Dispute Resolution Tips for Professional Portfolio Landlords
Disagreements between landlords and tenants can be time-consuming, stressful and costly – but approaching a matter of contention correctly can go a long way to dissipating tensions and reaching an agreeable outcome.
As West Sussex lettings experts, Tod Anstee often takes over portfolio management and engages tenants in a productive, meaningful way. We know that a considered strategy is the best route to take.
Here we share best practice tips for resolving conflicts, and suggestions for suitable options for portfolio landlords if you cannot rectify your dispute amicably.
Common Reasons for Disputes Between a Landlord and Tenant
Miscommunications are the most frequent cause of difficulties in a landlord/tenant relationship and can often be tackled quickly and easily with an informal discussion.
Most tenants want to enjoy living in their rented homes, and landlords wish to have happy tenants who pay their rent on time and appreciate the care that goes into maintaining the property.
However, some instances inevitably cause concerns, with examples such as:
- Late rent payments – tenants might withhold rent if they consider this a negotiating tactic or run into financial difficulties without pre-empting the issue with a conversation.
- Damage to the property – whether wear and tear or accidental damage, problems with fixtures or decor can lead to disagreements about the exact cause and responsibility for the repair costs.
- Complaints – if a neighbour has complained about excessive noise or other antisocial behaviours, it can be difficult for a landlord to broach the issue.
The best way to avoid any of these matters – and countless other potential conflicts – is to lay the groundwork from day one to ensure that both parties fully agree and understand their respective duties and obligations.
A rental agreement can also include details of the dispute resolution process to avoid all doubt, which is a valuable asset if any disagreements arise.
The Best Conflict Resolution Approaches for Portfolio Landlords
Conflicts can be particularly problematic for portfolio landlords because they may be handling multiple tenancies and properties simultaneously and find it demanding to allocate sufficient time to arrange a thorough discussion and site visit to try and reach a solution.
Likewise, if one tenant raises continual complaints, it can be detrimental to other residents with equally valid needs and enquiries to which they expect a response.
If you find yourself managing a dispute, there are several ways to handle this professionally.
- Calm discussion is vital. It can be easy to feel frustrated at seemingly unwarranted complaints, but a tenant that raises an issue isn’t attacking their landlord as an individual. A friendly chat and a listening ear can go a long way to working out a result that you are both happy with.
- Meeting in person is highly preferable to an email or phone call. Written communications are often perceived differently than intended, and while a follow-up email or letter is strongly advisable, most people are more willing to negotiate face to face.
- Record keeping is important to ensure that all correspondence and agreements are documented, with a paper trail to refer back to should you need to. Portfolio landlords should aim to maintain separate files for each property.
As a busy landlord, you don’t necessarily need to accede to a tenant’s request or complaint. Still, you should be patient and empathetic and try to understand the issue from your tenants’ perspective before making any finite decisions.
While tenant liaison can be time-consuming, showing a proactive effort to hear and record complaints is the first step in showing that you are keen to find a solution and are willing to work together.
How to Proceed if Tenant Negotiations Fail
There are rare instances where a dispute cannot be resolved directly – perhaps a tenant has filed a complaint you believe to be false.
In this situation, there are still several options to help you move things forward:
- Professional mediators with knowledge of property law and your tenancy agreement can take over the discussions. A neutral third party can take away the ‘blame game’ and present the potential solutions impartially.
- Specialist property solicitors can be necessary if you have no recourse other than to take court action. However, this is normally the least desirable option given the costs and time commitment involved with a formal legal proceeding.
- Lettings agents and property managers, well versed in tenant liaison, can act on your behalf to uncover the underlying issues, propose efficient resolutions, and discuss alternatives, such as giving notice to vacate if no other outcome seems likely.
If you are in a tenant conflict where it seems impossible to solve the issue amicably, it is extremely important to be familiar with the relevant aspects of the law and to have a comprehensive file with every correspondence, agreement and contract available.
The Power of Professional Tenant Liaison
Tod Anstee manages a vast range of West Sussex rental property, from standalone family residences to larger-scale accommodation buildings.
We appreciate that any conflict with a tenant can be a challenge. Management agencies aren’t solely there to deal with late payments or tenant references and act as your representative and agent when dealing with every tenant issue or communication.
The key is always to have accurate, compliant agreements and contracts before any tenancy commences, which set out your dispute resolution approach and the terms against which you allow your property to be let. Keeping up to speed with ever-changing housing laws is one of the challenges of professional property management, but it is essential to avoid disputes.
When you are confident you offer a first-class rental property with excellent standards, there is a far lower chance of ever encountering an unhappy tenant. Swift and decisive action when a tenant breaches their terms will ensure you prevent a matter from escalating.
If you would like further advice about managing a current tenant dispute or the steps we recommend to avoid any future conflict, please contact Tod Anstee lettings. Our expert team will be happy to steer you through to a favourable outcome and ensure that you have absolute peace of mind that every future tenancy is impeccably handled.