such thing as overly detailed.
6. Keep track of routine or way of business changes
If Covid changed your regular routine, such as having virtual apartment tours for prospective tenants, paying through an online forum like PayPal versus cash, or tenant rent changes, be sure to document it. Documentation can help you keep track of your tenants' rent payments while also showing your expenses paid to date.
Keep records of your life events
1. Keep track of life changes
Life happens. You may move to a new home, experience job loss, go through a divorce or suffer a financial crisis. Keep track of any significant changes in your life since you may need to present a record to the government, a potential buyer, or so on.
2. Keep track of government advice and how you reacted to advice
During this pandemic, the government has advised each of us how to work safely during the pandemic. Be sure to keep any government advice you received and take detailed notes of how you reacted to that advice. Eventually, the government may provide Covid help for landlords, which is why this is important.
3. Keep track of your medical records and how they impacted trade
Did you experience a medical problem during the pandemic? If so, keep track of it, regardless of whether it was Covid or something else. Be sure to keep track of how the medical problem impacted your relationship with your business, including tradespeople and prospective tenants.
4. Keep track of potential risks to tenants
You should keep track of any risks or potential risks to your tenants, including mould, problematic trees, bed bugs, termites, or other damages. Document how you handled each one, such as hiring a tree removal company or a pesticide expert. If any of these steps required an insurance claim, it can be helpful to work with an insurance claims consultant to ensure the process is properly documented.
Don't get caught out— and be prepared
This process can seem tedious, and you might not see any reason to keep records, let alone such extensive records. However, it’s vital to remember that documenting each detail will end up saving you time and money if something unfortunate does happen. You may never need these records, but they could prove critical in the event of an emergency.
Know your landlord rights
When adding to your notes, keep in mind your rights and responsibilities as a landlord in the UK. Use that knowledge to keep track of all you do that is in correspondence with those responsibilities, such as health and safety inspections, financial responsibilities, and changing a tenant's rent. This step will also help you verify that you are 100% compliant with all legal requirements.
Summing it up
At the end of the day, do your best to stay organized and keep detailed records of everything you do as a landlord, as well as everything your tenants do that relates to your rental or their lease. You can use a diary to keep track, or you can simply write down details on a notepad as soon as you can.
No matter what method you choose, use technology to back up your paper trails so that you will not lose them. It’s always a good idea to have at least two copies of everything, especially important documents such as tenant leases and interactions.
*Oliver Andrews is editor at Property Claim Assist
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