No matter your intentions, disputes are part and parcel of owning an investment property.
Be it bond claims, repairs and maintenance, rent increases, goods left behind, or leases, the potential for disagreements is seemingly limitless.
The good news is that laws are in place to protect and achieve fair outcomes for both landlords (or rental providers) and tenants (or renters).
The best way to resolve disputes is by avoiding them before they begin, but common sense should play its part in finding a solution to disagreements.
Lay down the rules from the outset
From the outset, it is vital that your rental agreement (lease) states exactly what steps to take should a dispute arise.
Often it’s a matter of a simple misunderstanding that can be easily rectified, which is why it’s important that the relationship should always encompass two-way respect and open communication between the parties as they follow the process.
Knowing your rights and responsibilities is vital to achieving a harmonious outcome, particularly if you are prepared to acknowledge the complaint from the other party’s perspective.
Being realistic about the best and worst-case scenarios can also help parties reach a speedy resolution.
‘Write’ the wrongs
The first step should be to resolve the issue through amiable discussion and, if unsuccessful, put the complaint in writing.
This should include additional information on what is causing an issue, including any proof of attempts to remedy the situation.
Once proof is provided, this is generally defined as a breach of duty, which can be the first step to ending a rental agreement.
Standard notices are available online to inform parties of tenancy breaches.
Keeping a paper trail of your correspondence can help prove your case, should it be necessary to pursue legal options.
Help is at hand
Fortunately, property managers are real estate professionals trained to deal with myriad issues as they arise, so they are well acquainted with the rules in your respective state or territory.
Prevention is always better than cure, so tap into this expertise if you can foresee an issue arising.
It’s also shrewd to be well versed in any changes to housing laws so you can stay one step ahead of potential disputes.
Keep your cool
Should a confrontational scenario arise, never lose your temper in the heat of the moment, even if your tenant/renter does.
Try to stay as calm as possible, and do your best to handle the situation on your own.
If you’re having difficulty, or if your tenant is not cooperating, you may need to seek assistance in court.
If all else fails …
If all else fails, mediation is available in various states and administrative tribunals. Arbitration is another proven method of settling disputes, but the arbitrator’s outcomes are legally binding.
In New Zealand, landlords and tenants can turn to self-resolution (low-key discussions between parties), FastTrack Resolution (a Tenancy Services resource to formalise an agreement after a dispute) and mediation.
Once a plan to resolve the issue has been agreed upon, put it in writing and outline any timeframes for when the action will be taken, what will be done and who will do it.
This may also require feedback from both parties to recognise progress and create a positive ongoing relationship.