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Despite having contracts, inventories, inspections and contact numbers for landlords or property management agents, tenants are still breaking the rules – with failing to pay their rent on time, smoking and smuggling in pets being the most common problems, according to new research. The Direct Line Landlord Insurance study shows that, although 65 per cent of tenants keep to the rules, 15 per cent have broken regulations, 11 per cent did not know if they had broken any rules, and another nine per cent allege that they do not have a contract.

Out of those who have broken the terms of their contract, one in four have been late in paying their rent, one in five smokes when it is not allowed, and nearly as many have either had a pet or made alterations to the property, such as changing the locks or decorating. These problems can lead to friction between the landlord and tenant, and can even mean losing some or all of the deposit. Many issues can be resolved if the tenant communicates well. If decorations are tasteful or there is a good reason why the locks should be changed, then the landlord is more likely to agree to it. Simply going ahead without permission, though, is bound to cause problems and mistrust.

This is why landlords also need to make sure that the contract is legally-binding and watertight, in case any issues should arise. That way, the property owner or manager can make sure that any issues such as smoking or keeping pets are clearly stated in a written and signed agreement. These areas can also be pointed out with tenants before they sign, so they cannot claim ignorance. That said, if the tenants are reliable, then it could pay to be flexible if and when they make a request, rather than risk them looking elsewhere for a property. Keeping a good tenant is preferable to investing time and money in finding new tenants in many cases.

With regards to contracts, Direct Line’s research also shows that one in 10 private landlords do not have a formal tenancy agreement in place, or have contracts which are not legally binding. Obviously, both of these scenarios can lead to disputes. That is where specialist software and apps can be so useful, because they can act as a checklist for landlords, to make sure everything is in place and all current laws are adhered to. This software can be downloaded on to phones or tablets, so the landlord can go through the contract with the tenant, so there is no chance of a misunderstanding.