The idiom or the figure of speech “look for a needle in a haystack” is used to describe something elusive in a large space or a sisyphean task. Magnifying glass on the needle is isolated on white

How to keep a good tenant.

What Makes a Good Tenant?

Good question!

I suppose we all have definitions of a good tenant, in our earlier blog, we called a good tenant a suitable tenant.

They are, for us, one and the same thing.

The word GOOD is too subjective to classify in this instance. We look at a suitable tenant in the same way that we look at a good tenant.

A good/suitable tenant is simply one that pays their rent on time and looks after the property.

We could take this further and hope that the tenant is communicative and willing to do smaller repairs off his or her own back, they keep the property immaculate and even improve its condition by means of decorating etc.

For the purpose of this blog, however, a suitable V good V dream tenant is somewhat irrelevant, in essence, all we can ask of a tenant, and the tenant that at a minimum we all want to keep, is that they pay their rent on time and look after the property, anything else here is a bonus!

Ask Yourself One Fundamental Question

There is no dark art or hidden secret to keeping hold of that ‘suitable’ tenant

Just ask yourself this one question – ‘why would this tenant want to move?’

You will generally find the answer yourself

  • You’re raising rent continually and excessively
  • You are shirking your maintenance responsibilities
  • You are visiting the property too often
  • You will not reinvest in the property during a tenancy
  • You are not allowing them basic privileges upon request

Why do we NEED to Keep Hold of this Suitable Tenant?

In short, and by no means of beating around the bush, the tenant is your profit, they are the cogs of the industry, without tenants we have no business, no profit and a whole heap of liability.

This means that keeping (almost) any tenant has its benefits providing you are receiving your rent, but keeping a suitable/good tenant is increasingly important.

For one, anytime a tenant moves out of your property you are left with some form of expenditure, whether that is merely the council tax liability and subsequent mortgage payments, or it is the cleaning, disposal of goods, repairs and redecoration, it is all expenditure coupled with lost profit.

Generally, the longer the tenant is at your property, the more this will cost you when they move in terms of redecoration and repairs. The smaller repairs that they felt they could live with won’t be tolerated when the new tenant moves in so they will need to be dealt with as well.

Secondly, we have the added factor of hassle. When a tenant moves out we not only have to check them out of the property, we need to inspect against our inventory, deal with any repairs or damage that the tenant has either caused or unreported, we need to deal with the deposit, whether that is claiming against it or simply returning it. If we are claiming against it, we may need to request a statutory declaration if the tenant does not reply to the claim or we may need to use the dispute resolution service if they contest it, all this is a laborious and time-consuming task (see our DPS blog)

If only it was that simple! We also need to transfer the liability of the utilities into our name, there may be debt on the gas and electric meter, meaning that we either have to clear the debt or call the electric company, go through a drawn-out process to have the electric meter reset by means of going to collect a new key from the local shop, using a ‘reset’ code then returning to the property to clear the debt, only then can we return to the shop to add some credit to the key and get our supply back on.

If only the gas was that simple, in most cases the energy company will want to send an engineer out to the property to reset the meter, great huh? NO, this means we have to wait a few days, we also have to return to the property and hang around for the engineer to attend his 4-hour window, in the cold I might add!

We have to transfer the water into our name, notify the council that we are now liable for the council tax, make the decision to hold off payment until we either find our next tenant or we receive our arrears invoice. If we make the payment immediately, in some cases we would then receive the overpayment back in the form of a cheque after finding the new tenant, meaning we now have to go to our bank to pay this in.

OH! Lastly, we have the task of retaking pictures and starting the entire process of listing, advertising, speaking with prospective tenants, viewings, applications, tenant referencing and signing up that suitable tenant all over again! furthermore we can never be sure that they will be as good as the tenant we have just let slip through our fingers.

SO…..How do you Keep a Suitable or Good Tenant

Sorry that the above paragraph was a little drawn out, we need you to appreciate that loosing (almost) any tenant is bad news for an investor/landlord

Returning to my earlier question ‘why would this tenant want to move out’ we have the following:

sometimes matters are beyond your control, and despite your best efforts a tenant may still move on. However, we need to do whatever is within our control to keep this suitable tenant

We need to be a GOOD landlord

  • When a tenant reports a problem, we need to act and act as soon as is reasonably practicable
  • We need to address the more significant issues like a broken boiler with our tenant in mind, especially longer-term tenants
  • We need to show the tenant respect and allow them to LIVE in THEIR home comfortably and allowing them space without constant intrusion
  • When a tenant requests a change or seeks a pet, common sense needs to prevail
  • We need to avoid becoming complacent, the longer the tenant is at the property the more value you should attach to them

This list really could go on, but I am sure you get the picture by now.

Having balance and of course with revenue in mind, you need to do everything within your power to eliminate the controllable reasons why a tenant would want to leave your property.

keys in hand

An Overview of Possession – Service notice on a tenant.

* COVID UPDATE (02/2021) – In light of the current CoV-19 situation we strongly suggest seeking professional advice on this matter. However, the bulk of this article is still relevant.

Ok, guys, we will apologise in advance, this isn’t going to be anywhere near entertaining.

Nevertheless, it needs writing, we are going to, for the sake of continuation get straight to the point, avoid our usual satiric approach and simply get down to business!

Shall I, shan’t I?

So, after much deliberation and consideration, you have decided that you would like to take back control of your property.  There could be a multitude of reasons for this; but whether the tenants’ departure is benign or not, the strategy considerations will be broadly the same.

In the next few paragraphs, the intention is to run through strategic choices, touching on the legal procedures.  As ever, if you have any detailed or specific questions, you may need to consult a lawyer.

Carrot or stick?

The best option to get possession of your property is to find a solution agreeable with your tenants.  If you manage to do this, then make sure that you get the agreement in writing as soon as possible. This is normally with either a ‘notice to quit’ or a deed of surrender. 

The difference between them is that a ‘Notice to Quit’ is a unilateral notice from the tenant informing you that they intend to leave whereas the Deed of Surrender is an agreement by the landlord and the tenant to terminate the tenancy, so it can be as flexible as you are.

The main practical differences then are that the Deed of Surrender should be used if the tenancy is still in the fixed term and it can include financial considerations. The Notice to Quit should be aligned with the terms in the tenancy agreement so in theory is less flexible. With either form, once signed the tenant is committed to leaving on the agreed date unless the landlord agrees to a change.

If the tenant makes it known that they intend to be problematic about leaving, then the landlord will need to serve notices and could ultimately require court action and bring in the bailiffs.  These tools should be avoided if possible because they are time-consuming and expensive.

However, if the tenant won’t sign the paperwork then is clear that they do not intend to make possession easy. At this point it is worth mentioning that there are only two legal weighs to end a tenancy, the first mentioned above, voluntary surrender; the second is to obtain a possession order from a court.

What about abandonment? Yes, I know, new rules are in play but we’ll save that for a different article.

Help, I don’t know where to start?

First, you need to understand the difference between Section 21 and Section 8 notices.

A Section 21 notice is the no-fault route. It is designed for scenarios in which the landlord would like to take possession – it could be to move back in, to sell the property etc.  Therefore, it follows the tenancy agreement clauses closely, i.e. two months (periods) notice, it cannot be served to expire within the fixed term, and there is no recovery of monies – other than pro rata rent.  So long as your procedure is correct, the judgement is guaranteed.  

Section 8, on the other hand, stipulates failures (called the grounds for possession) by the tenant to stick to the clauses of the tenancy.  There are currently 17 grounds you can use, be careful some are not mandatory so they will be at the discretion of the judge as to whether you get possession.  It also differs from the Section 21 because you can include monies in the judgement to recover the arrears.

Both routes have a standard form that you need to use, a Form 3 for a Section 8 and a Form 6a for the Section 21.  There are grandfather rules for these forms, so you need to check that you don’t fall foul of them if you are dealing with an old tenancy.  You need to be up to speed with how the notices should be served. 

You can serve both notices and then choose which path to follow at a later date.  However, if you need to go to court, you will need to decide which notice to use and make this extremely clear to the tenant so that they don’t use confusion as a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

However, before you start completing any forms, it is worth checking that you have set up the tenancy correctly, meeting all the legal requirements. 

You should have supplied the following paperwork;  

  • A written Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement
  • The up to date ‘How to Rent’ leaflet.
  • The Deposit Prescribed Information – in the correct format.
  • The property ‘Energy Performance Certificate’.
  • The Gas Safety certificate.
  • Moreover, that you have protected any deposit taken in an approved scheme, if you haven’t done any of these things it would be worth ‘playing catch up’ as soon as possible, the implications for not doing these things is a collapsed court case – expensive, time consuming and avoidable!.

It may be worth mentioning that when you serve notice, it’s a good idea to include the most recent ‘how to rent’ leaflet as it may differ from the one issued at the start of the tenancy. You can download the latest version here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent

The notice has expired, but nothing has happened?

If the notice has expired, then you will need to initiate court action.  You complete the paperwork (or do it online) and enclose the evidence.  The court issues you with a date at which you should get a possession judgement granted. 

But the tenants won’t leave?

Then you will need to get the bailiffs to evict them. This requires more paperwork (and money) to book them through the county court. 

You should now have possession of your property.

Final thought.

The best way to protect yourself starts at the beginning of the tenancy.

Get the right tenants and set up the tenancy right.

See our article on finding & keeping the right tenant