A LANDLORD’S NIGHTMARE
There can be nothing that a landlord fears more than a tenant who suddenly stops paying their rent. In this situation what should a landlord do? Firstly don’t panic, you are not alone. Many landlords will have tenants who from time to time stop paying rent.
Effective monitoring system
The first thing that landlords should ensure is that they have an effective monitoring system in place so that missed payments are picked up early. Early detection is vital so that the landlord can take proactive steps to safeguard their residential investment property. With the advent of internet banking, landlords can monitor their account on a daily if not hourly basis for rental payments received. Hourly monitoring is probably excessive but certainly a weekly glance will ensure that late payments are spotted within days rather than weeks or months.
Once a landlord has spotted that there is a problem. They should act immediately. The landlord should either speak to the tenant or go round to their residential investment property and discuss the problem. The landlord should ascertain the tenant’s situation and the reasons for non payment and if the tenant can make a payment to bring their account up to date. By visiting the residential investment property this gives the landlord the opportunity to give the investment property a quick inspection and ensure that their residential investment property is still in good repair and nothing untoward is going on.
Reasons for non payment
What are their reasons for non-payment? Do they seem genuine? Has there been a change in the tenant’s personal circumstances such as change of job, or unemployment? The landlord should try and find out as much as possible. Then it is a case of agreeing with the tenant a course of action. This could be bringing the tenant’s rental account up to date by a series of small additional rental payments; or arranging for the tenant to make a single payment to pay off the tenants entire rental arrears. Try and get all this in writing & then get the tenant to sign it. This written evidence will be useful as part of any audit trail should the case go to court. You never know, the landlord may be lucky and their sheer presence is enough to encourage the tenant to pay up the full balance there and then.
A landlord shouldn’t spend lots of time negotiating with the tenant. This will only give the tenant more time to rack up large debts. The landlord needs to act incisively even if they are strongly convinced of the tenants’ promises to pay.
Landlords should seek possession by either issuing a section 21possession notice
(accelerated) in the case where a fixed term tenancy has ended or will come to an end after the expiry of the 2 month notice period or a section 8 notice (fault based).
If the tenant is more than 2 months in arrears then using a section 8 notice is preferable as this constitutes not only a mandatory ground for possession , it also means that the landlord can also include a claim for unpaid rent.
Landlords should be aware that in both cases that possession wont be granted by the courts until 6 months after the commencement of an assured shorthold tenancy.
By acting in this incisive way the landlord want have lost valuable time if the tenants promises of payment turn out to be just that.
The act of serving the notices correctly by the landlord will often cause the tenant to disappear.
The landlord should always try and maintain a courteous relationship with the tenant during this difficult time. Advise the tenant to obtain assistance if appropriate. The local authority Social Services Department will give advice on Housing Benefit payments, there are also the Housing Advice Centre, and the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux (CAB).
Landlords should endeavour even during legal proceedings to keep in contact with the tenant and use any opportunity to glean as much up to date information on the tenants as possible. This information will be vital should the tenants decide to do a ‘flit’ and disappear and then the landlord has to issue legal proceedings to recover their losses. The information is particularly useful when trying to trace a tenant that has disappeared or when trying to reclaim rent arrears are:
- National insurance number
- Work details
- Correct name
- Residential address
- Date of birth
When tenants stop paying the rent particularly where there has been a significant change in their financial circumstances, landlords need to be realistic about their chance of recovering all of their monies. It is unlikely that landlords will ever recover all outstanding losses. In many rent arrears cases the best solution is often re-possession and for a landlord to re-let quickly to minimise their loss.
This is not to say that the task is impossible however, frequently landlords may feel that the law, the council, the tenant and the world is against them. This is where careful preparation & dogged determination by the landlord to see that justice is done will often be the defining features for a successful action to recover the landlords’ money.