“Communication, communication, communication”
The difference to your buy-to-let landlord’s experience is that between you (or your agent) and your tenant. It may be stating the obvious, but it’s the key relationship that determines if your property investment is effortless or a chore. This relationship is one where you need to be friendly, but with a business brain.
You can’t afford to be best friends – what happens if your tenant loses their job? Too friendly and you’ll want to do all you can to help. Before you realise it, the tenant will owe you thousands in unpaid rent. Too businesslike, and they see you as a landlord who is uncaring and without compassion.
In this article, I explore the type of landlord/tenant relationship that we’ve found works.
Buy to Let Landlords must get off on the right foot
No matter what the relationship, the ones that work the best are mutial on give and take. Think about the relationship between a parent and a child, or between you and your boss. There are rules, lines in the sand; but there is always some give and take.
Employees work best when you encourage them to take ownership of their work and give them the power to start making decisions. They appreciate a boss who accommodates them by giving guidelines and targets but mostly leaves them alone to prove their worth.
In the buy-to-let landlord world, the guidelines and behavioural goals are laid out in the written tenancy agreement. The understanding of that agreement is determined by how you explain it to the tenant. Your working relationship with your tenant will stand and fall on how you communicate with them.
Start as you mean to go on by communicating precisely and concisely in a friendly, businesslike manner.
What should buy-to-let landlords expect of their tenant
A good tenant will treat your property as if it were their own. They’ll pay rent on time, and present very few problems. You probably won’t hear from them too often.
There is no guarantee in life. There are months when rent is late. It doesn’t mean you have to worry. A quick call is often all it takes to either discover the issue that has caused late payment or remind the tenant that the rent payment is due.
If there is a problem, a good tenant will find it easier to get things done. You’ll be more sympathetic with a late payment, for example, if previous payments are always on time.
However, you can’t afford to let a tenant’s problems roll over from one month to another when it comes to non-payment of rent. The tenant shouldn’t expect you to do so, either.
What your tenant should expect of a buy to let landlord
You shouldn’t make unreasonable demands on your tenants. If it’s not in the tenancy agreement, then don’t expect it of your tenants.
Your tenants have every right to expect the property maintained to a reasonable standard. It includes complying with your buy-to-let landlord duties, such as ensuring the property has up-to-date gas safety certificates.
The tenant will expect to be able to report emergencies at any time of the day – a burst water pipe is your responsibility, and the tenant has a right to a prompt and competent repair. We use online contact applications that make it easy for reporting maintenance support requirements. We also provide contact details for emergencies.
How to make sure that landlord and tenant are on the same page
While the tenancy agreement sets the ground rules for the landlord/tenant relationship, it’s how you communicate with your tenant that will determine how successful the tenancy agreement is.
Undoubtedly you’ll speak to your tenant about property matters. Don’t rely on oral communications − put everything in writing and keep records. You’ll be in a better position to compare tenant expectations to the promises you’ve made. If there are ever legal proceedings for any reason, your paperwork could prove crucial to a successful outcome.
Putting things in writing takes some time, but it’s vital when it comes to protecting yourself in disputes. If the tenant breaches the terms of the tenancy agreement, write to your tenant to confirm what clause or condition they broke and why. You’ll need to provide guidance on how the breach is corrected, as well as allow time for any rectification.
There is no easy way, but there is a right way
If you have any problems with a tenant, it seems natural to give the ultimatum “My way or no way.” However, not only is it costly for the tenant to move on, but it can also be an expensive operation for you to remove and replace a tenant. In our experience, there are no winners if the landlord/tenant relationship breaks down to the point where threats and counter-threats in both parties.
Whenever a tenant moves on, whether of their accord or it’s necessary to ask them to leave costs are incurred. It takes time and effort to find good tenants. You’ll need to pay for advertising and marketing of your buy-to-let property, and you may have added costs of redecorating and other maintenance work. Tenant changes quickly eat buy-to-let rental income. It is why we work hard to ensure we track down top-class tenants for consistent rental income for buy-to-let landlords.
When you get a tenant who stays on your property for the long term, it’s better for you and them. The relationship between landlord and tenant becomes easier, though you must start as you mean to go on. Be consistent in your approach by communicating consistently (and in writing). Make notes of conversations that you have on the phone or face-to-face, and then summarise in an email. A few minutes of effort at this early stage (and when everything is fresh in your mind) can save a lot of trouble later.
Don’t expect to be best friends with your tenant, but do treat them with respect and communicate and act in a timely fashion. If you do this as the landlord, you’ll find that the tenant will show the same level of respect and consideration to you and your property. Instead of working in an antagonistic ‘them vs. us’ atmosphere, you’ll have a far more relaxed and productive landlord/tenant relationship based on mutual openness, trust, and respect. And that kind of landlord/tenant relationship is the most profitable for all.
Give us a call on (+44 1522 503 717), or use our get in touch form for more information about how we source and vet tenants, and how we help our landlords build long-lasting and profitable property portfolios.
Yours in effortless property management,
Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA