We spend a lot of time answering questions in the forums, mostly to disgruntled tenants whose landlords have neglected the property; or are trying to rip them off with deposit deductions; or harass them and make their life the worst…
There are a lot of bad landlords. We know. But every now and then, it’s good to look at our own side of the fence, because it’s not like all tenants are Mother Teresa.
This week’s article is all about drawing the line between good tenant practices and bad tenant practices.
Paying your rent
Your rent is number one, two and three in your renting priority list. We’ve said it numerous times before and we’re going to keep repeating it until the end of eternity.
RENT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE UNIVERSE ! (in regards to your home)
If you’re not accurate with your rent payments, you’re jeopardising your home and your relationship with the landlord.
What if your boss stopped paying YOU ? And, how would you feel if on top of that, they started demanding you do a better job ?
It’s the same with renting. If you don’t pay your landlord, you can’t expect them to do a great job and focus on your issues with the property.
We get a question every couple of months that asks if the tenant can stop paying their rent to make their landlord do repairs. No, you can’t.
If you stop paying rent or withhold it for any reason you will quickly fall out of favour with the landlord and get even worse treatment than before. Additionally, it will lower your chances of getting help from relevant authorities like the local council’s environmental health department.
Finally, not paying rent for two months can get you evicted, as the landlord can apply for a possession order from the courts directly. So you see, this is NEVER a good idea and will always hurt you more than it will help.
We get it, you know, sometimes things happen – you get laid off, there is a medical emergency or some other imperceivable disaster.
Life doesn’t respect your budgeting and sometimes you have to spend your rent money on something else. Rent is the most important thing about your home, but sometimes home is not the most important thing in life.
When the worst case scenario unfolds, don’t forget that your landlord is a human too. Most landlords will not cause a problem if you delay your rent with a couple of weeks, provided you tell them about it in advance.
If you give a fair warning that you can’t meet the rent payment date AND you have a legitimate reason, the landlord will be that much more understanding. Of course, “understanding” doesn’t mean you’re allowed to not pay, but will get some breathing space, while you collect the money.
However, if your landlord has to chase you for a week with no reply, they will no longer be interested in your excuses.
And that brings us to the next point –
One of the most common problem tenants and landlords have is lack of dialogue between them. Of course, this is not something you can fix alone, but a lot of tenants simply don’t talk to their landlords about their property and because of this they never achieve a proper and healthy relationship.
What landlords appreciate the most, after paying your rent and not destroying their property, is honesty and a heads up when you are running into problems or plan on doing something that involves the house.
To put it as bluntly as we can:
If you know you can’t make the rent date, TELL YOUR LANDLORD !
If you’ve broken something in the house, TELL YOUR LANDLORD !
If the house broke down on its own, TELL YOUR LANDLORD !
If you need some help…
If you’re going on vacation…
If you have a new dog…or just a new boyfriend… Please.. Just tell your landlord…
Nothing good comes out of hiding information from your landlord, especially when you’re in trouble.
Proper communication has a tremendous effect on achieving mutual benefits and working together to resolve problems.
A lot of disputes between tenants and landlords being with a simple miscommunication that allowed a seemingly negligible problem to grow up to a point where one side has to suffer the consequences.
If both sides discuss issues when they are first discovered, they’re many times easier to resolve, than if everybody lets it build up in time.
A perfectly good example:
Yesterday we got the perfect example of how miscommunication or lack thereof between tenant and landlord caused a very easy to resolve issue to turn into a big mess where the tenant has to face a huge water bill at the end of a three-year tenancy.
J did not engage their landlord to inquire about who exactly is responsible for the water bill and rented the property for three years thinking they are bill-free.
This was not even a problem at the start, as J was interested in covering the water costs. However, when the tenancy approached it’s end, J was served with an eye-watering bill for the entire length of the tenancy.
Now J is extremely unhappy and will likely lose a big portion of the deposit which he really counted on.
It’s your responsibility !
Yup, it’s actually your responsibility to report repair problems to your landlord. Anything you don’t report becomes your problem. You will get billed for repairs that would have otherwise be the landlord’s responsibility.
Here is another example: If you go on vacation and you don’t tell your landlord, you become liable for any damage that occurs while the property is unoccupied.
Four days of flood damage cost more to fix than four days in Spain.
We get a lot of tenants that are too anxious to talk to their landlord. They don’t know how to voice their concerns or they’re afraid of the consequences.
It’s okay to seek more information about your rights and prepare in advance before you talk to your landlord. That’s what The Tenants’ Voice is for. But, you have to talk to them eventually and often they’re the first person you want to contact.
It goes both ways…
Just as you want the landlord available to discuss an issue with the property, you must also be available when they try to reach you. Don’t avoid contact ! Pick up the phone and answer the emails, because if the landlord wants to talk to you, it’s about YOUR home and is probably something you want to hear.
Be accommodating and flexible
One of the most discussed topics in the forums is landlord or letting agent access.
You’re a private person and given a right to privacy by the law. No landlord or agent should ever disrupt your life – you have a right of quiet enjoyment of the property. If anyone wants to visit your home, they should give you a notification of at least 24 hours and should only come around at reasonable times of the day.
There is no excuse for people who harass you in your home or take away your privacy.
However, you can’t lock everybody out forever, or rather, you shouldn’t. When you block your landlord or agent from the property they can’t undergo repairs, make necessary safety checks and inspect the property for problems.
It’s great if you report an issue to your landlord in a timely manner – this is exactly what you should be doing. But, if you’re being too difficult to reach, you won’t get repairs. The landlord will not chase you forever and not at all if you’re “only free every 3rd Saturday of the month between 9:30 – 11:55 am”.
But it’s your home…
Yes. Precisely because it’s your home, you don’t want important work that likely regards to your safety, prevented just because you don’t allow anyone in. This is not reasonable.
We get a lot of questions from people who are way too anxious to let people in their home while out. If you don’t want people entering without you, provide multiple days and multiple time ranges when access can be granted. Same goes if the assigned date is not ideal and you want to reschedule.
Flexibility is key when you want to regulate access to your home. Large repair jobs, like replacing a boiler will require you to provide access to the property on multiple occasions as workers have to go in and out.
If you have lived under the same landlord for a lot of time and there is an established trust between the two of you, there is no reason to be paranoid and block them from going in when you’re not home.
In the end, you need to realise that nobody wants’s to stay in your home on purpose. People just want to do their job and go home, just as you do. The more accommodating you are, the less time it’s going to consume and will be easier for everybody involved.
No good landlord will ever want to jeopardise their good tenant just to steal a tuna sandwich from the fridge.
Taking care of your home
You don’t own it, but it’s your home. You have to take good care and maintain proper hygiene. Not just because it’s your responsibility, but because you live there, you sleep there, you eat there. Why would you want to live in messy, dirty, cluttered property ? You wouldn’t.
We don’t mean sterilising your kitchen to laboratory standards, but good hygiene is a must and cleaning is not the end of it.
A good tenant will maintain their home on a daily basis and this includes a variety of tasks – replacing light bulbs, mowing the lawn, ventilating the property, bleeding the radiators, testing the fire alarms and so on.
Your landlord is hardly going to do these for you, except in very specific circumstances. You have to get used to taking care of your home or the condition of the property will seriously deteriorate during your stay and some of your deposit will be used to bring it back to shape.
If you don’t do a lot of daily maintenance you probably also don’t care about little problems, like a small leak under the sink or a tiny patch of mould. These problems often seem negligible at the start, but can quickly grow out of control. As we mentioned before, anything you didn’t report becomes YOUR problem.
Many tenants go into serious disputes with their landlords about minimum investment repairs like replacing sealants or fitting draught excluders. Of course, you may not wield a drill or a screwdriver, but the investment is less than £10 and we bet you have a handy friend that likes pizza.
So, why would you bother to chase your landlord for weeks for such a small job ?
You need the landlord’s permission…
When you want to do a repair or a change in the interior, basically anything that will leave a permanent mark on the property, you have to ask the landlord for permission. If you don’t, your landlord is in their right to bill you for restoring the original state of the property.
Some landlords will be thrilled to have you do some work on the house. Others don’t want you anywhere near a tool in their property. You’re free to negotiate and convince them you’re the man (or woman) for the job, but ultimately you have to obey their will regardless of how unreasonable it may be.
Respecting the tenancy agreement
This one is really really simple. It’s so simple, there are only two plausible explanations for why one in seven tenants fail to uphold the terms of their tenancy agreements.
Their either have never read the contract. OR, they don’t understand the terms but have signed it anyway. Once signed, the lease is binding to both sides for the entire duration of the fixed term and you will be responsible for paying rent until the fixed term ends.
If you don’t know what it’s about, the tenancy agreement can seem like a trap and cause a lot of unhappiness and frustration.
And, like many landlords have experienced an unhappy and frustrated tenant often turns into a bad tenant. You don’t want to be that tenant.
To prevent the above, you just read the tenancy agreement (before you sign it) and you ask a question about everything you don’t understand (before you sign it). If you don’t trust your landlord or your letting agent, you can request to take a copy with you and seek impartial advice.
If you’ve read everything and you understand everything and you agree with it all, you’re now ready to sign it. When you’re done, all you have to do is NOT DO anything that is forbidden.
If you’re not allowed to sublet, you can’t sublet.
If you’re not allowed to redecorate or repaint, you can’t redecorate or repaint.
If you’re not allowed to smoke inside, you can’t smoke inside.
If you DO want to do something that is not allowed, you need to get the landlord’s consent. You probably won’t get permission, but if you have a good reason, you might. In any case – you don’t ask, you don’t get.
The consequences for breaking a term of the agreement can range from a £20 deduction from your deposit to an eviction. This contract is as serious as it gets really, so can’t afford to disregard it.
In the end, there we listed five major aspects that differentiate between good and bad tenants. Of course, everything read should be taken with a grain of salt because people’s relationships are unique and what is considered good and bad at one household might be entirely different in another.
Let’s briefly summarise:
Good tenants pay their rent on time, or if they can’t (for any respectable reason) they warn their landlord immediately and look for a solution.
Bad tenants often delay their rent payments or not pay the complete sum. They often slug behind with some rent that is never fully paid off until the end.
Good tenants communicate with their landlords on all necessary matters – repairs, negotiating terms, asking for permission.
Bad tenants rarely talk to their landlords and are hard to reach, when the landlord needs to talk to them. They don’t pick up the phone, don’t reply to emails and text and are generally unresponsive.
Good tenants provide access to the property when requested or offer a flexible schedule when they need to postpone.
Bad tenants block access unreasonably or provide practically impossible timeframes when they are available, making it very hard for the landlord to engage in repairs, do an inspection or a safety check.
Good tenants take care of their home even though they don’t own the property. They are not shy about doing work to the property or small repairs and even improve the conditions at their own cost. Good tenants report every repair issue on time, so it can be fixed in due time.
Bad tenants are negligent about daily maintenance and often fail to uphold proper hygiene. They don’t care about the condition of the property and don’t report repair issues unless urgent and very disruptive.
Good tenants have read and understood the tenancy agreement and are prepared to follow the terms listed.
Bad tenants don’t know all the terms they have signed up to and often breach them even due to pure ignorance.
On a final note, we just want to mention that being a good person doesn’t mean you’re a good tenant necessarily and the other way around.
This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our Rights and responsibilities category.
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