Infolio

Resolving tenant and landlord disputes

10 December, 2014 / Category: Blog

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When it comes to renting property, disagreements between tenants and landlords can sometimes occur. But whether it’s a small dispute over a maintenance issue, or a complex quarrel over lease terms, each issue should be handled with patience and respect. So, to help resolve these matters as smoothly as possible, Infolio have put together a few things to remember to keep all parties cool, calm and collected.

All agencies are different

It’s important to remember that all agencies have different policies and procedures when it comes to rental disputes, and that each situation will be unique in nature. But regardless of finer details, the conflict should always be resolved in the most efficient way it can. Consequently, the first step in resolving any problem or complaint is to carefully read the terms of your rental agreement.

Express your concerns

It is always best for a tenant and landlord/agent to try to solve disputes amongst themselves, avoiding the hassle of third party involvement. When a problem arises, the tenant needs to express their concerns with their property manager, making sure to do so in writing. However, in addition to this formal documentation, it’s best to follow up with a call, as tone of voice is often lost in translation. This miscommunication can be the reason why disputes get ugly; fuss that’s best avoided.

Determine the best course of action

Once a complaint has been lodged tenants often wonder: what happens now? In such matters, the agent will need to determine the best course of action. Firstly, the agent should notify the landlord of the tenant’s complaint—provided that the complaint needs to be brought to their attention. On occasions where the complaint is more to do with the agent, the landlord may not need to be involved at all.

Step-by-step resolutions

Once the agent has informed the landlord of the tenant’s specific complaint, they should also take time to advise the best course of action. Where a resolution is not cut and dry, it’s also the agent’s duty to provide guidance on handling the matter longer term.

For example, let’s say the tenant has a faulty oven that is unusable. The tenant has complained because it has been two days and a tradesman has not been coordinated—the landlord wants to wait for the weekend to try to complete the job his or herself. In this case in particular, it would be the agent’s duty to inform the landlord of the following:

  1. Unless the landlord is a qualified tradesman they should not be attempting maintenance of this nature; it is dangerous and indemnifies insurance policy.
  2. It is the landlord’s duty to ensure that all urgent repairs are attended to without delay. And failure to supply a working oven is considered an urgent matter.

Keeping calm and carrying on

If the landlord in question decides that they would still rather attend to the matter in their own time, on their own terms, the agent would need to decide if this is the sort of client they want to work with longer term. In these situations, tempers can flare, and disputes can turn ugly. But the agent must soldier on, notifying the landlord that the tenant will have legal grounds to claim compensation if the oven remained unserviceable for an unreasonable amount of time.

The importance of mediation

Once the agent has informed the landlord of potential legal complications, they are required to notify the tenant of the landlord’s stated position. At this stage, the agent should also remind the tenant of their ‘Renting Rights and Duties Booklet’ (supplied by law at the commencement of the lease). This booklet will provide the tenant with information and guidance about the direction they should take next. Most commonly, a tenant may first serve the landlord with a breach—notice to repair. Next, they may requestion the landlord pay compensation.

Know when to ask for help

However, failing any suitable negotiation, the tenant is well within their rights to apply to VCAT for a referee to make a judgment in their favour. This is the last, and often worst, case scenario. In an ideal world both the tenant and their landlord would act in a fair and reasonable fashion; working together to ensure all parties are content. But where all else fails, there are steps that must be taken to achieve a final resolution—one that will hopefully satisfy the agent, the tenant and the landlord alike.

Whether you’re a real estate agent, a landlord, or a tenant, property disputes are never particularly nice. However, if everybody plays their part, disagreements can be resolved in a harmonious and timely manner. Infolio hopes that these pointers will give you guidance in resolving your property disputes; without third party involvement, or unnecessary stress.

Sincerely yours,

Infolio

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