Communication is key for student landlords. It's one of the most important factors in keeping your tenants happy and your mind at ease. Having a code of best practice in place from the start of your tenancy will help prevent disputes from arising.
Making sure that all interactions with tenants are clear and transparent, and that everyone involved understands what is required of them throughout the tenancy, is of the utmost importance. With this in mind, we've compiled some quick tips-interspersed with cautionary tales from around the web-that will help you keep clear of disputes, disagreements and dissatisfied tenants!
Worst-Case Scenario-What to avoid
York Vision, York University's student newspaper, recently reported a case in which the tenants of a five bedroom property came forward with a list of complaints. These included that only one room was habitable; and a broken downstairs, street-facing window had been left unrepaired over two consecutive nights. The landlord, however, claimed that the students had been careless and disruptive from the date they moved in, and had caused damage to the property and furnishings many times during their residence.
While this is clearly a nightmare scenario, it raises some important points. When it comes to disputes such as these, make sure all agreements made between you and your tenants are in writing. Ask tenants to make a note of anything they feel needs work before they sign for the property. Agree to what is and isn't reasonable, and have it put into writing with a date by which work will be carried out. One of the most common complaints raised by tenants is that repairs were carried out slowly, or not at all; this can be avoided if your communication is clear and transparent from the start.
Keeping your Tenants Happy
A report compiled by the University of Sussex student union noted that of the 1,780 students polled, many felt communication was slow or unhelpful, or that insufficient contact information was available. If you're letting with an agency, make sure new tenants are sent all the information necessary before they move into the property.
Even if you're a private landlord, you should always send an email early on in the tenancy enquiring how the tenants are finding their new home. It might sound basic, but you should also check your emails and work phone regularly to ensure emergency situations are dealt with quickly. If you know of an upcoming period for which you will be out of contact, always make sure your tenants have a second correspondent to get in touch with, just in case.
Be aware, too, that students commonly go home for weekends or spend weeks away from university. Correspondence should be sent to every tenant rather than a selected lead tenant. Remember to email round in advance if you plan on inspecting the property. Tenants will be more inclined to put up with the occasional last-minute viewing if you have a good track-record for keeping them in the loop.
Keeping Your Property Safe
The other side of the story, of course, is the problem commonly faced by student landlords-damage and uncleanliness. If at all possible, ask potential tenants for references from past landlords. It can't be stressed enough how important things like deposits and landlord insurance are (make sure you check out sites like DPS for deposits and also check out insurance policy documents, here’s one by Simple Landlord Insurance). Students tend to lead lifestyles in which parties are common and accidents happen. Make sure you take a full inventory before they move in, including photographs of key areas and furnishings, for reference later. If possible, get your tenants to sign off in agreement on this document, too.
While deposits cover everyday wear and tear, landlords' insurance is vital for more serious incidents, especially since crime rates are generally high in student hotspots. Be sure to take down "To Let" signs once your tenancy is underway so as not to advertise your property to thieves.
If contact is frequent, clear and transparent, then hopefully incidents and disputes will be few and far between, and your tenants will be well on the way to enjoying a friendly and rewarding professional relationship.
This article was submitted by Mike, who is a student landlord and writes on behalf of a landlord insurance company