How Letting Agents Can Help Reduce Tensions Between Landlords and Tenants
It is a testing time for many businesses at the moment, but particularly for letting agents and landlords. The government has intervened in the industry to protect tenants who cannot pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic; first through stopping evictions completely and now by extending the eviction notice period to six months for all but the most serious cases. However, the prospect of receiving no rental income for at least half a year could lead to tensions between landlords and tenants.
Unless there has been evidence of anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, false statement or the tenant has already built up six months of unpaid rent, the landlord must wait six months to retrieve their property. This means that, in cases where tenants have only just found themselves in a situation where they can’t pay, there is very little the landlord can do. As a letting agent, it has never been more important to act as a mediator between the two parties so that the relationship does not deteriorate further.
Potential Pitfalls of a Breakdown in the Relationship
There are many potential pitfalls of tensions between landlords and tenants. The landlord may cut down on maintenance of the property and ignore requests for repairs from tenants that are not paying their rent. In such a scenario, the tenant may then retaliate and fail in their responsibilities to keep the property neat, tidy and clean. With landlord and tenant working against each other, it could be disastrous for both parties involved.
However, there are a number of steps that letting agents can take to ensure the relationship does not completely break down.
Remind Landlords and Tenants of Responsibilities
Both landlords and tenants have legal responsibilities to each other. In the first instance, you should remind both parties of these requirements. By law, a landlord must keep a rental property safe for their tenant, ensuring there are no health hazards. They must also perform regular electric and gas checks in addition to regular maintenance and all major repairs.
Tenants are responsible for minor repairs if stipulated in the tenancy agreement, as well as generally looking after the property and not causing damage. They should also treat neighbours with respect and ask permission before making any changes to the property, such as painting walls.
A tenant’s main responsibility is to pay their rent, although that may not be possible given the major changes to people’s incomes due to Covid-19. However, the failure of one party to meet their obligations does not mean it is okay for the other party to follow suit. A letting agent is key in reminding both parties of what is expected of them.
Let Landlords Know Early
A way to help maintain a civil relationship, even in stressful times, is to communicate any problems as soon as possible. The tenant is most likely to talk to the letting agent first if they are suffering financial hardship and may not be able to pay their rent. If this occurs, then letting the landlord know as soon as possible helps them to put measures into place to lessen the blow to their bottom line.
It could be worth communicating with all of the tenants on your books to advise them to speak up as soon as possible to help avoid worse issues further along the line. If all parties are in the know early, there is more chance of finding a solution that is beneficial to all.
Help Find a Solution
As a mediator, the letting agent can help find that solution. It could be that the tenant can afford a portion of their rent, so they pay what they can until they get back on their feet. Alternatively, everyone agrees to a break from payments on the understanding that the tenant pays extra every month once they are working again until the arrears are cleared.
It is in all parties’ interests to find a resolution, as no one wants to go through six months of a notice period and then the potential of a lengthy court process in some circumstances. Nobody benefits from that outcome.
Help Landlords Seek Out Support
There is support for landlords that you can guide them towards. Until the end of October, they can apply for a mortgage holiday that may ease the financial burden. In addition, the Self Employment Support Scheme has been extended for six months from November 2020, providing 20% of people’s average monthly profits, based on the previous three years’ tax returns.
Help Tenants Seek Out Government Support
You can also help tenants find the support available to them. They may be eligible to claim Universal Credit, under which it is sometimes possible to receive property costs. In addition, local authorities might be able to help with a financial hardship grant, and they may be eligible for Discretionary Housing Payments.
Otherwise, you could put them in contact with Shelter, Citizens Advice or the Money Advice Service for more help.
Helping Reduce Tensions Between Landlords and Tenants
Our outsourced property management service takes care of property maintenance, rent collection and all manner of other helpful elements for keeping lettings running smoothly. Make sure you contact us today to talk about how we can help free up your time to concentrate on bringing in new business.