Handling Common Tenant Complaints

Every landlord is likely to have received a complaint from tenants at some point. Rental property management comes with its own challenges – not least, handling tenant complaints in a satisfactory manner!

Landlords have a duty of care towards their tenants and are obliged by law to respond in a timely fashion to any justified grievance. A tenant who wishes to take their complaint further is legally permitted to do so, potentially leading to long and costly landlord and tenant disputes.

Landlord and tenant meeting
© Pormezz / Shutterstock

Mediation between the landlord and tenant is vital to resolve time-consuming tenant disputes that could also damage your reputation in the long-term should they reach court. Try to resolve matters amicably at all costs, not only to comply with the law and the conditions set out in your tenancy agreements, but also to foster good relations and prevent unnecessary friction.


What are the most common tenant complaints?

Studies show the most common tenant complaint by far revolves around the condition of the rental property, accounting for 35% of all disputes, according to a study of tenants by Johns & Co lettings agency.

The second most common complaint relates to dissatisfaction with how the landlord handled an earlier issue. Around one-fifth of tenants have been unhappy with the outcome of previous tenancy problems and feel their landlord’s complaint handling skills are lacking.

The third most common tenant complaint relates to anti-social behaviour, such as excessive noise caused by fellow tenants. This is something 10% of renters have mentioned to their landlord.

As a landlord, if you don’t deal with these issues promptly and satisfactorily, your tenants could contact the property ombudsman to try and get satisfaction. In the worst-case scenario, they will seek compensation from you.

Each of the home counties in the UK is governed by its own legislation relating to rental properties. In England, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 covers short leases for residential properties and tenancies of less than seven years.

In Wales, the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, an Act of the National Assembly for Wales, has simplified the rental process for landlords and tenants. Renters’ rights in Scotland are protected by the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016. In Northern Ireland, new laws governing private tenancies came into force on 1st April 2023. The Private Tenancies Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 governs both landlords and tenants.


Handling property maintenance complaints

Property management is all about keeping your portfolio in an acceptable condition that leaves your tenants feeling happy and safe. When you receive a complaint, you may have a different opinion from your tenant. However, when liaising, behave in a professional manner throughout the process, even if you don’t necessarily agree, or your tenant is irate.

As a landlord, you must maintain your professionalism. Take into account that the problem may have had a negative impact on them, hence their heated mood. Talk to them at length in an understanding and positive manner to fully understand the nature of their issue and how to resolve it amicably for both parties. Ultimately, keeping your tenants happy means less hassle for you in the long run.

During the tenancy, a landlord must send a contractor to repair the property if repair and maintenance issues have been mentioned. Any delay in doing so could result in the tenant looking to take matters further.

The main priority issues are no heating or hot water, no electricity, or mould and damp forming indoors. Failing to act on these matters will almost certainly lead to the tenant filing a complaint.


Avoiding further complaints

If you handle tenant complaints properly first-time round, you’re likely to avoid a follow-up complaint and accusations that you haven’t dealt with an issue effectively. Ensure you follow the letter of the law and the remit of your tenancy agreement before you proceed.

Be ready to repair issues such as a loss of power and heat, or mould, immediately. These are the most serious causes of complaint. Similarly, weather-related damage such as a leaking roof, or serious storm damage that has blown the gutter off, should also be dealt with right away.

Landlords are required to provide a cooker and hob, even in an unfurnished property. If this stops working, it is also something you need to deal with fast.

If you provide rental property furniture and it becomes tatty, damaged, dangerous or otherwise unusable through age and normal wear and tear, it’s up to you to replace it. If the tenant has signed up for a furnished property, the landlord needs to keep the furniture in a good state of repair.

You may fear that furnishing rental properties isn’t cheap, especially in the current economic climate, but don’t be tempted to cut corners and buy below-par furniture to replace high quality items. Many landlords consider furniture rental as a means of saving money when they fit out their furnished properties – modern furniture packages will help keep even the most discerning tenants happy.

If furniture needs replacing because a tenant complains it has become worn, it can be easier to do so through a regular supplier. Cut down the waiting time for a new item and the hassle of having to shop around by simply putting in a call. This will keep both you and your tenants happy.


Handling anti-social behaviour complaints

Anti-social behaviour can include environmental health breaches, excessive noise and drug-related issues to name but a few. Landlords may have to deal with one or all these problems at some point. This is more likely if your rental properties are HMOs housing a number of otherwise unconnected tenants, who become unhappy with fellow residents’ behaviour.

If you receive an anti-social behaviour complaint, approach the errant tenant in a friendly manner initially and explain why their conduct is causing a problem. If necessary, draw their attention to the tenancy agreement and how they are breaching its terms.

Sometimes, they may be unaware their behaviour is an issue. However, if your initial approach fails and the behaviour continues, it will be necessary to take a firmer stance. Keep a note of every incident and complaint and write down a record of your conversations with them.

Draw their attention to the tenancy agreement a second time and point out they may face eviction if the conduct continues. As a private landlord, you have the power to evict tenants behaving anti-socially if earlier steps to advise them don’t resolve the problem.

You can also involve the police or local authority, especially if the behaviour is breaking the law relating to drugs, noise nuisance or environmental issues, such as letting hazardous rubbish pile up.

Send a warning letter explaining how the tenant has broken a tenancy condition. Advise that they must stop the errant behaviour to prevent further action. Explain the consequences of continuing with the anti-social behaviour.

Subsequently, if you decide eviction is the only course of action, serve the tenant with an eviction notice and apply to the court for a Possession Order. You must gather clear evidence of their behaviour to secure an eviction, usually under a Section 8 notice, which is when your written record comes in useful.

While no-one wants to evict a tenant unless it’s absolutely necessary, one who is causing continual complaints due to anti-social behaviour may have to go.

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