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Landlord and tenant relations


Options for the resolution of problems in Landlord and Tenant relations:

  • Discuss problems with tenants and try to negotiate solutions
  • Keep records/log books of all interactions with tenants
  • Mediation
  • Legal action (by landlord or by tenant)

>> Mediation

Mediation is a process in which a skilled and impartial third party helps people in dispute to reach a mutually acceptable agreement without incurring the time and expense of court action.  Mediation or alternative dispute resolution models have been successfully used in a range of circumstances apart from neighbour disputes /harassment, e.g. family, organisational, and victim-offender contexts.

Community mediation schemes are growing but the geographical spread is not uniform and many have ongoing funding difficulties. Mediation U.K. is the umbrella organisation for all types of conflict/dispute resolution.

There are many different models but the most common involves indirect mediation initially where contact is made separately with each party to build a relationship, establish key facts, work out important issues, look at options and develop a joint action plan. Such ‘shuttle diplomacy’ where the mediators listen to both sides and convey messages between them may of itself resolve the conflict. This also might be important if one or both parties refuse to meet face-to-face.

Mediation is good for complex problems such as some repairing issues and disputes over damage deposits.  However if the problem is that the tenant is not paying rent, mediation is not really appropriate.  You do not want to sit around while the rent arrears mount higher and higher waiting for the matter to be resolved by mediation. For some problems, particularly rent arrears, an order for possession is the only answer. 

To find out about mediation services in your area, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau or local authority housing adviser. You could also consult a mediation specialist, such as:

www.nationalmediationhelpline.com

>> Legal action to enforce tenancy conditions

The tenancy agreement sets out the conditions of tenancy for both the landlord and the tenant. Where tenants breach the tenancy conditions the landlord may take action, either by negotiation and/or by proceeding through the Courts.

You should negotiate with all parties concerned to try and resolve disputes. However, where this does not result in a satisfactory conclusion, you may take legal action as necessary. This legal action may include obtaining injunctions, Anti-social Behaviour Orders and/or possession proceedings.

The landlord will need robust evidence to prove the breach, as dispossession of somebody’s home is a very serious matter [see section 6.2 on possession].

Civil and criminal law is also relevant, the main Acts include:

  • Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003
  • Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004
  • Homelessness Act 2002
  • Environmental Protection Act 1990
  • Noise Act 1996
  • Housing Act 1996
  • Crime and Disorder Act 1998
  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  • Civil Evidence Act 1995

Note that in most cases it will be far better to obtain possession via the quick and simple section 21 procedure [see section 6.2.6], even if you have to wait a couple of months before you can start court action. Claims for possession under the discretionary grounds can become complex, long-winded and expensive.

If the problem with your tenant is so urgent that immediate legal action is necessary (and in reality few cases are this urgent) you should obtain legal advice before taking any action and ideally should use a solicitor experienced in possession proceedings. Note that it may be expensive however, particularly if you are looking to obtain an injunction.

>> Legal action by the tenant to enforce tenancy agreements

If a tenant does not want to use the court system or if it is more a case of complaint about an administration matter, tenants can make a complaint to their local authority.

Local authorities have extensive powers under various legislation, so if you receive a letter from them you should take it very seriously and either deal with the problem or take legal advice.

Perhaps the most common legal action by tenants against landlords is for disrepair. Before bringing a claim for disrepair tenants are now obliged to follow the disrepair pre-action protocol which is part of the county court rules. This provides for preliminary letters to be sent to you setting out the tenant’s complaints. If the tenant issues proceedings before following this procedure the judge will normally adjourn the claim to allow the preliminary matters to be dealt with.  You will find the pre-action protocol on the Ministry of Justice web-site at:

www.justice.gov.uk

If a valid claim is made against you based on disrepair, you should seek to get the repairs done as soon as possible to minimise any compensation claim which may be made against you.

If complaints are made against you for any other reason, unless it is something you accept and can resolve quickly, you should seek legal advice.

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