This is a nightmare scenario for a landlord, a tenant who doesn’t pay the rent but refuses to leave. What do you do?
Act fast, because the longer you wait to tackle rent arrears, the greater the debt.
But before you start eviction proceedings for rent arrears, bear in mind that evicting a tenant can take several months, you could end up with legal fees that dwarf the rent arrears, and the whole process can be extremely stressful.
Far better to reach an amicable settlement for rent arrears with your tenant, if at all possible.
In the first instance, try to talk to the tenant to find out why they’re not paying their rent. Have they lost their job, are they sick, do they need some breathing space?
If it seems they simply have a short-term cash-flow problem, it might be a good idea to reach an agreement that allows them to pay off the rent arrears month by month, rather than evicting them.
Suggesting they set up a standing order to pay their rent, including the arrears, might help. Perhaps you should also suggest they check if they’re entitled to any benefits to cover their rent?
If they have a guarantor, contact them as soon as you’re aware of any problems and ask them to make up the rent arrears. Don’t wait until the debt grows, they’d prefer to nip the problem in the bud.
If you’re sure you need to get the tenant out, you MUST follow the correct legal procedure and this involves serving them with the correct notice.
If you need to evict a tenant during the fixed term of the contract, you’ll have to issue them with a Section 8 notice. You can only do this if they have done something wrong, including rent arrears.
If the fixed term of the contract has ended, you can serve them with a Section 21 “no fault” notice, which is the usually the fastest and easiest way to get rid of a rogue tenant. You can always chase the tenant for the rent arrears once you’ve got them out.
Bear in mind that if a tenant doesn’t leave after the notice period has ended, you’ll have to apply to court to have them evicted. This can be expensive and it might take months, so it might be better to reach an out of court settlement with the tenant, including possibly writing-off their rent arrears if they agree to leave of their own accord.
While allowing your tenant to leave behind a debt might stick in your craw, remember the most important thing is to get your property back and get it re-let as fast as possible, but make sure you don’t do anything to harass or – heaven forbid – threaten your tenant, otherwise you’ll find it’s you, not them, who are on the wrong side of the law!