What makes a bad tenant?

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Everyone has to deal with a problem tenant at some time or other – they’re something of an occupational hazard for landlords. We’ve identified three common types, but how can you spot them and more importantly how can they be dealt with?

The late payers

This type of tenant looks trouble free initially and will probably pay their rent on time at first, before slipping into bad habits. A couple of months in, you’ll receive a phone call and an excuse about a cash flow problem. Can they pay you a couple of days late this month? Do you mind a cheque this time? It won’t happen again, honest.

Most landlords will allow this once, but the knock on effect of chronic late payers could eventually leave you with troublesome cash-flow problems of your own. It’s important to be firm but flexible as a landlord. We all know people encounter difficulties but if you think you’re being taken for a ride or their tardiness with payments causes you financial problems then you need to take action.

The noisy neighbours

Anyone who has experienced the thudding bass line of the perennial party next door, the blaring television that never seems to get turned off or the crack of dawn banging and sawing of the DIY-nut below will know that noisy neighbours are hell to live with.

If you receive noise complaints about your tenants, speak to them immediately before the council or the police get involved or you get a bad reputation in your building. Take the time to speak to those who complained too and make it clear that you have taken appropriate action.

The zoo keepers

Whether you allow one small pet (goldfish only) or nothing that isn’t a human being to live in your property, it’s vital that you make your pet policy absolutely clear to your tenant.

It’s not rare for people to ignore the rules on pets and for you to end up replacing damaged carpets and claw-shredded sofas when the tenancy ends, so it’s worth keeping a close eye out for tell tale signs of hidden pets when you make your inspections. You may also find that noisy pets disturb other tenants – as was reported by the BBC about high-rise flats in Bristol last year – and this could lead to further problems for you as the landlord.

If you do find trace of animal inhabitation then it’s vital that you raise the issue with your tenants. Give them another copy of your tenancy agreement, with the relevant section highlighted, and explain the penalties for breaking with this.

Taking action

If you find out that your tenant is one of these types, what can you do? First of all, make sure you follow the vetting process to the letter and get reliable references – chronic problem causers will hopefully show up at this stage.

It’s also worth getting expert advice on your landlord insurance policy, to be sure you understand your coverage, and therefore how you’re protected against some of the difficulties that problem tenants can cause. Finally, get to know your tenants and try to keep on good terms with them – they’ll respond much better to a friendly word than an angry letter!

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