You may remember a landlord’s list of tenant instructions which went viral earlier this year, prompting an equal-parts reaction of ridicule and outrage. In truth, it can be difficult for a landlord to retain some degree of control over how the property is used without scaring off potential tenants. So we thought we would suggest a few general tips on how to go about striking this fine balance.
1.) Tenant instructions are bound by the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations
You cannot take away rights the tenant would otherwise have under the law and any stipulated penalty charges must be reasonable and reasonably incurred. Be aware that some of the following may be considered unfair under certain circumstances:
a.) A blanket ban on pets (certainly guide dogs must be permitted by law)
b.) Requiring tenants to give you notice before leaving at the end of a fixed term AST
c.) A blanket ban on preventing your tenant from sub-letting
d.) Preventing the tenant from changing utility suppliers
2.) Consider instructions that grant permission for something only with your written consent, which cannot be ‘unreasonably withheld’
This would create a fair term so long as it’s not used for something ridiculous (‘The tenant cannot eat without the written consent of the landlord, which will not be unreasonably withheld’). It should hold for more disruptive activities such as smoking: if you are strongly against this, you could argue that it’s not unreasonable to withhold consent because the act is smelly and may cause damage to the property. This gives you control because the strength of the argument about what is ‘unreasonable’ is up to you! If your instructions require your written consent but you do not state that it cannot be ‘unreasonably withheld’, then they will probably be unenforceable…
3.) Make sure all instructions are in plain English with no grammatical errors
It’s obvious but, as the viral list showed, not all landlords take the time and effort to do this. Bad spelling and grammar not only make you look unprofessional and less competent, they may lead to confusion and disagreements over precisely what the instructions mean.
4.) If in any doubt, check with a lawyer!