Preventing Landlord Tenant Disputes

Landlord/tenant disputes can incorporate just about every possible problem under the sun. One only has to read a paper or online article these days to find some headline or other that demonstrates this.

Many scenarios such as the one above are quite ludicrous and thankfully rare but even something trivial can be blown up out of all proportion.

Any standard tenancy agreement nowadays will state clearly the terms and conditions of the tenancy. The aim of such an agreement should ideally be to protect both parties and reduce the possibility of disputes.

Basically the tenant agrees to pay the rent on a set date each month and to keep the property in the condition in which it was let (fair wear and tear accepted) and the landlord agrees to maintain the fabric of the building, ensure the property is safe and carry out repairs as swiftly as possible. It all sounds so simple and straightforward but the ideal often falls far short of the mark and this is when disputes arise.

A typical tenancy agreement will also make it obvious from the onset as to who pays for what and when so that there should be no misleading or ambiguous clauses to cause misunderstanding. Such an agreement should be read thoroughly by all parties concerned so that the commitment undertaken has been fully understood.

The most common causes for dispute are non- payment or late payment of rent, rent increases, accumulation of rubbish, complaints from neighbours and repair issues. If both landlord and tenant are fair and reasonable people there is a good chance their relationship will work well so any minor problems can be resolved swiftly before a dispute can occur. 

Problems begin to happen when either the tenant or the landlord is stubborn or inflexible or even goes out of their way to be awkward. There are good and bad landlords just as there are good and bad tenants and whether you are a tenant or a landlord it can be frustrating to find you are caught up in a dispute with someone who will not compromise on anything.  

The landlord/tenant relationship should ideally be one whereby both gain something; i.e. the landlord gets the rent to pay the mortgage and the tenant has a suitable place to live because for whatever reason they are not in a position to buy their own property. Neither party should lose because of being taken advantage of by the other.

As stated previously there are bad landlords and there are bad tenants but better legislation is needed to protect good landlords and good tenants from those unscrupulous people who are clearly out to take advantage. These people will sign their name to any agreement with no intention of keeping to it or having any respect for the other party involved. There are rogue landlords who will ignore repeated requests for repairs and there are tenants from hell who will wreck a place in no time at all.

As a responsible landlord, to avoid possible disputes and in order to protect your business interests it is wise to vet your prospective tenants thoroughly and perform all the necessary credit checks. You should also ask for ID and at least two references from an employer or previous landlord.

And if you are a tenant it would be wise to do a bit of research about your future landlord. Does he have other houses in the same area? What state of repair are they in? Does he have a good reputation or a bad one?  Far better to find these things out now rather than after you have moved in.

Minimising the possibility of disputes can help both tenants and landlords get along just fine. Make sure that contact numbers are up to date. It’s amazing how many disputes and misunderstandings can arise purely because contact between landlord and tenant has been broken for whatever reason.

Before any complaint is made to your tenant or landlord it is always wise to check the terms of your original agreement and if in doubt consult a legal adviser so you know whether you have a valid case to pursue or not.

In conclusion, a landlord/tenant relationship can work well and a tenancy can run smoothly with no disputes if both tenant and landlord keep lines of communication open and are respectful of each others’ requirements.