What to do if your tenants aren't paying the rent

Tenants who don't pay their rent, or who fail to pay on time, can be one of the most frustrating and time-consuming aspects of being a landlord.

And while some may argue it's par for the course when running a rental property, the costs involved trying to fix the problem of a non-paying tenant can be hugely damaging.

But as frustrating as it is, there is a process you need to follow as a landlord when dealing with a tenant not paying rent in the UK.

It's important to remember your tenants have rights as much as you have a right to expect your rent in full and on time, as per your tenancy agreement.


Tenants not paying rent on time? Here's what to do

Problems with tenants not paying the rent, unfortunately, can end in eviction procedures.

And this can be both costly and time-consuming as a landlord.

So, not only are there other resolutions to try before reaching this stage, it could also save you time and money trying to help your tenant in the first instance.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure and the best way to ensure your tenants pay the rent on time is to choose good tenants for your rental property.

That means adequate screening and vetting and this is best done through a lettings agent.

But if you do find yourself with tenants who are not paying the rent on time, there are steps you can take...


Establish the problem

The first thing to do is to find out why your tenant has stopped paying the rent.

And remember, the problem could be as simple as forgetfulness or perhaps a failure to set up a standing order correctly.

So, with that in mind, be nice when you contact your tenant, preferably by phone, to discuss what's happened.

If you can't reach the tenant by phone, try a text or WhatsApp message and politely request they call you.

If you are able to reach them, discuss the problem calmly and try to be sympathetic to the reasons why your tenant is not paying the rent owed.

Suggest a way forward

Once you have clarity on the reasons why your tenant is not paying their rent on time, suggest a way forward.

This could be recommending a payment plan so your tenant can pay off any arrears over a period of time.

Or you could suggest they appoint a guarantor, if they don’t have one already.

Be absolutely clear, however, that further action could be taken if your tenant falls behind with their rent again and put everything discussed verbally in writing.

If you have still been unable to contact your tenant, you should write to them...


A letter for tenants not paying rent on time

If your tenant is at least month behind with their rent and you have been unable to contact them in person to discuss the issue, it’s time to write them a letter.

This should either be posted First Class or hand delivered to the property.

Outline to the tenant that they are in arrears, be clear on the amount owed and insist that the amount is payable immediately to avoid further action being taken.


Write again if your tenant still doesn't respond

If 14 days passes and you have still had no contact with your tenant and they have not settled their arrears, you should write again - both to the tenant and their guarantor if they have one.

Outline once more the amount owed and if your tenant is now at least two months in arrears, be clear that the Housing Act 1988 allows you to take legal action to regain possession of your property unless the amount is paid immediately.

Confirm you are taking legal action

If your tenant has still not cleared their arrears and 21 days has passed, you should write a final time to confirm you will be taking legal action if the outstanding rent is not paid immediately.


Serve a section 8 eviction notice

You should follow official eviction procedures to a tee to avoid problems further down the legal process when regaining possession of your property.

A section 8 notice should be served on your tenant, informing them they have 14 days to pay their outstanding rent or be taken to court.

As part of serving your tenant notice, you should clearly specify which term of the tenancy agreement they have broken, in this case failing to pay rent in full and on time, and stipulate a notice period for them to vacate the property.

If your tenant does not leave the property

Should your tenant not leave the property by the end of the section 8 notice period, you will have to apply to the court for a possession order.

An accelerated possession order, one not usually requiring a court date, can often be used if you are not making a claim for your tenant's rent arrears.

But if you are claiming for the rent owed, you should use a standard possession order procedure.

This is where the costs come in for landlords in this scenario, with a standard possession order claim costing between £325 and £355.

Court hearings and possession orders

If your tenant doesn't not challenge the possession application within 14 days, a judge will usually make an order (without a court hearing under accelerated possession) and set a date for a hearing.

At the hearing, the judge could make any number of decisions, including:

* Dismissing the case
* Adjourning the hearing for a future date
* Make an order

If the judge makes an order for possession, your tenant will be told to leave the property by a certain date.

A suspended order for possession means your tenants can stay in the property but only if they abide by the conditions set out in the order.

A money order means your tenant must pay you a set amount or face further action.

Warrant for possession

If your tenant does not leave the property by the date set in the possession order, you can ask the court for a warrant of possession which means a bailiff can evict the tenant if they do not leave by the date set in the warrant.


Illegal evictions

As we mentioned earlier in the piece, no matter how frustrating a tenant not paying rent can be, it's important to correctly follow all procedures when dealing with the problem.

You should not harass your tenant, or stop any services to the property such as electricity or gas and certainly should not use aggressive tactics to either evict them or claim the money owed in rent arrears.

You should also give the correct notice periods when starting eviction proceedings.

For further advice on dealing with tenants in rent arrears, contact your local CJ Hole branch who will be happy to help.


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