10 Things Every Landlord Should Know About Disputes
There will be times when, as a landlord, disputes will arise with your tenants. Ensure you're fully prepped and ready to face problems head on with our tips below. Disputes often arise from ...
There will be times when, as a landlord, disputes will arise with your tenants. Ensure you're fully prepped and ready to face problems head on with our tips below.
- Disputes often arise from a complaint about a particular item not working as it should do or it not working at all. The latter is easier to determine. However, whether something is working as it should be is more subjective and the tenant and landlord may have different views on this. The most likely causes of complaint are about heating, hot water or damp. Usually these issues only come to light once the tenant has moved into a property. The difficulty is whether the tenant has a legitimate complaint or the tenant’s expectations are unreasonable. Landlords may argue that the tenant has caused or contributed to the problem by not using the item properly or, in the case of damp, by not heating and ventilating the property properly.
- The most common disputes happen at the end of a tenancy. These tend to relate to damage caused to the property and how much of the tenant’s deposit should be taken to cover this. If you’ve maintained a good relationship with your tenant and the property has been kept in a good state of repair throughout the tenancy, disputes are less likely to arise.
- If you have an issue with a tenant, try to discuss it with them first. If that doesn’t work, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible to try and get back on track.
- You are within your rights to bring the tenancy agreement to an end if you have ongoing issues with a tenant. As most tenancy agreements are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs), it’s often relatively easy to seek possession once the fixed term has finished. As the landlord, you can serve notice on a non-fault basis.
- You cannot take possession of a property without a court order; the court order can only be enforced by a bailiff. If you or your agent does anything that might be seen as attempting to take possession of the property without a court order or harassing a tenant, this could be considered a criminal offence that may result in a fine and/or imprisonment. Proceed with care.
- There is no specific legislation that protects you from disputes. The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) require all parties to attempt to try and settle matters without the assistance of courts. A failure to try and settle issues first may result in the tenant or landlord being penalised and having to pay costs.
- You might have to pay costs if a dispute arises. This all depends on the terms of the tenancy agreement. Some agreements state that the tenant must pay the landlord’s legal costs, others are silent. In the absence of a clause in the tenancy agreement permitting the recovery of your costs, in some cases it’s possible to recover legal costs in the County Court if a claim is for more than £10,000. Costs are at the discretion of the court and the starting position is that the loser pays the winner’s costs. The court can change this rule if it feels it’s reasonable to do so. In possession claims, where there is no clause in the tenancy agreement permitting the recovery of legal costs, the court will normally award a landlord fixed costs. This is likely to amount to a small contribution towards costs, as opposed to full costs.
- It is vital to have a written tenancy agreement as this sets out the contract between the parties and provides clear and precise terms for everyone right from the start. If problems arise, put them in writing to the tenant and attempt to discuss matters to see if a resolution can be found. If matters can’t be resolved, seek legal advice immediately.
- Seek early advice if it looks like the tenant isn’t going to vacate the property at the end of the tenancy or if the tenant is in receipt of Housing Benefit. Usually landlords have to serve at least two months notice before commencing court proceedings. Bear in mind that the shortest time from serving notice, obtaining a possession order and instructing the bailiff to take possession is likely to be four to five months and could be considerably longer. It’s therefore important to make sure each step is carried out properly otherwise this can delay matters.
- There are a number of ways of settling disputes; if an informal discussion doesn’t work there is a possibility of arbitration or mediation. However, legal advice should be sought before considering your options. In relation to any dispute that occurs at the end of the tenancy, it is now a requirement for a tenant’s deposit to be held in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme – usually these schemes offer a mediation service in the event of any problems.
With thanks to Karen Bright at Bishop and Sewell LLP for helping us with our research. To find out more, visit their website here.