The rented housing market has been subject to considerable scrutiny in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster, with much media analysis of the landlord and tenant relationship. It appears that tenants’ concerns about fire safety had been ‘brushed away’ by the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) and no doubt the public enquiry will generate some important lessons to be learned from the breakdown in relations between the two parties.
Our approach has always been to encourage landlords and tenants to keep lines of communication open, as most problems can be solved if both parties are in contact. Maintaining good health and safety practices in a property is of paramount importance to landlord and tenant alike, so by working together you can ensure a decent standard of accommodation, which is also less costly in the long run. As has been shown by the substandard cladding on Grenfell Tower, taking shortcuts to save money can ultimately prove dangerous and expensive. When it comes to Legionella control, there are a number of ways in which the landlord and tenant can collaborate for mutual benefit.
Tension between landlord and tenant is nothing new, but it does seem that the relationship dynamic is shifting somewhat, particularly given the huge growth of the rental market in recent years. Renters are becoming more of a voice to be reckoned with and PwC is predicting that they will account for 40% of the market by 2025, so it makes sense to keep them on-side.
Regardless of what the future holds, here are some simple tips for a happy and healthy landlord and tenant relationship:
1. Get off on the right foot
Ideally make sure that you meet your tenant before they move in. Try to build a rapport early on so you can develop mutual trust as time goes on. You don’t need to be best buddies, but a good working relationship will really help if and when any problems crop up.
2. Keep in touch
It’s important that your tenants feel you’re available so try to touch base with them fairly regularly (every month or so). If they feel that you’re only interested in them when it’s time to pay the rent or if there’s a problem, they could feel resentful. Also, regular contact can help to identify any issues before they escalate, meaning that you’re on the front foot and appearing to be proactive.
3. Set out expectations clearly
As with any business arrangement, it’s vital that the terms of engagement are clear from the start. Have a detailed written contract which covers expected behaviour from both parties and be sure to stick to it. Tenants and landlords have a right to be treated fairly so by setting out and agreeing reasonable terms, the relationship is more likely to flourish than flounder.
4. Understand your responsibilities and take them seriously
Make sure you are clued up about your legal responsibilities and don’t just pay lip service to them. Be clear with your tenants about your obligations and demonstrate to them that you are fulfilling your duties properly, which will reassure them and also give you the benefit of the doubt if any issues come up.
5. Tackle problems quickly
If a problem arises, make sure it’s dealt with effectively and efficiently. Communicate clearly and if you agree on a certain course of action or deadline, make sure you stick to it. If you are struggling to agree matters with your tenant, call on a trusted third party to provide an independent point of view and act as mediator. Organisations such as the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) offer a wide range of services to help landlords, including a dedicated advice team.
A positive landlord and tenant relationship is invaluable and can be a huge asset to your business. Having a reputation as a good landlord will boost the rental potential of your property and getting on well with your tenant should ensure that the tenancy is fairly hassle-free. Happy tenants stay longer too, cutting down on the cost and inconvenience of re-letting or having a void property sitting on your books. Lastly, from a health and safety point of view, a positive relationship is much more likely to result in a high quality living environment.