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How can landlords pave the way for positive tenant relationships?

POSTED: 13th August 2015
IN: Landlord helpful guides
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What steps can landlords take to pave the way for smoother relationships with their tenants?

Encouraging reliable tenants to remain in the property for as long as possible is often a key goal for landlords, since filling vacancies and dealing with trouble tenants can be time-consuming and costly.  How can landlords take a proactive approach to ensure tenants remain satisfied with their service?

Starting out on the right foot

First impressions count, so making sure the property is in a good condition before tenants move in is vital. Equally, small gestures of goodwill at the beginning of the tenancy can be an effective way to gain tenants’ trust. According to research conducted by Endsleigh, more than a third of UK landlords have given their tenants a welcome gift to help them settle in, from pre-paying credit on electricity meters to providing basic household essentials like toilet rolls and tea.

From a legal perspective, it’s crucial to clearly set out rules for the property right from the start, such as how rent will be paid, upkeep standards and regulations surrounding pets, noise and smoking. Similarly, 81 per cent of landlords believe a comprehensive inventory can prevent disagreements arising in the future.

Keep in touch

82 per cent of landlords report that regular, transparent communication is the key to cultivating a healthy relationship with tenants. Endsleigh recommends setting up quarterly property visits to each property, though tenants should always be given at least 24 hours prior warning wherever possible. Frequent visits will show tenants you are willing to help if they have any concerns and can provide a good opportunity to address any unreported problems before they escalate.

“Be courteous, polite, to the point and above all nice,” confirms professional landlord Chris Symons, adding, “No-one likes a nasty landlord and a nice landlord gets the best tenants.”

Symons admits that landlords must be prepared to deal with occasional problem tenants, sharing advice on how to handle the situation:

“There is always going to be one tenant who cannot be satisfied and will not respect you or the agent; rule number one is to remain calm. I always try to arrange a face to face meeting with them to discuss the problem.”

Up to scratch

In terms of the law, landlords overseeing tenancies lasting under seven years and entered into after 24 October 1961 are responsible for the various elements of the property in a timely manner. These include sanitation, water and heating supply, gas and electrical appliance, the structure of the building and interior items listed under the letting agreement.

However, landlords may wish to go beyond these basic requirements in order to reinforce relationships with dependable tenants who treat the property with respect. Regular investment in minor refurbishments, installing new fixtures and fittings or improving the energy efficiency of the property will not only boost tenant satisfaction, but may also cut repairs costs in the future.

In fact, research shows 30 per cent of landlords have performed an ‘act of kindness’ for their tenants, from helping with DIY to delaying rent payments. As a result, 70 per cent of tenants who receive this type of support stay in their property for 24 months or longer, compared to just 53 per cent for those who haven’t.

30% of tenants have received an act of kindness, such as help with DIY or a break from paying rent.

70% of tenants who have received an act of kindness stay in their property for 24 months or more, compared to just 53% who haven’t.

Handling a rent increase

Letting agent uPad conducted interviews with a number of UK landlords and found a clear divide in the way rent increases are managed. Some landlords advocate yearly, minor rent increases to avoid surprising the tenant with a large increase after several years, which could encourage them to seek an alternative arrangement. Meanwhile, some landlords were willing to sacrifice higher rental values in order to keep reliable tenants for a longer period, waiting until tenants moved on to review their property’s rental values.

Despite this difference of opinion, all agreed demonstrating that rent increases are fair can reduce the likelihood of tenants moving on. Many of those surveyed recommend setting rent at or below the local average for similar properties and providing evidence of market rates for tenants. Likewise, if rental increases are due to rising costs, such as a shift in mortgage rates or upkeep costs, conveying this fact to tenants may help them understand and accept the decision.

Landlord Gary King also advises timing refurbishments to coincide with a rental increase, stating:

“I usually offer a little sweetener to the renewal deal, such as replacing that tired old washing machine with a shiny new one; it's not a huge outlay and if you pay a bit extra for the five year warranty that's one thing you and your tenant won't have to worry about.”

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