A leading buy to let expert is calling on agents to work more closely with landlords and tenants to improve communications - and in so doing, minimise the risk of disputes breaking out.
Kate Faulkner makes the call in a report on reducing conflicts in the private rental sector on behalf of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme’s charitable foundation.
“Anyone who has ever been a landlord or tenant will likely have experienced some level of conflict – whether with an agent who won’t fix an issue, a tenant behind on rent, or a deposit deduction dispute. They are remarkably commonplace but they don’t have to be” says Faulkner.
She says conflicts normally centre around money, maintenance, deposit disputes, rental arrears and (for now at least) agents’ fees.
“There is a clear lack of education on where rights and responsibilities lie. Tenants may expect too much of an agent, assuming their rent covers small maintenance issues like changing lightbulbs and many landlords also fail to consider or budget for essential maintenance that any property may need over multiple years of occupation” says Faulkner.
“The sector as a whole needs to take more responsibility to educate landlords and tenants in particular about the divisions of responsibility during a tenancy. Many conflicts could be easily avoided with a full and comprehensive, professionally undertaken inventory that clarify what qualifies as ‘wear and tear’ and what constitutes damage to a property” she adds.
She suggests that lenders, insurers and mortgage brokers also have a role to play in preparing landlords for the costs of maintaining a rental property.
Introducing maintenance schedules at this stage would almost certainly reduce conflicts between landlords and their agents and tenants further down the line, the report suggests.
“Landlords who use an agent should also take care to select a reputable one with the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully let their property. To make the entire process more transparent and user-friendly, I would like to see government-prescribed regulation of letting agents” she continues.
“While there are many brilliant, hard-working and honest agents in the industry, there are still rogues who let unsafe or illegal properties. When faced with a conflict with an agent professional support bodies like ARLA or RICS are there to help, so landlords and tenants should choose agents who are members of them or similar organisations.”
Only around half of landlords questioned for this report knew where to turn to resolve a problem with an agent.
The report by Faulkner - founder of PropertyChecklists and consultancy Designs on Property - is the fifth in a series of analyses for TDS, aimed at raising standards in the industry.