You may have a great eye for investment and rental yields, but are you able to build a good landlord and tenant rapport? Are you a people person?
Landlord and tenant: specify terms
At the beginning of a tenancy, it’s important to make sure that both landlord and tenant are fully aware of their obligations. This is often the basis of any issue between the two parties, so get it right from the start.
Sit down and go through the contract with tenants at the start. Otherwise, simply pick up the main points so they’re clear of their obligations and rights.
For example, if you’re letting a freehold house and the tenant is responsible for the upkeep of front and back gardens, point that out to the tenant.
It is important for landlords to be clear on how they want to run their letting business. Get the terms properly laid out so that tenants are clear and everything is transparent.
Keep lines of communication open
Make sure the tenant is communicating directly with you with regards to issues and not tradesmen you send over to the property. Communication should be direct.
Communication is vital, particularly in regard to repairs and maintenance. A diligent, good landlord may face an issue when fixing things where a part can’t be delivered for a day or two. In that case, always keep the tenant up-to-date on fixing problems. In fact, some tenants can be sensitive about these kinds of issues.
Respond quickly to repairs
Any experienced landlord has an abundance of tradesmen who would turn up instantly to fix problems. One of the big issues we get on the Advice Line is where landlords haven’t responded quickly enough to tenants’ problems. Build up a stock of reliable tradespeople who you can call on and who’ll respond quickly to issues. Let tenants know what you are going to do when, and do it quickly.
This encourages longevity because the tenants build up trust in you and your work as a landlord.
Dealing with financial issues
Always tell your tenants to communicate with you if there is a property related issue. So, they know you are available to talk to if they’ve lost their job or think they’ll be late with the rent payment.
Try to sit down for a coffee with them, if not speak on the phone and then always follow-up with an e-mail and sum up to the conversation you had on an e-mail.
If they would prefer to meet at a neutral location then that’s a good option too. Buy them a coffee and cake. You’ll be able to see the nuances of the situation more clearly than you would via email.
Meet in person
It’s always better to meet face-to-face with tenants where possible. An initial phone call may be a good start, but it’s better if you can meet in person. In fact, ultimately the rental business is a people business.
The body language of a person will give more away than a half-hour phone call. The tone of their voices and pauses in a conversation will make any mistruths or omissions obvious. Psychology is everything in this business.
Handle disputes calmly
Even the most diligent of landlords will at some point face a difficult situation in the private rented sector. Perhaps the tenant has breached the contract, or they’re in rent arrears. Whatever the situation, I always recommend disagreeing in an agreeable way. You will probably face a personality clash and never wish to see the tenant again. However, while you are dealing with an issue, do it as carefully and as kindly as possible.
For example, if on one of your landlord visits you find a broken door but the tenant says his brother did it and so he’s not responsible, kindly point out the legal position is that the tenant is liable, whoever broke the door.
Point out on letters or emails that you are hopeful that between yourself and the tenant, this issue can be resolved amicably and in a way that benefits all.
Never use threatening or aggressive language to a tenant. If you do and it does go to court, there’s a strong likelihood that the judge will favour the tenant.
Lastly, when corresponding on sensitive matters, emphasis all the points on which you agree rather than those you don’t agree on.
Have a backup plan
Always have procedures planned in advance should the situation become irreconcilable. If you have to serve a Section 21 eviction notice or a Section 8, try to make sure that you know what you’re doing in advance. This includes the legal process, paper trail and having all necessary documents ready. Some landlords even get guarantors involved immediately where necessary.