At some point, professional landlords will come up against problem tenants. They are, sadly, an occupational hazard.
But who are the nightmare tenants – and how can you spot them?
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1. The party animals
If you rent property to students, you will probably know this tenant. They are the life and soul of the party – and partying is all they want to do.
Neighbours are kept up by thudding bass until the early hours, even if it is a Tuesday night and they need to go to work. Friends endlessly come and go. Eventually you receive a noise complaint from a tired neighbour. You pass it on to the tenant, but the parties continue. Things get worse and the council notifies you that it has received a complaint. You start protracted eviction proceedings.
2. The chronic late payers
This type of tenant is difficult to spot. They often appear respectable and trustworthy on first inspection.
But a couple of months into the tenancy, they are a few days late with the rent. You call them to chase the payment. They tell you there is a problem with their bank, and they will pay you in a few days. Eventually you get the money.
Then the same thing happens the next month. And the next. The excuse is always different, but the arrears mount up. Your cashflow suffers, and it becomes more difficult to pay the mortgage on the property.
3. The extended family
These tenants are also difficult to identify. Everyone likes a close family – but these tenants take it one step too far.
The tenant moves in, perhaps on their own, or perhaps with a partner. Everything seems fine; the rent arrives on time, and you hear very little from the tenant. Then, a couple of months later, a friendly neighbour calls you because they are concerned about strange comings-and-goings. They tell you it looks like there are new people living in the property.
At the end of the tenancy, it becomes clear that the tenant’s entire family had been living in the property. The living room has been converted into a bedroom; the carpets are completely worn through; various pieces of broken furniture are strewn around. It costs you more than the value of the deposit to clean up. In this case, an insurance policy would have been a good call.
4. The animal lovers
When they come to look round the property, this tenant asks if animals are allowed. You tell them they are not. A faint alarm bell rings, but you think nothing of it.
The tenant pays their rent on time, and you have no problems throughout the tenancy. When they move out, though, you realise that they moved their animals in anyway. There are suspicious stains around the carpet, which needs to be replaced. The property has taken on the whiff of the farmyard, and cannot be re-let until it has been aired.
5. The bureaucrats
These tenants are always the hardest to spot. They might be young professionals, or perhaps recent graduates. They know a bit about the law, and want to make sure everything is done by the book from the start.
At the end of the tenancy, though, you inspect the property and find that there is some damage to the furniture. Nothing too major, but enough to warrant making a deduction from their deposit.
You inform the tenants of this, and they immediately tell you that they will not accept the deduction. They take the case to adjudication through the Deposit Protection Service, and you are tied up in months of wrangling.
What have we learnt?
There is no simple answer to this. Many of the worst tenants appear perfectly reasonable on first meeting. But the best you can do is to make sure that all prospective tenants are properly vetted. You or your agent should meet them, talk to them, and try to get to know them. You should also make sure that you seek and verify references from a previous landlord.
Problem tenants are a fact of life for landlords. But with proper vetting you can help to minimise the risk of running into them.