Post by Andy Winter, Brighton Housing Trust
A tenancy agreement is a formal document, setting out the rights and responsibilities of the parties. What often isn’t set out is the informal relationship that is influenced by decisions and the consequences of those decisions. Whatever decisions you make, there will be a consequence, positive or negative.
Take this scenario: a tenant plays loud music at 3.00am. Their neighbour asks them to turn the music down. The decision then taken, positive or negative, can lead to predictable consequences, positive and negative.
If there is an apology and the music goes off, allowing the neighbour to sleep, little more will be heard of the incident. It is unlikely that the landlord will hear about it. That decision will not lead to a negative consequence.
But if the would-be DJ continues to blast out music in the middle of the night, things will escalate. The landlord will almost certainly hear about it. The landlord won’t want tenants who cause upset to other tenants and unnecessary work for the landlord. When the tenancy is up for renewal, it is easier for the landlord to seek possession under Section 21 of the Housing Act (a mandatory ground for possession order to be granted) than to go through other, less certain and potentially costly, legal routes. There will be no reference to the anti-social behaviour but we all know what lies behind the decision not to renew the tenancy. Decisions and consequence.
The same is true for tenants who help out. I, personally, have benefited from this. When a tenant in a large property in central Brighton, divided into nineteen bedsits and one bed flats, I always tidied up the lobby area, throwing away junk mail and back copies of The Leader. I reported repairs to the landlord when they were needed. I paid my rent on time. When the only two bed flat in the block became vacant, the landlord approached me to ask if I wanted it. He didn’t have to ask twice. Again, decisions and consequence.
It is inevitable that when landlords and tenants work together, successful tenancies can be created that work in the interests of both parties. When there is conflict, the landlord has the more powerful hand, not least because of Section 21. But there is support available for the tenant, through various advice services including the BHT Advice Centre in Queen’s Road (www.bht.org.uk/services/brighton-advice-centre/)
At the end of the day, a good landlord and a good tenant want the same things: that the property is cared for, that all tenants have quiet enjoyment of their home, and that the rent is reasonable. Of course there might be a debate about what a reasonable rent is, but the first two are givens.