The uncertainty of lockdown and the realisation of events unfolding over the last 10-12 weeks has resulted in understandable anxiety to all.
During such times of uncertainty, what has become clear is that communication is key.
Our regularly updated responses to Covid-19 FAQ’s provide clarity to questions raised and guidance on pre-tenancy, mid-tenancy and post-tenancy issues that have arisen, but the underlying theme is contact between parties.
Clear communication between landlords, agents and tenants has shown to be crucial in reducing uncertainty and misunderstandings and helps to minimise disputes at the end of a tenancy.
The earlier any issues or changes of circumstances of the parties are raised, be that of agents, landlords or tenants, the better for all concerned.
If in mid-tenancy you are approached with a request for a rent reduction or you wish to approach a tenant to offer a rent reduction, make sure that all parties fully understand what is being agreed.
It is essential that you communicate clearly the agreement reached between the parties.
For example, you would need to explain that any agreed reduction is a deferral only of rent and that any shortfall of rent is deferred to a payment date in the future, as opposed to a waiver of rent where it is agreed that any reduction in rent need not ever be paid.
This will avoid any future misunderstanding between the parties.
Keep a clear record, such as an email audit trail of the agreement reached, acknowledged, and agreed by all parties.
Such clarity will avoid a dispute at the end of the tenancy and if you do find you need to use TDS adjudication services at the end of the tenancy, the clear and agreed audit trail will enable the adjudicator to easily see what was agreed and communicated.
The same applies to tenants.
If in mid-tenancy your circumstances as a tenant have changed and you wish to make a request to leave earlier than the end of the fixed term, an early communication to the agent/landlord would be sensible.
It will be for the agent/landlord to decide if this would be agreeable and what conditions if any, are to be met.
Similarly, a clear audit trail of any agreement reached is important, so that all parties know where they stand.
At the end of a tenancy, if there is going to be a delay in the deposit release process due to, for example, a delay in a check-out being conducted, the sooner this is clearly explained to all parties the better.
In recent weeks we have been successful in negotiating a settlement between the parties in the absence of a checkout report.
Presently, any deductions that you intend to make from a tenant’s deposit can be communicated using the TDS Deduction Template, which is freely available to TDS customers.
This enables proposed deductions to be explained in a clear and succinct manner.
We have found that the use of this template increases the likelihood of early resolution being reached, which prevents further action, and can save time and money.
Sandy Bastin is head of dispute resolution at TDS.