26 October 2021

How can I resolve a dispute with my tenants?

By Kevin Meek New Business Senior Account Handler

A dispute with a tenant can be for a range of reasons, from noise complaints to property access. But the rental market has been thrown into a state of flux since the pandemic and now, the combined impact of furlough ending and universal credit decreasing could create financial uncertainty for many. It’s possible this could contribute to a rise in tensions between landlord and tenant. So if you’re faced with a dispute, how can you try to resolve the situation without resorting to court action? Here are a few pointers.

  1. Understand the cause

Disputes can range in size and seriousness and, when an issue arises, it’s important to understand what has caused it. This is because the context will help you decide the best way to proceed. For example, in the case of late rent payment, talk to your tenant first to understand why. This first point of contact will give you a chance to remind your tenant of their contract with you, while striving for a quick and amicable resolution. Weigh up whether their reasons are valid or whether this has happened before. If it has, how was it solved? Is it likely to be an ongoing problem?

  1. Communicate clearly and calmly

Disputes can be stressful and emotions can run high so be prepared to approach things as calmly and professionally as you can – even if your tenant does not. Remember that renting your property is a business transaction and sometimes problems will rear their heads, so it’s beneficial for all parties to remember not to take things personally. The calmer you are, the clearer you can communicate and talking an issue through is always the first step towards finding a resolution.

  1. Keep a paper trail

Even if it looks likely you’ll sort out the issue quickly, it’s vital you keep a paper trail of all communication about the dispute. Whether you meet face to face or talk over the phone, always follow up with a written message such as an email that outlines what you have discussed as clearly and specifically as you can. Make a note of key dates, such as when the issue was first raised and any conversations you’ve had with your tenants about it since – and make sure you save any texts that you receive or send too. This gives you a clear line of evidence if the dispute ends up escalating and you need legal advice.

  1. Be open to compromise

As with all disagreements, sometimes the solution is found through meeting in the middle. While it might feel frustrating to concede in any way on a point in which you believe you’re right, it’s always a good idea to weigh up whether it’s worth escalating a dispute if a little compromise can get the problem sorted. This is particularly important to consider financially. Is the dispute worth the cost and stress of a potentially long-term court process with expensive solicitor fees? Again, it will depend on the context of the dispute but it may be better to settle smaller issues, such as a pet kept in the household without permission or a change of energy provider, through compromise rather than serious legal action.

  1. Seek professional help

Of course, sometimes it’s not possible to find a solution without seeking professional advice. But before you head straight to the courts, consider professional mediation first. This will give both you and your tenant the chance to be heard without bias while protecting your individual interests, and can make it more likely for you to reach a solution that suits everyone. Your mediator will also be well-placed to advise you on any further action you may take too, and the whole mediation process can run alongside any litigation if it does come to that.

How to avoid future disputes

Ideally, you always want a harmonious relationship with your tenants so, where possible, preventing disputes in the first place is always advisable. Firstly, make sure you’re always clear and transparent in all dealings with your tenants, including the terms of your contract, so there’s no room for confusion or ambiguity. Plus, stay up to date with your rights as a landlord as well as any changes to housing laws ­– and make sure you have a good landlord insurance policy that can cover you if things go wrong.

With transparent communication, the right protection and a good working knowledge of the legalities of letting out property, you will be better placed to avoid disputes and keep your tenants happy in the long term – in turn making your life easier and more profitable.




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