Here are some tips to help you identify potentially problematic tenants before they sign a lease, and to defend against difficult situations during a tenancy.
You can avoid becoming a victim of damaged property or unpaid rent by taking the following steps:
1. Screen your tenants thoroughly
It is very important to screen your tenants thoroughly before renting out your property to them. You can do this yourself or with the help of a letting agent. A professional, registered letting agent (i.e. a member of a government-recognised scheme such as the Property Ombudsman) will conduct the following checks:
· Reference checks
· Employment checks
· ID checks
You can do the same checks yourself, should you have the time to do so. Always be sure to follow up on any references, including former employers and landlords, provided by the tenant.
2. Take proper inventory
This is your first line of defence against any damage to your property. You should take proper inventory of the contents of your property, as well as the condition of each item, before the tenancy begins.
In order to rely on the inventory during a dispute, it is better that an independent and reputable person or organisation conducts the inventory, rather than yourself. Please note that not all letting agencies do inventories as a matter of course. It is also a good idea to take plenty of photographic evidence of the property before move-in.
3. Make sure your tenancy agreement is comprehensive, robust and legitimate
A tenancy agreement is essential in defining your relationship with your tenant and must be put together in a thorough manner, with full consideration for the law. It states the terms and conditions of the use of the property by the tenant, as well as what is required from the landlord.
If you don’t have a strong tenancy agreement in place, you could risk leaving yourself open to all manner of problems with your tenants; legal or otherwise.
4. Make regular inspections
If you decide not to use a letting agency, you must make regular visits to the property yourself. Any inspections must only be undertaken after a pre-agreed notice period. This is usually specified in most ASTs (tenancy agreements) you and your tenant would have signed.
Should you find your property a bit untidy, or some unreported damages, usually a polite conversation or email and a follow-up inspection is all that is needed to bring everything back on track.
Note that some tenants do not like hassling landlords over what they feel are petty maintenance issues. Some genuinely feel that it is best not to report damages they perceive as minor, as they don’t want to be annoyance.
5. Enforce your rights as the landlord
Once you have a tenancy agreement in place, it is very important to be proactive and enforce the terms in that agreement. If possible, it is good protocol to follow up on any transgressions in writing or by email, should evidence ever be needed.