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How to Resolve Tenancy Issues

By Donna Jones

When an issue with your tenant arises, it’s important that you deal with it promptly and appropriately. Disputes that landlords commonly need to address include:

  • Tenant failing to make rent payments or paying late
  • Inadequate maintenance of the property
  • More people living in the home than stated in the rental agreement
  • Tenant requesting repairs or upgrades that seem unreasonable

There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with tenancy disputes. By following the process recommended by the Tenancy Services Board, you will be more likely to resolve concerns in an amicable manner. In addition, should the issue need to go before the Tenancy Tribunal, you are more likely to achieve a favourable outcome if you have followed the correct process. Below we have outlined the four options available for resolving tenancy disputes.

Self-Resolution

Self-resolution involves sorting out the problem simply by talking to your tenant. If you wish to use this process, you should set up a meeting with your tenant at a time and place that is convenient for both parties. Trying to resolve issues by email, phone, text messages, or letters can lead to misunderstandings, so we recommend a face-to-face meeting to ensure that your concerns are properly understood.

When you meet with your tenant, calmly outline your concerns and then suggest ways they can be resolved. Be prepared to hear your tenant’s side of the story, too. The self-resolution process shows your tenant that you want to work together to find a solution and preserve a good relationship.

If you reach an agreement, you should write down what was agreed upon and have both parties sign and date the document. If you feel that your agreement needs to be legally binding (e.g. to ensure collection of rent arrears), you can apply for a FastTrack Resolution.

If you are unable to resolve the issue by talking it out, you can issue a 14-day “Notice to Remedy.” Should the tenant fail to address the issue within 14 days, you can apply to have a mediator or the Tenancy Tribunal hear your case and help sort out the issue.

FastTrack Resolution

FastTrack Resolution is a quick and easy way to formalise an agreement between you and your tenants. It is used most often when a tenant has fallen behind in rent payments, but can also be used for other purposes. This process is appropriate in situations where:

  • The agreement is straightforward
  • The landlord and tenant need the agreement to be formalised
  • A previous agreement has failed and either party desires a more formal process

FastTrack Resolution involves three steps, as follows:

  1. Reach an agreement – After you and your tenant have come to an agreement on how to resolve the tenancy issue, you should draft a written agreement. This must contain the following details: the amount of money owed by the tenant, details on how/when the debt will be paid, date of payments and penalties for missing a payment.
  2. Let the tenant know you are applying for FastTrack – Make sure your tenant knows that you will be formalising the resolution through the FastTrack Resolution process. A mediator will contact the tenant within two days of the application to confirm the contents of the agreement, so be sure to check your tenant’s availability and verify contact info.
  3. Apply for your FastTrack order – Finally, submit your application by completing the Tenancy Tribunal’s FastTrack Resolution application

After you submit the application, a Tenancy Services mediator will contact your tenant to make sure they agree to the terms and understand the implications of the agreement. The mediator then creates a mediator’s order, which must be signed by the tenant and landlord. If the tenant disputes the order, the mediator will work with both parties to come to an agreement.

Mediation

Mediation should be used if you are having problems coming to an agreement with your tenant. A mediation appointment can be set up faster than a Tribunal hearing and is less formal than going to court. The outcome of the mediation process is a legally binding document that can be enforced by the courts if necessary. During mediation, you and your tenant are in charge of the outcome. The mediator is only there to facilitate the conversation.

If you wish to use mediation to resolve a tenancy dispute, you will first complete an online application with the Tenancy Tribunal. The Tribunal will then determine the type of mediation needed (telephone or face-to-face) and schedule the meeting with you and your tenant. You will be given information on how to prepare for the meeting. During the mediation session, the mediator will ask both parties to share their side of the story, provide relevant info, discuss solutions, and then help you come to an agreement. The mediator can’t make decisions for you, but he or she will mediate the process to ensure that a fair outcome is achieved.

After the session, the mediator prepares an agreement known as a ‘”mediated order.” If the order needs to be made legal and binding, the order is sent to the Tenancy Tribunal where it is reviewed and signed by a Tribunal adjudicator. If the agreement is broken, then the courts will be able to enforce the issue.  When a decision cannot be reached during mediation, a Tribunal Tenancy court hearing will be required.

Tenancy Tribunal

A Tenancy Tribunal hearing may be necessary if you have been unable to resolve a dispute with your tenant through any of the methods listed above. If you want to learn more, read the post we wrote about the types of decisions made by the Tenancy Tribunal. The Tribunal is able to formalize a mediated order and issue new orders that are legally binding. To apply for a hearing, you’ll need to fill out an online application with the Tenancy Tribunal. Be sure that your application is complete, accurate, and includes any requested documentation.

Tenancy Tribunal hearings are heard in court, but they tend to be less formal than other court hearings. Nonetheless, you’ll need to be sworn in, present evidence, have a witness testify (if desired) and answer any questions presented by the adjudicator. Your tenant will have the same opportunity to present his/her side of the story. After hearing all of the evidence, the adjudicator will make a decision on your case and issue an order to resolve the dispute. Both parties will receive a copy of the order and are required to obey the order.

How we can help

Our goal is to help our landlords and tenants avoid disputes in the first place. We do this by creating solid rental agreements and ensuring that both parties understand what is expected of them. We also carefully screen rental candidates to ensure that only the best tenants will occupy our clients’ homes. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you find success as a landlord, please contact us today.

Pictures

Handshake by 드림포유, CC BY-ND 2.0

Contract by Jan Truter, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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