5 ways to avoid tenant disputes
Dealing with tenant disputes is one of the main challenges letting agents must overcome in their day-to-day work. Whether it’s concerning a deposit or a problem with property maintenance, these incidents can prove both expensive and time-consuming if handled incorrectly.
How can you keep disputes to a minimum ‘ The best course of action is to adopt a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach and do your utmost to nip minor issues in the bud before they have the chance to become major problems. Read on for five tips on how this can be achieved.
The importance of an inventory
Research from The Online Letting Agents has revealed that damage to rental properties is the number one cause of tenant disputes, with renters often objecting to deductions from their deposits. Putting together a detailed inventory at the start of the tenancy is the best way to prevent deposit-based disputes from occurring. That way you have a clear record of the property’s condition that has been agreed by all parties.
This makes it far easier to calculate accurate charges at the end of the tenancy – something the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks has described as the “holy grail of lettings”.
The organisation’s chair Pat Barber recently stated: “If agents and landlords can prove how they arrived at the proposed deductions from their tenants’ deposits, all parties involved will be happier to accept the decisions. Fewer disputes cause less headaches in terms of wasted time, money and effort all round.”
Checking in and out
The ideal time to lay the groundwork for avoiding disputes is by carrying out a check-in. That way you can make sure the tenants are aware of their responsibilities and what constitutes wear and tear, as well as answering any questions they may have. Completing a check-out is of equal importance. This allows you to discuss the state of the property in person and this makes it far easier to talk about what may need to come out the tenant’s deposit than trying to have the conversation when they have already left the property.
The check-in and check-out are ideal times to ensure tenants are aware of their responsibilities, but this are not the only situations in which you should look to get this message across. Exactly what is expected of renters need to be clear in their contract and it’s worth reminding them at certain points, such as when a tenancy renews or they hand in their notice.
Keeping up contact
You don’t need to speak to your tenants every day, but keeping up fairly regular contact my come in handy when it comes to dealing with disputes. If renters feel they know you they are more likely to bring an issue such as damage to your attention immediately rather than wait until their tenancy ends. There is a much better chance of things coming to an amicable end if you and your tenants have some form of relationship.
One of the main reasons letting agents have developed a negative reputation in some sections of the media is due to a feeling that they lack transparency and regularly hit tenants with hidden fees and charges.
Being as upfront and open as possible is the best way for the industry to shake this perception and also to prevent disputes. Tenants are far more likely to be angry if they feel they are being presented with an unexpected charge, so taking the time to spell out their responsibilities as clearly as possible at the start of a tenancy can go a long way to stop time-consuming and expensive incidents occurring later on.