Tenants have stopped paying rent and don't reply to letters

#1
The situation is that I have two flats rented to two related familes. The lead tenant of one flat is the guarantor for the other tenancy. The ASTs on both flats (started on 01-oct-13 and 12-oct-13 respectively) are for one year with a break period after six months. Apart from the first month's rent paid in advance, the tenants have always been late with rent payments. I wrote to both tenants (with proof of posting) on 04-feb-14 and 03-mar-14 requesting payment of rent due. One tenant has responded requesting patience as they are applying for housing assistance. The other tenant (who is the guarantor) has not reponded. Both tenants have now stopped paying rent and there is now 3 months arrears on both tenancy.

How many times can I write to them before it is considered harassment?
Am I allowed to visit the properties to discuss the arrears and payment plans? If the tenant will not respond to letters then obviously I cannot get 48 hours approval for a visit, which is what is specified in the AST.
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#2
Don't just write; and you should avoid visits (which T may well see as harassment, even if that's untrue).

Instead, serve both with a Notice under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. Cite grounds 8/10/11 (in Schedule 2 to the Act) and ensure that you give full details of the unpaid rent. Do not use the words "rent arrears"; say "unpaid rent", which does not mean the same thing. Those grounds all relate to rent; if T refuses you reasonable access, add ground 12 too.
 
#3
Hi Jeffrey,

Many thanks for your prompt reply. Do I need to serve the Section 8 on all tenants named in the ASTs or just the lead tenants?

Also, would it be better to wait until after 22nd April, when L can apply for a cost order to recover the (increased) court fees?
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#4
All Notices served by you as L (whether under s.8, s.21, or otherwise) should be:
a. addressed to all tenants; and
b. served on them both at the premises that you let to them AND at any later addresses known to you.

Best practice is to serve two copies for each, sent from different Post Offices and each with a Certificate of Posting. This CoP procedure is better than Recorded Delivery ("Signed For"); if you use RD, the addressee might:
a. refuse to accept delivery; or
b. be out when Royal Mail call and then fail to request re-delivery (or to call at the Sorting Office to collect).
 
#5
Just so that I am clear in my understanding...
I serve an S8 (citing both tenants) on both tenants in flat 1.
Each tenant gets a copy posted from a different post office (with certificate of posting)

Similarly, for the two tenants in flat 2.

Out of courtesy, I send a copy of the S8 for flat 2 to the lead tenant of flat 1 as he is the guarantor for the tenants in flat 2.

Should I wait until after April 22nd to serve the notices?
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#6
Yes, that's it. Treat each case separately and ensure that what you sent to the guarantor for flat2 is clearly marked as being re flat2. Serving a s.8 Notice is not beginning court proceedings; I've no idea whether the costs order would date from service of the Notice or from lodging Court application, however.
 
#7
Dear Jeffrey,

In April, following meetings with the Housing Officer at the LA, I agreed not to issue the S21s but give both sets of Ts until 6th July 2014 to bring the accounts back into order. Meanwhile, both sets of Ts have made some contributions towards the rent. The payment trends looked encouraging and I agreed to let them continue to remain in the flats. Since then there have been minimal contributions. At the beginning of the year (January/February) both sets of Ts applied to the LA for housing benefit to pay the rent but these application for Flat 2 has not been processed yet. I do not know about Flat 1.

Date Unpaid Rent
Flat 1 01-May-14 £730
06-Jul-14 £850
15-Sep-14 £2710

Flat 2 01-May-14 £2220
06-Jul-14 £840
15-Sep-14 £1940

Yesterday I received an undated letter contining the two sets of keys that I had issued (delivered First Class)from the Lead T from Flat 1...
Dear Geremy it me Roman Im sending you yor your keys because last Sunday I went away and the house how you have gived it to me and Im giving it back to you the house is clean and everything is good there. Thek Thenk you for reading.

So Ts in Flat 1 have done a runner (although not very far as I have already found where they are now renting). The AST commenced on 12th October 2013 and expires on 11th October 2014. There is a Break Clause in the AST which states
Any time after the six months of the initial term of this tenancy the landlord or his agent and tenant may invoke this break clause by providing a minimum of two months written notice to either party (such notice to expire on the last day of a rental period of the tenancy). At the end of such notice the tenancy shall end and all obligations and responsibilities shall cease, subject nevertheless to any claim by either party against the other in respect of any breach of the terms and conditions of the agreement.
I have not been given 2 months notice.

Additionally, the sate of the flat is not "clean and everything is good" there is a significant amount of furniture left behind e.g. sofa, mattress, cupboards, toys, cabinets, microwave etc. and some furniture has been removed e.g. dishwasher, table and chairs. Linoleum has been stuck down on top of parquet flooring, Kitchen units and white goods have been covered with sticky backed plastic. Food was left in the freezer (which was switched off) which was crawling with maggots etc.

There is also evidence of pets having been kept at the flat which is in contravention of the AST

Finally, There is strong evidence from the neighbours that the Ts were sub-letting Flat 1 as well as living there themselves. This is supported by unopened post addressed to the flat. Some people say that there were as many as 20 people living there at times. As a landlord, I do try and respect the fact that it is their "home" and do inspections annually rather than more frequently, but I think I have learnt my lesson here.

The AST does allow for additional people to live there, if the landlord gives prior written approval; in which case an additional £200 per month per person is chargeable. This is meant to be a deterrent and I have only once charged a tenant before.

Summary
1. Can I assume that the undated letter was posted on Saturday 13th September 2014?
2. Does the undated letter constitute a notice to end the tenancy?
3. Does the tenancy end on...
a) the date the undated letter was deemed to have been posted​
b) the date I received the letter​
c) the expiry date on the AST​
d) 2 months from the date the letter was deemed to have been posted​
e) 2 months from the date I received the letter​
4. Can the residual from the Tenancy Deposit be used against unpaid rent?
5. Has the tenancy ended and can I put the property back on the rental market?
6. What is my best course of action?

Best Regards
Jeremy
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#8
Sorry but this is now way too legally detailed for website advice to be enough. PH is not intended as a substitute for the services of a solicitor.
You need proper paid-for advice instead.