Property News > How To Avoid Common Landlord-Tenant Disputes: An Expert’s View

How To Avoid Common Landlord-Tenant Disputes: An Expert’s View

The debate between being a homeowner and renting sees many pros and cons raised. When it comes to renting, one of the main problems can often be the landlord.

Of course, for many tenants, relationships with their landlords are great, but the horror stories really can’t be ignored.

Bad tenant-landlord relationships can be miserable, for both sides and it’s a situation you firstly don’t want to be in, and secondly can be avoided.

There are around four and a half million private renters in the UK so it goes without saying that not every tenancy runs smoothly. There are a series of common problems which regularly occur.

This can begin with the initial signing of contracts right through to maintenance, renewing and knowing what lies in the responsibility of the tenant, and what is within the remit of the landlord.

The Common Problems

Both tenants and landlords will encounter the same problems over and over. For the former, it can cause serious anxiety and mental health problems, as ultimately they’re reliant upon a landlord to keep a roof above their head.

A study by Shelter revealed that one in 11 Brits worry they can’t pay rent, with over a million people in the country having seen GPs over rental fears. But those worries and problems can stretch way beyond finances when it comes to our homes.

That’s why we decided to pull together this resource to highlight the most common problems tenants face and the best ways in which they can be dealt with.

Maintenance & Repairs

Maintenance and repairs within your property can often cause the biggest headaches for tenants, particularly if a landlord isn’t forthcoming when issues are reported.

It’s a landlord’s responsibility to ensure a residence is maintained to a good standard, with hot water and heating, as well as having a secure structure, facilities, and pipe work.

The boiler is of course, a major part of that and one of the most common breakdowns, particularly at the beginning of the winter months. This can be incredibly costly for a landlord but is something that should be dealt with as a matter of urgency, as they can be fined for not fulfilling their legal duties.

However, when it comes to some repairs a landlord may look to charge you or insist a problem is your responsibility. For example, issues with drainage or mould and damp can be interpreted as the fault of either tenant or landlord.

In these cases, it’s important to determine the facts, as tenants shouldn’t be financially liable if the issue isn’t down to them. In the case of mould or damp, it could well be a structural issue rather than one caused by condensation in the property.

The Solution:

For maintenance and repairs where you’re being charged, but you’re under the belief you shouldn’t be, getting a second opinion from an expert can often be helpful. It will help confirm who’s responsible for the problem and give a clearer idea of costings and who is to foot the bill.

UK charity Shelter also advises that before moving into a property you should make thorough checks of each room, testing all parts from showers, to toilets, sinks, boilers and any white goods that come with the property. This can usually be done by thoroughly going through a property’s inventory.

Additionally, look for clues which suggest problems have occurred before such as water stains, darker patches on the walls, faulty lights and anything else which could potentially cause problems for yourself.

Bad Services

One issue many tenants have is getting tied into bad deals and equally bad services. Many landlords will offer rent prices on bills included, which can often be a rotten deal, with prices heavily marked up due to “administration” costs.

It will be sold to you as an easier way to live, with things such as electricity, water, and internet paid within the cost of your monthly rent.

However, you might be charged more than you would by paying bills directly yourself and you ultimately have no control of the companies you deal with.

This could essentially lead you to use a poorer service at a higher cost.

The Solution:

The solution to this is simple. It will be rare that you’ll get a better deal going all-inclusive with rental and bills, so deal with all payments yourself.

You’ll be able to shop around for the right deal to suit you and, ultimately, have a direct line with the companies and service providers if you do encounter any problems, whether that be to do with the service or financial matters.

You may also find you’ve overpaid when it comes to water or electricity, and you’ll have a much higher chance of enjoying a rebate than you would if the same happens when paying directly to a landlord.

Missing Rent Payment

Naturally, falling into rental arrears is one of the biggest problems that can really cause tension in a relationship between landlord and tenant.

Studies show that around 14% of tenancies end because of the landlord asking a tenant to leave or evicting them, and 58% of the time that is due to rental arrears.

It can cause huge amounts of stress for both tenant and landlord, so it’s important to not hide away from it should the situation arise.

The Solution:

They say honesty is the best policy and addressing rental arrears as soon as possible is always a good idea.

By ignoring the situation, you’re putting yourself and landlord in an awkward situation, whereas speaking to them, perhaps even before rent day and explaining the reasons as to why rent can’t be paid can often result in a more understanding landlord.

Before agreeing to a contract, Citizens Advice suggest you ask the following:

  1. How much rent you’ll have to pay and how it should be paid
  2. How long you can rent for – including whether you’ll be able to renew your tenancy or end it early
  3. How your tenancy deposit will be protected

You should also calculate whether the rent you’ll be paying, alongside bills and the cost of living, is affordable to you across the tenancy period.

Should you find paying rent with a private landlord is difficult, you’ll also find a large amount of information on how you can get help on the Citizen’s Advice website.

Hidden Fees & Rental Increases

In theory, you should not have to pay any hidden fees, with any fees you are required to pay clearly explained to you.

Most fees for tenants are now banned. You can’t be asked to pay for things such as credit checks or references before signing a contract.

Additionally, any increases in rental fees should follow certain rules and be agreed by you before being actioned.

There are a number of ways in which a landlord can increase the rent and it’s mainly dependent on your tenancy agreement and contract.

One thing to be aware of is your landlord can’t increase the rent during a fixed-term tenancy agreement unless there is also a rent review clause within the contract.

This means a landlord can increase your rent but it must include when the increase will happen and how much notice you’ll receive. It will also include a formula and example of how the increase will occur, to give you a clearer idea of what figure that will be.

A landlord can also use a section 13 notice to increase rent, with various terms and conditions as to how a landlord can do this.

The Solution:

Knowing what you’re legally responsible to pay when it comes to tenants fees will give you a clearer understanding and allow you to be fully informed and not be ripped off by any rogue letting agencies or landlords.

In terms of rental increases, unfortunately, there are no real solutions. It’s a landlords prerogative in many cases. However, you can challenge section 13 and take it to a tribunal if you believe it unreasonable.

You can also speak to a landlord directly and try to negotiate. After all, it costs time and money to re-let a property so they may be willing to cut the increase in order to prevent this from happening.

Communication is ultimately key in maintaining a relationship between a landlord and tenant, and most problems can be solved or worked upon by doing so.

There’s Always Help Available

At Property Rescue we know all about helping people out when it comes to property, with many homeowners in need selling to us in order to get their finances back on track.

When it comes to renting, charities such as Shelter offer stellar support for those who are struggling to pay their rent.

You’ll also find a huge range of support networks for all manner of problems, whether that be financial, or advice on how to speed up the process of fixing a leaking roof or broken down boiler. While you might find it difficult, the chances are others have endured the same problems and there’s help out there.

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