The art of negotiation

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EDP/EEN Article – Friday 3rd July 2015

When I was a child I used to look forward to buying my Shoot football magazine each week.  My favourite article was always the ‘You Are The Ref’ quiz which effectively put you in the shoes of the referee and asked you to select option A, B or C in order to officiate over some obscure event that had just occurred on the football pitch.

I seem to have been reminded of this on a daily basis since entering the property industry eleven years ago.  As a Letting Agent we are often asked to “officiate” over disputes and disagreements between tenants and landlords, neighbours, developers, Block Managing Agents, and even third party contractors sometimes throw their hat into the ring!

Whenever I interview someone for a role at City Lettings I go to great lengths to point out to them that it’s called a “Negotiator” role for a reason.  Letting property is a people industry and if you want to succeed you need to be able to deal with different people and different characters and you need to be able to facilitate agreement between two parties.

Personally, I love this job and the fact that I can get close to my customers.  As a team we take care to build long term relationships with our landlords and our tenants and these relationships are built and maintained on trust and honesty.

Some landlords choose a managed service because they do not live locally to their property or because they do not enjoy the relationship side of letting a property and don’t want to chase someone for late rent or don’t want to discuss compensation for a wine stain on a carpet.  These landlords should choose an agent with staff who are qualified and know what they are talking about and can manage the relationship for them.  After all, what is the point in an agent finding a tenant quickly if they then can’t keep the tenant in the property and maintain it.

If as a landlord you prefer to manage the property yourself, then I have four tips based upon our experience:-

1) How thorough you are at the start of the tenancy will affect your ability to effectively manage the tenancy throughout its duration and its conclusion.  For example, if you do not have an inventory and schedule of condition how are you going to effectively discuss the stained carpet?  If you have a poorly written Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement that does not make it clear that the tenant is responsible for maintaining the garden, then how are you going to discuss the overgrown jungle out back?

2) Monitor, monitor, monitor! And don’t leave things to chance.  Inspect the property regularly, for most homes every three months is sufficient and if the property has been tip-top for the last few inspections then inspect less frequently.  For HMO’s we would suggest inspecting more frequently.  And don’t forget to keep an eye on your bank account to ensure that the monthly rent has been paid!

3) Keep records.  If a dispute does escalate then documenting everything will be important.

4) Know your stuff.  It is no good entering into a dispute with a Tenant if you do not know the correct legal stance.  The internet is a great source of information and there are lots of reasonably priced legal helplines that you can subscribe to or alternatively join an association, like the Eastern Landlords Association, who provide free advice and access to solicitors.