It’s impossible to predict what may go wrong in a tenancy, but there are a few issues that crop up time and again for most landlords- here’s the top 10 landlord and tenant complaints.
A boiler breakdown can be very expensive so you should consider investing initially in a higher quality boiler to avoid a big repair or replacement bill. Most new boiler models are much more energy efficient and have several years warranty, which means you have some protection should things go wrong. If your tenant does report issues with the boiler, you must make sure to fix the problem or replace the boiler as it comes under your landlord duties to maintain heating and hot water systems.
2. Damp and mould
The dispute here is most likely to be who is at fault! There’s only two ways that damp can exist; a structural problem with the property, or excess condensation. It’s important to identify which of these it is to find out who is responsible. A structural defect can be identified by a professional. Excess condensation is caused by not opening windows to dry clothes, boil water or take a shower. Damp can be a particular problem in the winter because windows are more likely to be kept shut. You should ensure that bathrooms have a ventilation unit and that kitchens have an extractor fan to take excess moisture out of a property. You should inform your tenant of how to reduce excess condensation, try using this free guide.
As with mould, you need to investigate the cause of a blocked drain to find out who is financially responsible for clearing it. If fats are flushed down the drain often enough they can solidify and cause a build up, which affects the drain functioning correctly. Make sure your tenants are aware that fats should be cooled and scraped in the bin to avoid blocking the drain. You will only be able to identify the issue by arranging for a plumber to visit the property.
4. White goods
If you’ve provided an oven, fridge, washing machine or dishwasher- you can expect that at some point there will be issues cropping up. As with the boiler, look for efficient models with a long warranty. If you scrimp on white goods, you’re more likely to experience issues. A more expensive model is a bigger cost initially but may save you money in the long run if they last longer and through more tenancies. It’s not a legal requirement to fix or replace white goods that you supply but if it’s a relatively small and inexpensive problem to fix, you should consider doing so to keep your tenants happy.
5. Late or missed rent payments
If your tenant is late on a rent payment, or misses one altogether, don’t immediately assume it’s a disaster. Most importantly, find out why the tenant hasn’t paid and try to find a solution. Always follow up communications in writing (email or text is acceptable) so you can prove what has been agreed. If the problem continues, you’ll need to follow the proper steps in evicting a tenant but they must be at least 8 weeks or 2 months in arrears. You can get advice from Landlord Action on serving eviction notices. To try and avoid this problem altogether, make sure you carry out thorough referencing checks before letting your tenant move in. A referencing check will highlight a history of debt, employment or tenancy issues.
Mice infestations will most likely be due to a structural defect in the property allowing them to enter, so this will fall under your responsibility to deal with. Other types of pest can make it a little more difficult to ascertain who is responsible, rats could enter a property due to a structural defect or because of hygiene standards- or a combination of both. Regular property inspections can highlight hygiene problems and a professional pest controller will be able to investigate further as to entry points.
7. Void periods
Void periods are a landlord’s biggest headache. If your buy-to-let is empty, you’re not getting paid. You should allow for some void periods between tenancies, particularly if there’s work to be carried out but ideally, you’ll want to keep it to an absolute minimum. Before advertising for new tenants, make sure to research your property area carefully and price the rent right- too high and you’ll end with your property sitting there. Keep the property in good condition to attract the best tenants and, if possible, go for tenants that are planning on staying for longer periods of time.
8. Wear and tear
Another common dispute when it comes to returning a tenant’s deposit is fair wear and tear. It’s fairly subjective so can cause disputes when a tenant claims wear and tear but a landlord claims damage. A third party, professional inventory clerk will have the knowledge to discern between fair wear and tear and damage so it’s important you get an inventory carried out on commencement of the tenancy and at the end. A deposit scheme adjudicator will take into account the original condition of the property and items as well as the reasonable expected life time usage.
Access to a property is tricky ground. You must respect your tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment and without their explicit consent, you cannot enter the property whilst your tenant is renting. This can make it tricky when it comes to viewings and access for legal obligations such as an annual gas safety check- keeping an open line of communication with your tenant is your best tool here. When arranging viewings, keep in mind your tenant’s schedule and give them as much advance notice as possible.
10. Letting agents
Many tenants report issues with their lettings agents in relation to fees, unfair clauses, access, repairs and communication. Make sure you do your research if you’re using a letting agent to manage your property, because that middle man can cause you a lot more issues with your tenants if they fail in their expectations and service levels. If you decide to ditch the letting agent and self-manage, make sure to check your terms of business before you do so.
James Davis, CEO and Founder of Upad, says, “Prevention is better than cure and as a landlord I do think we need to put greater thought into common tenant issues and take steps to reduce the likelihood of these issues cropping up… as simple as it sounds, I’ve always found maintaining a professional but friendly relationship with your tenant, and keeping an open line of communication can avoid a host of in tenancy issues. Letting a property is a business, and a more tactile approach to your tenancy issues will go a long way.”