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Remedies When Your Tenants Stop Paying The Rent

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There may be a very good reason why your tenant has not paid their rent. However, our Landlord and Tenant Solicitors are equally aware that landlords have mortgages, service charges, building insurance and a whole host of other bills to pay on the property they rent out.

In this blog, our Landlord and Tenant Solicitors look at your options and remedies if your tenant stops paying their rent.

Online and London Landlord and Tenant Solicitors

For landlord and tenant legal advice call the experts at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

Think ahead

It may be too late this time but next time you are letting out a property think about:

  • Whether sufficient credit checks have been carried out or if the credit check results have been properly considered
  • If you could or should have asked for rent in advance. For example, where a tenant has sold their house and has cash but is self-employed or does not have a great credit record
  • If you should have asked for a guarantor to pay the rent if the tenant was unable to do so. Some tenants can put forward a parent or other relative to stand as guarantor
  • If you had a tenancy agreement professionally drawn up and the rent payment provisions
  • Taking pictures of the property before the start of the tenancy agreement and making an inventory
  • Ensuring that landlord inspections are carried out in accordance with the tenancy agreement terms
  • Keeping evidence of rent payments. This can be particularly important when a tenant is not paying by direct debit or when there are times when the payment does not come through on time
  • Keeping a record of all conversations with the tenant. For example, a text if the tenant messaged to say that their rent would be late and your response
  • Thinking about the simplicity of the tenancy agreement. You may get more rent by letting individual rooms to tenants but is the associated admin and issues when an individual tenant fails to pay their rent worth the extra hassle
  • Did you take a deposit and follow the deposit rules as the deposit may cover some of the rent arrears if the tenant leaves the property
  • If landlord insurance would be a good option to cover the rent if the tenant fails to pay

These suggestions may be too late this time round but whether you are a professional landlord or an accidental landlord renting out your privately owned home it is best to be honest and ask yourself if you can afford for a tenant not to pay their rent and, if you can't, whether there is a way around the potential problem.

For example, you may have ruled out landlord insurance as too expensive but would you be able to increase the rent in the next tenancy agreement to cover the insurance premiums to give you some peace of mind? Some insurance policies cover the loss of rent and help with the legal costs of evicting a tenant. It is worth checking the exclusions on the policy before you take it out so you are not incorrectly led to believe that the rental non-payment isn’t a problem.

Why is the rent in arrears

Asking why the rent is in arrears is a good question. You may not get a straight or honest answer. However, if your tenant is normally reliable and has a short-term financial issue you may be able to work out the problem without losing a good tenant. It is worth balancing the cost of starting possession proceedings, the cost of redecorating and recarpeting a property after normal wear and tear, and the risk that any new tenant will be asking for ‘’repairs’’ on matters that the previous tenant had no issues with.

Landlord and Tenant Solicitors stress that if you are going to communicate with a tenant about rent arrears you should keep a record of any visits, texts, emails or letters. Any correspondence should be kept professional and courteous even though you may be upset about the rent arrears or worried because the arrears put you in a financial bind.

Courtesy is best because a tenant can allege that their landlord has harassed them. Your idea of calling around to discuss non-rent payment may appear to be friendly communication but, to the tenant, it could be perceived as intimidation in their home. Perceptions can differ so if you are not using a professional letting agent it is best to stick to written communications or, if you have spoken over the phone, to follow the call up with a quick text or email to summarise what you have agreed. For example, the tenant may have verbally promised that the rent arrears will be paid within a fortnight.

If a tenant’s circumstances have changed and they can no longer pay their rent then early communication may establish that and with the help of a letter from a Landlord and Tenant Solicitor you may be able to reach an agreement that their tenancy agreement ends early so they vacate the premises without the need for possession proceedings. This may be a particularly attractive option if the tenant’s situation is not going to improve and they will not be able to repay rent arrears built up whilst waiting for an eviction order or if you think that finding a new tenant will be relatively straightforward.

Solicitor letters for rent arrears

If communication with your tenant has not resulted in an agreement to pay the rent arrears and to pay the rent on time a solicitors letter may be required. Sometimes a formal letter is all it takes for a tenant to understand the consequences of not complying with their tenancy agreement and to ensure the rent is paid on time in the future.

If a tenant does not pay the rent arrears within 14 days and remains in the property a further letter can be sent advising of the intention to start possession proceedings. If the tenant has a guarantor they can also be written to.

Possession proceedings for rent arrears

At present, you can either serve a Section 21 notice or a Section 8 notice on your tenant to give notice of intention to start possession proceedings.

Although it may be tempting to think that you can go into the property whilst the tenant is out and change the locks because the tenant has lost all moral claim to tenant rights because the rent is in arrears, the law does not allow this.

A Section 21 Notice is a no-fault eviction notice. It gives notice of intention to repossess the property either at the end of a fixed-term tenancy or at any time during a periodic tenancy with no fixed end date. The notice cannot be served within the first 4 months of the tenancy agreement or if a landlord has not met their obligations. To secure possession under Section 21 you do not need to prove the rent arrears.

With a Section 8 notice, a landlord needs to prove the grounds for eviction, namely rent arrears if the tenant has failed to pay rent in accordance with the tenancy agreement. The tenant may be in breach of other aspects of the tenancy agreement. For example, anti-social behaviour. Evidence is required to prove the rent arrears or tenancy breaches.

Sometimes serving a notice prompts a tenant to leave voluntarily as they know you are serious about obtaining possession. If not, you may need a Landlord and Tenant Solicitor to start the possession proceedings to secure an order. A court has the power to order the rent arrears to be paid and to continue the tenancy provided the rent is paid. In other cases, a court will make a possession order so the tenant can eventually be evicted.

Starting possession proceedings is not something that most landlords want to do. That’s why at OTS Solicitors our Landlord and Tenant Solicitors look at all your options. If there is no alternative to an order for possession, we will start the proceedings and pursue them as efficiently and as swiftly as possible.

How OTS Solicitors can help you

At OTS Solicitors our landlord and tenant lawyers can help you with:

  • Section 8 notices for rent arrears
  • Section 21 notices
  • Possession proceedings
  • Eviction orders
  • Landlord and tenant disputes
  • Deposit and disrepair disputes
  • Harassment claims by tenants
  • Tenancy agreement advice so you understand your landlord's obligations
  • Advice on fixed-term and rolling tenancies

Online and London Landlord and Tenant Solicitors

For landlord and tenant legal advice call the experts at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

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