When you're a tenant it can feel as if your landlord always has the upper hand, and is always wanting more from you - rent, extra costs, and toeing the line with the property.
This might be concerning a usual landlord for a short term lease, but also longer ones where you technically own the property but you still have an ultimate landlord, freeholder, or management company.
Subconsciously you can therefore pass all the responsibility to the landlord, particularly when it comes to them chasing you for payment. After all it's for their benefit and you shouldn't have to do their job for them.
Alas, reality can be different. Although legislation does help protect tenants and leaseholders generally, when it comes to basic principles within the lease in black and white then these still apply.
And one issue is a landlord needing payment on a due date, full stop. Although an invoice can be helpful and good practice, this often does not mean a certain payment is needed by a certain date by the tenant.
Therefore tenants and leaseholders be aware, and make sure you're on the ball with telling your landlord how to literally contact you, as invoices and important invoices can end up at completely the wrong address.
A Residential Example
Take a long leaseholder who purchases a flat on a lease and who expects to receive ground rent and service charge invoices to pay. These never appear, and then months later you suddenly receive a solicitors letter not only requesting payment but hundreds of pounds in legal fees on top.
And this might be down to the landlord simply having an old address and not being able to trace the new owner's address, particularly if, say, a buy-to-let and they live off-site. All kinds of land registry searches and owner-traces are then triggered and charged for, plus interest and administration time.
This can be very common for new-build flats unfortunately, particularly where the freehold changes and ground-rent is charged separately to the service charge. It isn't nice, but technically they may be able to get away with it.
To make things even more complicated, if you have a pending sale and apparent arrears then this can cause a spanner in the sales cog.
Some Pointers to Get it Right
Therefore as a leaseholder tenant, here are some pointers to keep ahead of the game and deter any further action and charges from your superior landlord interest. Although it might not appear fair to have to do this, and you may want to benefit from delayed payment, it's still worth looking into and being one step ahead.
1. Remember Every Issue
This is seen time and time again unfortunately, leaseholders and tenants not knowing what they need to pay.
It might not only be basic rent or ground rent, but service charge and insurance premium, and maybe from different parties.
Therefore get all these understood, and each party who you need to pay and liaise with bottomed out and on your list of ones to contact.
2. Get the Payments
This may sound blatantly obvious, but once you know what is due, then pay it when it's due.
Don't rely upon receiving an invoice or letter as a reminder; that can follow afterwards and be more of an accounting help. Dig down into the lease or paperwork, know how often these are due, and then make sure you pay it, either by setting up regular arrangements with your bank or diarising to pay when due.
3. Inform New Contact Details
Next step, tell every party when you move or have new contact details, even new email addresses and telephone numbers.
Remember that until they know this, they won't automatically know otherwise how to contact you, that simple. If you pay on time anyway as above then the pressure’s off, but when you don't and they can't then contact you, you're in trouble.
And remember to make clear, to be in writing, and to send to the correct person and contact.
4. Plan-B Contact Details
If you can't communicate contact details for whatever reasons then see what other options exist to make sure everyone still receives communication.
So you might need to set up a forwarding address through the post office, or ensure people at the property always pass on post for you to regularly collect.
Even with emails and telephone numbers, maybe look into diverting these or at least a message back to senders saying no longer applicable.
5. Full Contact Details
Go the extra mile and give other contact information beyond a basic address, namely email address and telephone numbers.
And go even further and add back-up people contacts for, say, an emergency, or alternative addresses if for example you're based abroad and quick communication is required.
6. Get it all in Writing
This is a classic, but make sure you get the changes in writing to the right person. This is not so much to make sure they know, but that there is clear back-up to prove afterwards in case there are any issues.
In actual fact it's often worth old-fashioned phone-calls and conversations to make sure the right person does know and makes notes, but with the back-up documentation still being needed afterwards.
7. Agreed Payments
Remember that communication is key, and that once you have this nailed and a clear understating on what's due then you can get more practical with how actual payments are needed.
So maybe look at payment plans and even by different forms, and although it may appear most beneficial to use a lack of response as an excuse for this, in actual fact being honest and dealing with this now can help a genuine dialogue with your immediate landlord about when an actual payment is due or issue resolved.
Having a Hassle Free Lease
Therefore with whatever lease you hold, no matter who long or short, then make sure your landlord clearly has the correct contact details for you. This can be both a formal address and details, or more informal telephone numbers and email address.
Once completed then the responsibility falls back to the landlord.
And even if you don't do this all of the time, as a bare minimum make sure this is communicated at key dates like when you first take over a lease, and when you genuinely move address and change contact details.
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