Landlords: Can you Prove It?

If you have never experienced rent arrears, verbally abusive, violent or lying tenants, then you have been incredibly lucky.  Thankfully, the vast majority of tenants are excellent customers and a good working relationship is enjoyed by Landlords and tenants alike.

Most of us Landlords have experienced all of the above – and more than once.  All the laws and regulations we have to adhere to, basically mean that we do not really have the right to say how long somebody should stay in our house.  We do not have the right to evict somebody who is in arrears promptly, without first serving a Section 8 and/or a Section 21 notice which take several weeks of more lost rent before we can get them out. 

What a neglected or damaged house can look like

They can then delay this process even further by disputing your decision and forcing you to take court action.  And if you are lucky enough the Judge rules in your favour, the tenants might stay on in the property until such time as you can get Bailiffs to remove them.  This costs you the Landlord even more lost rent, stress, time and expense.  And in the meantime the tenants may have added thousands of pounds to your bill if they have trashed the house……  The maximum deposit you take can be the equivalent of up to 6 weeks rent, however, this is soon being changed to 5 weeks if the annual rent is under £50,000.  Often the cost of damage exceeds the deposit, and often the tenant gets to avoid paying the remainder!

That is why it is essential for the Landlord to be able to prove everything.  A moving in document detailing what is expected, full inventory with pictures signed by both parties, house rules, prescribed information,  as well as the AST, Safety Certificates, Deposit Information, Right to Rent check document, their passport or driving licence picture etc., that we all have to ensure is in place before somebody moves in.  And full referencing and background checks, credit history etc., prior to moving in is vital.  On the day they move in, you, the Landlord, are supposed to conduct a fire safety check in their presence, to ensure the alarms are working.  Keep proof of this!

Also the tenant needs to be informed how often you are going to do inspections – usually once a month for a HMO and once a quarter for a Single Let.  They need to be informed in writing a minimum of 24 hours in advance of an inspection (we usually give 48 hours written notice) and of course, in a single let, the tenant can deny you access.

If your relationship with your tenant begins to sour, it is vitally important that you record in writing every conversation, keep every email, photograph/video everything you can.  If you serve notice, photograph/video yourself outside the property pushing it through the letterbox, or under the bedroom door if it is for an individual in a HMO.  If you serve it in person, photograph yourself handing it to them.  It is crucial to serve the correct documents in the correct manner and have all your paperwork relating to the tenancy served, signed for and stored securely in the correct manner.  Also, if said tenant has been gone for a year, you must destroy any information you hold regarding them.  You have to work from the end backwards.  Record every phone call, conversation, even if you think it is irrelevant, just keep a record of everything, timed and dated.  As soon as a dispute occurs between us and a tenant, we pretty much treat it as preparing to go to court, because going to court is always a possibility, and it is important to have built as watertight a case as you can.  If you want a Judge to award in your favour, the devil really is in the detail.

If you do not do this, you have a far less chance of protecting yourself and your property.  Feel free to contact me if you need further advice.