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A landlord’s main responsibility is the tenant. But, do landlords have a duty of care to neighbours?
In short: yes and no.
It’s difficult to hold landlords legally responsible for their tenants. Unless, that is, the landlord is deliberately encouraging antisocial behaviour.
However, even without law involvement – neighbourhood disputes are never good for a landlord’s reputation.
Let’s settle this once and for all! Time to dig a little deeper…
So, in the eyes of a neighbour, what constitutes a problem tenant?
For many, when they hear the phrase ‘difficult tenant’, noise is often what first springs to mind. This is for good reason!
Noisy tenants are a huge nuisance. Particularly if these disruptions continue late into the night, it can cause problems for all neighbours living nearby.
What is classed as noise nuisance? Let’s dig a little deeper:
Noise, caused by any of these reasons, can be a serious grounds for a dispute.
With noise nuisance – time of day is essential. Most neighbours will forgive being loud before it gets dark, within reason, of course!
‘Inconsiderate behaviour’ is a broad term, as it encompasses many different things.
But, here are some of the worst offenders:
If a tenant is displaying one or more of these habits, neighbours might have a lot to say. Is it fair for landlords to be held responsible?
Landlords have a number of responsibilities, most of these concerning the tenant. Similarly, a letting agent’s duty of care is to the tenant.
However, landlords will often find themselves in the firing line should the neighbours complain.
Landlord negligence cases don’t often relate to neighbours, simply because it’s difficult to proceed against landlords for the actions of their tenants. You can’t blame one human being for the actions of another!
However, is this always the case?
In some cases, private landlords are liable for tenant negligence.
Often, this occurs when the landlord encourages the nuisance, or deliberately turns a blind eye.
Also, if the landlord deliberately let the property out with knowledge of a nuisance, this makes them liable. For example, leasing the property for use as a music venue.
Particularly if these problems are frequent, those living nearby may hold the landlord responsible.
Landlords do have a duty of care to neighbours to some extent!
Of course, noise complaints aren’t the only reason for disputes. However, they are the most common.
If you have knowledge of a recurring antisocial tenant behaviour, you must be shown to do something about it. Reduce your risk of being liable by being seen to change your property management practices. Ensure you haven’t authorised actions that might constitute a complaint!
Difficulties with neighbours can harm your reputation, dissolve relationships and cause you a lot of hassle. If possible, avoid this at all costs!
The only problem is, how is this done?
Many neighbours wonder how to get a landlord’s contact details. You must ensure they have yours!
There are many things that go into being a good landlord – availability is one of them. Do yourself a favour and find out who your neighbours are!
Put yourself in the position of those living near your tenants. Wouldn’t you wonder how to find a landlord’s details?
The first step is always to talk to your tenant open and honestly. Try not to automatically look to them as the cause of the anti-social behaviour in private housing.
Go about things differently! Being receptive and able to talk about problems with your tenant is hugely important.
Don’t pick a fight deliberately, instead, ask their opinion on what the neighbours have been saying. Explain the problem, and ask how they’re going to rectify it. Offer some suggestions of your own.
It’s important to build a good relationship with your tenants, so ensure you listen to their side of the story!
If problems persist, use your secret weapon.
The tenancy agreement should have set out a ‘nuisance’ or ‘noise’ clause. Refer to this if you discover your tenant is behaving problematically!
The agreement will have clearly laid out rules and regulations, which must be adhered to. Explain exactly which ones they’ve broken and why.
Of course, don’t threaten with eviction immediately. However, do explain that while you’re upholding your duties, their responsibility is to follow the tenancy agreement.
If they refuse to listen to your warnings, consider taking further action. But, this should never be your first step!
You can’t deal with the problem if you can’t see it!
There are rules surrounding landlord inspections, of course. However, particularly if you’ve been made aware of certain problems, it’s essential to visit your property regularly.
The likelihood is that tenants will be on their best behaviour around you. But, it’s a good opportunity to show your neighbours you’re taking steps to resolve the issue. Plus, it may ‘scare’ your tenants into changing their behaviour.
Don’t let your tenant’s actions reflect badly on you!
If possible, arrange a meeting between them and the neighbour. This can give them a chance to talk and, hopefully, clear the air.
Your tenant might not fully understand the impact their actions are having on their neighbour.
If nothing else works, take further action as a last resort.
This can come in many forms, such as:
The final option should only be used in extreme circumstances, such as abusive or aggressive behaviour.
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot.
What if your tenants aren’t the problem?
When it comes to neighbourhood disputes, landlords are between a rock and a hard place. As much as it’s important to keep up good relationships with the neighbours, you don’t want to alienate your tenant.
Particularly if you’re trying to encourage a long-term tenancy, you may feel as though you have to be on your tenant’s ‘side’.
However, sometimes it’s the neighbours that are the nuisance. Let’s have a look at why:
Some complaints, such as noise disputes, are simply unfair. It might be that your neighbour is being particularly pedantic.
For example, if your tenant has guests round during the day for a barbeque, this is not grounds for a noise complaint, unless it goes on until the early hours.
Be realistic. Your tenant is likely to have guests round sometimes! But, ensure this doesn’t contravine the tenancy agreement.
If the complaints seem vague, or the neighbour ‘can’t remember’ the time of the day your tenant was loud, this should send alarm bells ringing.
Consider your tenant also. Do they seem like the kind of person they’re being painted out to be? Do they fulfill all their other tenant obligations?
Trust your instincts. The relationship between landlord and tenant is important!
It might be that your neighbour has problems with your property being let out, for example, to students.
Perhaps it’s your neighbour who’s the nuisance. Landlord negligence has many forms, so don’t ignore your tenant is they come to you with a complaint about a neighbour.
Think of private tenant’s rights and noise disturbance. Do they deserve to live near rowdy neighbours?
Here’s what to do:
Follow these steps in that order, keeping communication with your tenant at all times. Never jump to legal action first!
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