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When a Tenant Won’t Pay Rent- The Rules

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Since the changes in tenant eviction laws last year, it has been very difficult to evict tenants on the grounds of anti-social behaviour. The first ever tenants were evicted on these grounds in February 2015.

This means we have seen a lot on the news recently about problematic tenants, however not all of our questions have been answered. What are your rights as a landlord if your tenant simply won’t pay their rent?

It can be very discouraging as a landlord to feel like you don’t have a leg to stand on, however there are legal options for landlords who are being refused rent. You have to understand what you can and can’t do in these circumstances although your frustration may sometimes get the better of you.

You may be tempted to resort to drastic measures, however you will have more success by following specific procedures. If you have reached the point where there is no negotiation with the tenant, or you have tried to be reasonable for too long, the only choice is to go through the eviction process.

To go through the eviction process, you will have to of acted professionally and fairly throughout the tenants time in your property. You should never resort to the following:

  • Turning off utilities.
  • Physically removing tenants.
  • Locking tenants out.

Although it may seem that the court would understand these measures, they have the eviction procedure in place for a reason and they will not look positively on this kind of behaviour. You could be charged guilty of ‘harassing or illegally evicting your tenants’ if you don’t follow the correct procedures.

As well as damaging your case, this can also give the tenants reason to file a counter case against you. There are many reasons why a tenant can file a court case against you you if you attempt any of these methods. You can be accused of causing emotional distress, trespassing, damaging property (food etc.) and assault.

Although the eviction option seems long and difficult, it can be the only way to either encourage your tenants to pay or ensure that you can replace them with people who will willing pay you’re your rent. At the end of the day this is your profession and there are only so many favours that you can give.

First of all, warn your tenants that you are considering this option by sending them a Pay or Quit notice. This means you have legally informed the individual that they will have to vacate the property if they don’t pay. Although it may seem best to hand deliver the letter, it is best to use tracked delivery through a courier so that you have evidence that they have received it, otherwise the tenant can argue that you didn’t make them aware of the situation.

There will be a time period on the Pay or Quit notice which you posted, after this time is up, you should file for eviction if the tenant has not fully vacated or paid you the full amount of rent owed.

In some cases, tenants may make it look like they have vacated the property in hope you do not attend the court proceedings so that they can legally re-enter the property afterwards. You should still attend the court hearing if it looks this way to be sure that the eviction process has been completed and you have the right to make the tenant leave the property.

You will now need to prepare for court. Once you have filed for eviction, a court date will be organised and you will need to present all of the evidence which you have gathered above.

Essential Evidence is:

  • Bank Statement (Proof of no payment)
  • Tenant Contract (Signed by tenant)
  • Proof of Pay or Quit Delivery

You may need more pieces of evidence depending on the nature of your case.

If you have already taken out Rent Guarantee Insurance, your rent may be protected whilst you are going through the eviction process, in addition, the legal Expenses Cover under the Rent Guarantee policy should meet all solicitor and court costs accruing. It is important to assess these risk when you become a landlord and make sure you have the proper cover in place before something goes wrong. UKinsuranceNET offer competitive rates for Rent Guarantee Insurance.

If you are having any other problems with tenants, here is the procedure you can follow:

Assured Shorthold Tenancies-

  • Present a Section 21 notice to quit. If they’ve broken the terms of the tenancy give them a Section 8 notice of seeking possession specifying which terms they’ve broken.
  • Apply to the court for a standard possession order if your tenants don’t leave by the specified date. You can apply for an accelerated possession order if you’re not claiming any unpaid rent.
  • Apply for a warrant for possession if your tenants still won’t leave - this means bailiffs can remove the tenants from your property.

Have a clear tenancy agreement which outline what kind of behaviour is unacceptable. This includes behaviour that could affect neighbours and the property itself.

Excluded Tenancies or Licences-

It is not necessary to go through the courts if you have an excluded tenancy or license. You only need to give them ‘reasonable notice’ to quit. Reasonable notice usually means the length of the rental payment period, so if your tenants pay rent weekly you can give them one week’s notice. The notice doesn’t have to be in writing. You can then change the locks on their rooms, even if they still have belongings in there.

Assured and Regulated Tenancies-

If your tenants started their tenancy before 27 February 1997, they might have an assured or regulated tenancy. You’ll then have to follow different rules to evict them and they’ll have increased protection from eviction.

Please visit gov.uk for more details and seek professional advice.

If you have found this article useful, you may also enjoy reading How Can Tenants and Landlords Get Along.

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