What do I do if my tenant stops paying the rent?

publication date: Jun 25, 2014
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

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What do I do if my tenant stops paying the rent?

Hopefully we are on an upward curve post-recession so fewer tenants will struggle to pay rent. However we are all still feeling the effects of the financial turmoil caused by the credit crunch and according to LSL, cases of tenants severely behind on rent have fallen by 35%.

However this still means 68,000 people are seriously behind with their rent, which means that they owe landlords more than two months rent.

The other good news is that evictions at the end of 2013 via the courts fell by 3%. 

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Here are our top ten tips of what to do if your tenant stops paying rent:-
  1. Check the tenancy agreement and identify the key steps you can/need to take when a tenant stops paying the rent. 
  2. If you have a letting agent acting on your behalf, ideally visit them (or via phone) and agree a strategy of what you/they are going to do and when.  
  3. Check your Landlord Insurance Policy to see if you are covered for a tenant defaulting on payment. 
  4. Immediately contact the tenant via phone or visit (ensuring you give notice as per your agreement if visiting). 
  5. Find out why the tenant hasn’t paid and set a deadline for the tenant to pay the monies. 
  6. If there is a guarantor, advise in writing and by phone that the tenant has defaulted. 
  7. Identify whether the tenant isn’t paying because of a short term problem or whether they won’t be able to pay on-going. 
  8. If you need to evict the tenant, speak to them to see if they will leave the property so you can re-let the property to a paying tenant (but ensure you abide by the rules laid out in the rental agreement). 
  9. If required, start eviction procedures according to the tenancy agreement which includes a Section 8 Notice that advises the tenant they have 14 days to pay the rent. 
  10. If the tenant doesn’t make good on their payments within the 14 days, issue a Section 21 Notice which gives two months' notice to the tenant that you are ending the agreement.

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Evicting tenants isn’t necessarily a DIY job!
Although the legal process can be frustrating and take up to six months to evict a tenant, it’s important to make sure you follow the procedure to evict a tenant laid out in your tenancy agreement.

This legal process has to be adhered to. For example, the right paperwork has be issued at the right time, with the right dates on it. What are they?

Well that depends on what is in your contract.

It is also important to know that you are evicting the tenant for the right reasons from a legal perspective. If any of your paperwork is wrong or you can’t prove the reasons for the eviction, it is likely to get thrown out in court and then you will have to start the whole process again.

Meanwhile your tenant can stay where they are.

I always think, unless you know what you are doing, make sure you leave it to the experts to do this. Laws change, so ‘what you did last time’ won’t necessarily work ‘this time’.

Companies such as Landlord Action and Landlord Law offer help if you want to do things yourself or a fixed fee service if you want to leave it to the professionals.

You can’t just kick someone out!
Only a court can conclude that the tenant must leave your property and only bailiffs, sometimes supported by the police can ensure that the tenant leaves.

If you try to evict the tenant in any way and do so against the legal proceedings set out in the tenancy agreement, you could actually forfeit your right to be able to evict the tenant, so it’s not worth the risk!

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All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner, author of Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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