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Tenants refuse to pay rent

Tenants refuse to pay rent

SKU: 5.21
  • Advice

    If your tenant doesn’t pay their rent, then you can begin eviction proceedings. Remember that you should remain professional and calm, or your tenants might be able to claim that you have harassed them, which will hinder your efforts to collect the rent you are owed. You should not enter the property without permission, or take other actions like removing belongings or changing locks.


    First step

    Simply speak to them to find out the reason for the late payment, if you have a good relationship with your tenant, you might consider coming to an alternative arrangement, such as a rent “holiday” or potentially reducing the rent for a period. If your tenant is going on benefits to cover their rent then please consider that these can take several weeks to get in place, it is suggested that you accompany the tenant to a meeting with the DWP and arrange for the rent, plus any arrears to be covered under the Third-Party Deduction scheme so that once their benefits are sorted the DWP pay the rent, plus some of the arrears directly to you out of their benefits. This reassures you of being paid (albeit in a few weeks) and means you can give the tenant some breathing room. It also ensures that while they remain on benefits the rent will be paid.


    If your tenant does not respond

    If you are unable to contact your tenant, or if they refuse to pay after you have spoken to them, the first thing you should do is send them a formal written demand that they pay their arrears immediately, and that any future rent should be paid on time. If you still do not receive the rent payment 14 days after it is due, send a follow-up letter. Try to contact your tenant’s guarantor if there is one. Their guarantor may be able to pay on their behalf or help you get in touch. If referees were provided as part of the renting process, they may also be in a position to help you get in touch with your tenant.


    Steps to take before legal action

    A record of past rent payments is especially helpful. You should, wherever possible try and contact your tenant.

    there are three key options to consider. 

    • Offer to set up a payment plan: Allow them to make up the months’ rent over 12 monthly payments, giving the tenant get back on their feet by slowly paying what is owed back to you.
    • Consider reducing the rent: This may not sound appealing but it would avoid the need to get the property back, readvertise it with an agent, cover the cost while the property is empty etc. This will depend on your personal feelings for the tenant.
    • End their contract: If the issue seems unresolvable it might be best to end their contract and begin to look for a new tenant.


    Letter sequence

    If there has been no polite response then we suggest the following letter sequence, how long you leave the gaps between is up to you but if the gap is very short (24hrs or so) and it ends up in court you could be seen as being unreasonable – as a guide, we would suggest leaving around 3 to 5 days between letters.

    • After the rent is 3 days late send them an informal polite letter letting them know.
    • Send an informal letter asking if there is a problem, and how you could help
    • Send a formal letter asking for a meeting
    • Formal letter asking for the outstanding rent to be paid within a period (state what you feel is fair). Explain that failure to pay is serious and that non-payment could ultimately result in court action. It's at this point we would suggest appointing us as an intermediary and informing them that we will be contacting, or visiting them to try and work out a fair solution.
    • If not using ourselves and the tenant has still not responded then the debt is 14 days old, we suggest personally sending (or instructing ourselves to send) them a further letter telling them that you intend to seek possession of your property if they don't pay within 7 days.
    • If they are still non-responsive then send (or instruct ourselves to send) them a further letter informing them that you are beginning court action to recover the property, court action should be commenced once this letter is delivered.


    Steps to take when beginning legal action

    Once your tenant is two months into rent arrears, you can begin the process of legally evicting them. Under the Housing Act 1988, you can serve a Section 8 notice on the grounds of rent arrears. Your tenant may dispute the eviction, so you need to be ready with evidence of unpaid rent and your efforts to resolve the issue. If your tenant ignores the service of this notice, then you should not delay taking them to court. If your tenant ignores your demands for rent, it is suggested that you pursue legal action to gain back your property and all the rent owed. The court will decide whether to allow the tenant more time or allow the eviction. The tenant may state they never got the letters, that you have been verbally abusive or made discriminatory remarks and so on, these are designed to weaken your case.


    This is where instructing a legal service provider such as ourselves can make all the difference, letters from ourselves are sent recorded delivery or hand-delivered by our staff, all communication would be non-emotional (we record all conversations, these can be played back or transcribed for the court). We would explain the situation in a non-confrontational manner to the court to resolve the issue. If the judgment is in your favour but they still don’t pay then if the tenant is working, we would ask the court to issue a warrant of Control, an Attachment of Earnings Order or a Third-Party Debt Order.


    How do you protect yourself as a landlord during this process?

    You want to make sure that even though you ensure that you are protected there are a list of things you should remember. 

    • Make sure you have Landlord insurance as they could help with the financial burden of your tenant not paying rent. 
    • If the tenancy ends with rent still outstanding, you might be able to deduct this from the tenant's deposit. Be sure you contact the tenancy deposit scheme holding your tenant's deposit before taking any money for more advice. 
    • Even if your tenants don't pay rent, you must ensure that you still don't enter the property without permission, change the locks or sign up any new tenants until the previous ones have left. 


    How we can help

    At Lestons we feel that early intervention can work wonders, our normal approach would be to visit the tenant to try and come to a solution, we would explain at the visit that we are there simply to discuss the matter (their instant reaction would be to think repossession or bailiff so we will reassure them this is not the case). We would report their situation to the landlord and take instructions. To gain our assistance simply create a case using the link on the top of the page activated by the link at the top of the page, should you wish to start a case the caseworker will send you the suitable payment link. Please note your caseworker can only give generic advice, their role is to prepare your details for handling by our legal team and to act as your point of contact.

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