What do you do if your tenant refuses to allow improvements at your buy-to-let property?
You’ve decided to improve your property, by replacing the windows and doors. It’s going to help your tenant. It should improve both energy efficiency and security – the old frames are wooden and rotting. They allow draughts in, and the glass could easily be removed by burglars.
The new double-glazed units aren’t cheap, but you’ve been offered a good deal and wish to make the improvement now while the summer weather is still here. You get in touch with the tenant and explain what you propose. The work could take up to four days, and the fitters will need access to the property and use of electricity and water. Your tenant says that they will call you back to arrange a date when the work can start.
When they do call you a couple of days later, you are surprised at their response. They are refusing to let the work be done. They tell you that they have been advised that the intrusion of the workmen would be considered as harassment. Is it? What could you do to ensure the work is done? Work that, in the longer term, will help keep your tenant and property safe, add value to the property, and allow you to charge more rent.
What is harassment of tenants?
Harassment of tenants is a criminal offence and is dealt with in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. If your tenant shouts ‘harassment’, you must take his claim seriously – if taken to court and found guilty, you could be imprisoned for as long as two years.
Specifically, there are two actions that could harass your tenant under this law:
- By doing something to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupier or members of their household
- Persistently withdrawing or withholding services reasonably required for the occupation of the premises in question as a residence
The action doesn’t have to be committed by you; it could be committed by your agent, property manager, or workmen sent by you. If it is likely to make the tenant move, then it would be classed as harassment. For example, you might:
- Move a new tenant into your property next door, knowing that the noise they make or the unsociable hours they keep will disturb them
- Deliberately cut off their utilities to make their life uncomfortable
In our example, the tenant appears to be arguing that there will be an unreasonable disturbance of their peace, and disruption to their utilities, which should be avoided.
When harassment isn’t harassment
Although the work may cause some discomfort to the tenant, it is unlikely to be classed as harassment. The work may be considered essential, and if it is completed in a reasonable time, the nuisance from noise, intrusion and dust will probably be considered as an unavoidable consequence of having the windows and doors replaced.
If the tenant decided to take you to court and claim harassment, the court would also consider other circumstances, such as:
- Time of year
- How long the work will take/did take
- If a vulnerable person lives at the property
What should you do?
It’s our experience that when situations like this arise – which isn’t very often, as most tenants are very happy when their landlord makes improvements – the best course of action is to discuss tenants’ grievances. By doing so, you will establish why the tenant doesn’t want the improvements to be made, and you can then consider whether their concerns are valid.
You may need to come to some agreement about getting the work done, and perhaps offer a compromise solution or a small compensation for the inconvenience (such as a rent-free period while the work is being carried out).
Whatever the outcome, you should put it in writing and update the property inventory – and ensure that you have the tenant sign the agreement for the work and the new property inventory.
Stay onside with the buy-to-let landlord law with effortless property management from Ezytrac. Contact us today at +44 0 1522 503 717 to find out why we are one of the UK’s fastest growing national investment property management companies.
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