Forum Home Search Login Register
+  Landlord Forum
|-+  General Category
| |-+  Landlord Advice & Help
| | |-+  What might this tenant be scheming? And advice on communications

What might this tenant be scheming? And advice on communications

Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: What might this tenant be scheming? And advice on communications  (Read 243 times)
Newbie
Posts: 3

I like property

« on: August 05, 2020, 02:42:41 PM »

Background: long ago our tenant once openly bragged that he was good at "playing the system", implying he could manipulate people to get what he wanted. And he has tried a few things on with us previously, which have backfired on him. I'm always very careful to produce a complete paper trail, doubly so with this particular person.

I do want to keep them as tenants. They've been there five years and seem likely to stay for at least a few more. It's true they mess us around a bit and tell some fibs. But I think we can cope with this. They are solvent, have always paid their rent on time, and have only ever done minor damage to the house. I'm aware that such tenants are worth their weight in gold, especially right now.

So, here's the current challenge. During lockdown, the tenant reported a slow leak from the bathroom. He sent photos of the damage. Mould on the ceiling of the room below indicated that the problem had been going on for some time already.

Unfortunately, because one of the family is at high risk from Covid-19, he was adamant that he couldn't allow anyone in to inspect or repair the leak. We tried to change his mind, explaining that an ongoing leak would ultimately lead to conditions which were likely to affect his family's health. Eventually, a month later, he was persuaded to allow us to replace the damaged pipe. As expected, the house had also sustained some water damage which requires repair.

They seem to have relaxed somewhat about shielding now, and in principle are ready to let us make the repairs. Some work was done. Then a month ago he stopped answering my emails in which I was trying to schedule the repairs. I assumed he just wasn't particularly eager to get the work done - his wife has anxiety and is visibly distressed whenever we come to the house, plus obviously having the bathroom ripped up is inconvenient. From our point of view there's no urgency as there is no longer any ongoing damage. But I did make some effort, sending him six emails in three weeks.

My husband then ran into him in the shop, very friendly, and they agreed a date in a week's time for the work to continue, so that looked promising. Simultaneously, I was contacted by the council's environmental health team saying they'd had a report of essential maintenance not being done at the property, instructing us to complete it promptly. I emailed tenant yet again, this time to confirm for the record the arrangements agreed in the shop. He claimed this was the first email he'd received from me for three weeks. (I know that isn't true, because he did actually answer two of my emails during that time - emails about other subjects, not about scheduling the work.) But okay, maybe all my other emails landed in his spam folder or something. And if he thought I was ignoring him, that would explain him asking the council to intervene. Going forward, his proposed solution to this communication problem was that if ever I email him and receive no response in 24 hours, I should contact him by other means, and he confirmed his current phone number. That seemed great.

So, Sunday morning I emailed him. No response. Monday evening I texted. No response. Wednesday morning my husband phoned and tenant answered. He claimed he hadn't receive either my email OR text! Up to that point I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt, but now he's not getting texts from me either? Hm. I simply don't find it credible.

I suspect he is setting us up in some way, but I cannot fathom what he has planned. He's called the council to complain of delays while simultaneously dodging our attempts to get on with the work. So he's trying to make us look bad, but what's in it for him?

The more pressing question is, how can I document future communications with him if he's saying that emails and texts don't reach him? I guess I could fall back on good old recorded delivery, but that feels ridiculous when we are trying to sort out schedules and other minor stuff. It will slow everything down so much. I could put notes through his door - we live nearby - but I wouldn't be able to prove I had done so. I very much doubt he'd write back; he'd probably phone or drop round, and again I'll have no record of what was agreed. Because we want to keep a good relationship and have them stay, I'd prefer not to get arsey with him if I can avoid doing so. At the same time, I need to watch my back with this chap and not get stitched up.

Any ideas how to tackle the situation? Many thanks!
Global Moderator
Hero Member
Posts: 935

I like property

« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2020, 10:01:11 AM »

It is possible that he is plotting some scheme,to sue you for compensation, whatever.More likely,given his proud boast about playing the system,is that he is a bit of a w****r.Personally,this kind of childish passive-aggressive nonsense would become intolerable.I do understand though that having the rent on time is not to be sniffed at.I hope you contacted the council,and gave proof of your efforts to deal with this?

How I would proceed would be to get a date arranged with the plumber,and several days before I would take a letter round,copy sent to the council.I would ring the bell,  say "Hello John,I need you to read this.It's about the problem you have reported to the council,we need to get it repaired.This gives you the details of the work to be carried out.I have to just film this on my phone,to avoid any more confusion".
If he then tries to stop the work being done,I would inform the council,and leave the ball in his court.
Global Moderator
Hero Member
Posts: 3612

I like lots of things

« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2020, 04:19:15 PM »

I do want to keep them as tenants.

Why?

Is it a simple case of better the devil you know? Or worries at making changes in the current environment? Or has your property deteriorated to the point where you think it'd be hard to let? It just seems that you have a lot of anxiety, yourself, about the ongoing situation... and you certainly can't claim to have a good business relationship with your customer... is there no option to get the things fixed so there's no blocker and then cut your losses and start again?

One of the things that annoys me the most about Tenant behaviour is lack of effective communication... this usually means a lack of any communication... but can also mean a blunderbuss (or blusterbuss as I have grown fond of saying) approach.

The relationship between Landlord and Tenant needs to operate almost silently (with no maintenance or payment issues) or very effectively for it to be a success. It can easily fall into an adversarial dynamic. I put it to you that this is roughly where you are.
Newbie
Posts: 3

I like property

« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2020, 05:58:56 PM »

Thanks to both of you for your thoughts.

Yes, I told the council what the situation was and detailed my attempts to contact the tenant to sort out the repairs. They said they could see we were working to resolve the problem but that it's our responsibility as landlords to make sure progress is made. Unfortunately I do agree with them - the landlord is in a better position than the council to lean on tenants to allow access, unless the tenant is refusing absolutely and the situation is dire. They asked for an estimated completion date. I've offered up a very generous estimate on that in order to keep them off our backs. The council hasn't the foggiest idea how much work is required and haven't asked for details, so I think they'll accept my timescale without question. I doubt the council will give us much hassle, given that there's no ongoing leak (tenant apparently implied there was), tenant is being obstructive, and they undoubtedly have bigger fish to fry.

As arranged in the supermarket, it looks like he'll let us in this weekend for most of a day, which should be enough to do about half the remaining work, so we only have to pin him down regarding one more day. If we have significant further trouble then I may have to resort to Heavykarma's suggestion of serving him with a letter. We've always tried to fit work round their needs where possible and negotiate a time which is convenient for them, but if he's going to be difficult I will just tell him it is happening at x time.

Hippogriff, my husband agrees with you, is fed up and wants them to leave. "Better the devil you know" is exactly the phrase I use. I can imagine plenty of worse scenarios, with tenants unable/unwilling to pay rent for prolonged periods. It's a business, decent money is going into our bank account like clockwork, and surely that's the bottom line. But I do take your points. Thanks, that is food for thought. I'll keep an open mind about whether they should go.

The property is sound, just needs a few days' work to sort out the water damage. If we re-let it we'd do the usual repainting and replacement of carpets etc as you'd expect after five years. The town has traditionally been great for letting, with plenty of demand and high rents even for modest houses like ours in not-so-desirable areas. I'm just slightly worried that overall demand locally could drop, making it harder to attract new tenants. The nearby factory is likely to close within the next few years due to Brexit, and I don't know how long the combination of Brexit and Covid-19 will depress the university's international student numbers. (Our house isn't suited to students, but the loss of the local student market would have a knock-on effect on us if the former student landlords start wooing families instead.)

But yes, I'm beginning to wonder whether it may be time for new tenants and I appreciate your view.
Global Moderator
Hero Member
Posts: 3612

I like lots of things

« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2020, 09:41:15 AM »

Hmm... I'm not sure you've calculated things out correctly... for me, once the "council's environmental health team" has been involved a line has been crossed. If we are to trust your story completely, they not only escalated in a disingenuous manner... they will likely be encouraged by the results... so it's likely the start only. They deserve to be out just as much as you deserve sensible Tenants. If you feel you can explain away their behaviour due to Covid and missing electronic communications... so be it... I don't think you feel you can, but you're holding on, to something...

When I am escalated, I can often find myself escalating back... a bit Donald Trump-like... but, no, I'm deadly serious... Tenants are my customers, my income, I treat them with great respect, and humility... however, I would not be at all happy if someone went over my head when my door was open and I was always going to be reasonable about maintenance (even improvements). I would be progressing this so I was back on the front foot, I think. I have had things come to a head with Tenants in the past... sometimes it explodes and then settles down nicely and you're back on an even keel (this is great when this happens, as everyone feels bad for a short while but the dust settles and it really feels like there's no animosity afterwards)... and sometimes it gets all sneaky and bitter. I fear you're onto a Tenant who'll choose the latter path... but, to be fair, you've not really had the explosion yet. Maybe you'll instigate it?
Global Moderator
Hero Member
Posts: 935

I like property

« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2020, 03:42:17 PM »

It is not necessary for landlords and tenants to actually like each other.However,there needs to be some common courtesy and trust.In this case I would say all bets are off.Personally I would get the work done,then serve 21.Regarding the effects of Covid on housing,this might just be the phoney war at present,but in my area sales and lettings seem to be doing well.Don't assume you will be left with a void if you get rid of this tenant. 
Newbie
Posts: 3

I like property

« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2020, 04:53:12 PM »

You're both starting to persuade me. I have seen from your previous posts that you have a great deal of experience, which I don't, so probably I ought to take your advice! I will chew on it some more.

Alternatively, what do you think of the tactic of raising the rent? Either they will choose to go, or we will be willing to put up with them for the extra money. We did this three years ago after they got a cat, we reminded them that it wasn't allowed, and they said they'd rehomed it but there was evidence it was still there. Would have been difficult to prove 100% though. Once it had been there six months, any damage which it might do in terms of allergens and ruined carpets had probably been done already, so there seemed no point in trying to force them to get rid of it. We decided to turn a blind eye and put the rent up 150 a month to compensate ourselves for any potential damage. This pushed the rent from just below market value toward the upper end of the range for the type of property. They stayed, and eventually got rid of the cat of their own accord.

Rents have since risen in the area and theirs is now near the bottom of the range... however, to be honest the house is not as nice as most. Decor is basic and functional. A drug dealer has set up operations next door. So I think their rent is currently accurate, but we could probably push it up 100 or 150 without being legally questionable if they contested it.
Global Moderator
Hero Member
Posts: 935

I like property

« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2020, 11:50:53 AM »

You could do that of course,but why would you want to? You could get them out,and also raise the rent next time.It all comes down to your attitude to being played by an idiot.I have zero tolerance.Likewise,there are times when one needs to speak urgently with tenants,so I have no time for people who cut off contact.You mention various tricks he has played over the years,which always rebound on him.Do they though? He is still there,so in that sense he has got the better of you both.It sounds as if you are not confident that the property,along with drug dealing next door,will attract a better class of tenant.If you do feel you are stuck with this tenant,at the very least I think you need to have a frank talk,not a friendly chat in the local shop,Get back some power from him,tell him you won't tolerate any more crap.
Pages: [1]
Print