Many people joining property investment think that all they need is some money to invest and buy properties.
And that is it, its sorted.
The fact though is the journey starts after you purchase the properties and build your portfolio.
Your responsibilities as an investor starts when you have tenants in your portfolio.
Well, its needless to say that responsibilities always come with issues and those that needs sorting out quicker than most.
It is peoples business at every stage, be it finding solutions to the vendors, interacting with estate agents, interacting with builders and tradespeople, communicating with tenants.
Property investment is a peoples business in every sense.
At all the stages of purchasing the property, you would spend some time and money.
On the contrary:
Most time of property journey in property investment is with tenants. More importantly, that is where as a landlord you would start making money.
Tenants are one of the important team players in the Buy to Let business.
This post isn’t to suggest that tenants are always at fault, but based on ours and fellow investors experiences, there can be some challenging times when you put yourself in landlord’s shoes.
This post is our experience and and that of our community on what kind of tenant issues we faced and what had to be done to resolve those issues.
We also share the mindset that is required to go through the situation and suggest a few solutions for the problems.
Tenant Issue 1: Tenants Not Taking Care Of The Property
Property destruction is one of the most significant tenant issues or worries that affect most of the landlords.
There are different types or property damages that landlords experience from minor accidents to major breakages.
In our case:
Our letting agent team was informed that there was mould in one of our properties.
What did we do?
Well, firstly letting agent went to the property and identified areas where the mould was. It was in the initial stages.
We got in touch with the builder who refurbished the property. It was around Christmas time, so it was getting difficult to coordinate with all the teams. But, the builder went to the property and found out that cause of the mould.
The perspective of the builder:
There was nothing wrong with the property or the refurb he did as such.
Tenants were not ventilating property well. Tenants were not even heating the property during winter to save some money.
In that process, they were damaging the property at the same time making it as a health hazard for themselves.
We got another builder to go to the property and investigate for the second opinion, and he mentioned all the previous builder mentioned is true
The missing information from the previous builder is that there is a rising damp in the property, which made it worse. Letting agent validated it as well.
What did we do?
The tenant was given notice of eviction and got the rising damp fixed.
Little gem: PIV
We also installed Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) units in all our properties. They are not very expensive as well. Price varies depending on the model you choose.
- Don’t ask the same builder if his work is good, especially when this is one of the first projects and you have not built a good relationship with the builder yet.
- Install simple units, e.g. PIV unit to solve complex problems.
Tenant Issue 2: Pets In The Property
When we let our properties we ensure the contract specifies no pets and no smoking within the AST by choice.
Property is not damaged due to pets. A bigger concern is that there could be flea infestation without proper pet care. Property and the tenant are not damaged due to smoking.
When the tenant moves out, Landlord we will have to ensure the property is properly cleaned and safe for the next tenant.
What happened to us?
One of our long-term tenants wanted to check if they can bring in a pet in the property? It was a gift from one of their relative.
What did we do?
Give the tenant was a long term tenant and has already lived in the property 2 years and comes with a good track record to looking after our property, we proposed following.
- Additional deposit to ensure they clear the carpets and any infestation before they leave the property.
- Rewrite existing contract to update it for a longer stay within the property to ensure we have some guaranteed stay.
- A 4 month notice to ensure when tenant gives notice, we are comfortable to save the cashflow of 4 months to do any necessary repairs/cleaning required.
Even if we have to foot the bill, we were OK to go ahead with additional conditions.
As mentioned in the introduction property, is a people’s business. It is a give and take business and not just taking.
Please take what you want to do on a case by case basis. We were asked would you allow a tenant with some exotic pets like snakes, spiders etc.
Make yourself aware of legalities and safety and security of neighbourhood too.
Tenant Issue 3: Redecorating The Property
The decoration of property is not the biggest of the tenant issues, but none the less this is one of the common requests from tenants.
What type of decoration changes?
One tenant wanted to put a wallpaper of their liking.
We generally do full refurbishment, back to brick, plaster and paint based on our branding.
One other tenant wants to put Fablon in the kitchen. This is self-adhesive waterproof material to change the looks of the kitchen. This is one other cosmetic change to the property.
What did we do?
Most of these scenarios, we would check with our builder and make sure it does not cost much to revert property to how it was.
After getting assurance from the builder, we would check if the tenant wants to use our builder. We know that our builder would do a good job, as he has been with us for quite some time and he knows our quality requirements. Both us and tenant would be happy.
If the tenant wants to make the change themselves, we would first make sure builder or letting agent visits the property to make sure everything is in order with property and tenants are not trying to hide something with wallpaper or any other form of decoration.
Once we are happy, we give a go ahead.
We suggest taking a nominal deposit to ensure that if there is any damage or if tenants do not remove the decoration, we get our builder to revert to how the property was.
Legislations do change from time to time regarding deposits so please keep yourself updated about them before taking any action.
For your reference:
Landlord and tenant responsibilities are mentioned in detail in this post.
Tenant Issue 4: Tenant Not Paying Rent
It can be frustrating when a tenant does not pay rent on time or does not pay it altogether.
What not to do?
Never ever go with a mindset of harassing the tenant to get the rent out of him/her. You could be penalised for doing so.
Illegal eviction of the tenant, changing the locks is a no go. This could lead to a prison sentence as well.
Question to ask yourself is:
Are you part of problem or part of solution?
- Not to panic. Find out what has changed for the tenant to end up in that situation.
- Is there a guarantor, and can they pay the rent instead?
- Is the tenant prepared to pay towards rent arrears?
- If they are going through genuine tough times, have they contacted social services?
What did we learn in our experience?
For tenant who are on benefits, we ensured we have a guarantor sign up the lettings contract along with tenant and that the guarantor has also passed the credit checks.
Rather than panicking or being hard on the tenant, focus on the solution. We agreed on payment of rent arrears and we recovered the payments.
Tenant Issue 5: Garden In The Loft Or Bedroom
Drug dealing on streets is destroying families. Another serious issues to be dealt with immediately and with specialist team.
Despite all the checks carried out before tenancy, some may pass through and become problematic tenants. It is very important to ensure regular property checks are carried out and there are no tell-tale signs of growing cannabis.
Few signs are:
- Strong, sticky smell.
- High levels of condensation.
- Blacked-out or completely blocked windows.
- A continuous buzz of ventilation
- Power cables through the property and high electricity bills.
- Random people coming to the property any time of the day.
What can you do?
Once you are aware of any such activity,
- Do not confront the tenant yourself.
- Inform police and issue an eviction notice under Housing Act, 1988.
- Get a possession order, and tenant can be evicted by a judge immediately.
Few things we follow as a rule of thumb
- Ensure lettings agent visits the property every 6 months or 3 months if its a 6 months contract and send us a report on condition of property with pictures.
- Given our visit to our investment area each fortnight, we drive past our properties every 8 weeks but would never contact tenants directly.
Tenant Issue 6: Minor Irritants or Tenants Fancies
These are minor irritants, e.g. tenant not liking the bulbs or them not liking the mattress etc.
Minor issues can be resolved with discussions.
What did we do?
Personal choices of tenant should be taken care by them.
Solution mindset and ownership will lead to win-win solutions
While landlords are responsible for ensuring the property is safe for the tenant to live in, it is the tenant’s responsibility to take care of their lifestyle.
Get your communication sorted and understand the nature of preference being highlighted.
Approach the ask with the right attitude. Provide a questionnaire on what is the discomfort with the existing setup or contents in the property.
If the ask from tenant is unreasonable, don’t be afraid of letting them know what you would not prefer to do as long as it is not affecting their safety and security.
Don’t be afraid of conveying your message that your policy does not permit to go beyond a certain point to spend more on the property.
Challenges can be resolved with discussions. At times it may require us to take steps to take care of the property and well being of tenants. Always be on the right side of legalities.