If your tenant is refusing to pay their rent, there are several steps you can take, each with mounting severity. But the law is increasingly protective of tenant rights, not least in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s in your best interests to act compassionately wherever possible.
Talk to your tenant
Your first step should always be to talk to your tenant directly and without aggression. Rather than taking a teacherly approach, condemning the tenant for not paying their rent, it’s better to approach in a kind and understanding manner. This will help facilitate a more fruitful conversation and minimise conflict.
It’s important to ask why they are not paying rent. More often than not, it will be a change in personal circumstances that has turned a tenant who pays reliably into one who does not. They may have lost a job or had an unexpected financial hit due to a car accident, for example. In such cases, their tardiness in paying rent may be a temporary problem, one which you, as the landlord, can afford to wait out. In such cases, it can be good to allow the tenant some temporary respite in the understanding that they will repay what they owe once they are financially secure.
It might also be that your tenant has started a new job, one which pays them on a different day of the month than their old job. As such, their pay is coming in after rent is due, but just before all of their standing orders are coming out, thus leaving them with insufficient funds to pay you. In such a case, you could simply agree on a new rent payment day.
These conversations will often lead to a mutually pleasing resolution. But, if it becomes clear that the tenant has no intention to, or has no viable way of paying rent, it’s time to take things one step further.
Talk to the guarantor
If the original tenancy agreement required a guarantor to vouch for the tenant, now is the time to contact them and request the money which is owed to you. The agreed guarantor should already have seen a copy of the tenancy agreement when they consented to the role.
They should be contacted via email or letter and the tenant should always be copied in because, in case things don’t resolve easily, it’s important to have a full record of your correspondence with both parties which you can take to the next step.
Begin the eviction process
Sometimes, you can try and do the kind, compassionate thing and the situation still won’t work itself out. Regrettably, this is when the eviction process should begin. It’s an outcome which nobody is ever happy about, but is sometimes unavoidable.
It’s a good idea to contact the tenant one last time and see if they will voluntarily leave the property rather than being pulled into legal proceedings but, if they decline, you may need to serve them with a Section 8 notice, explaining that you are doing so on the grounds of rent arrears. This will give the tenant a notice period of two weeks to vacate the property.
If the tenant were to suddenly pay their arrears, this Section 8 notice would be instantly negated. But if the tenant still refuses to leave, you need to start gathering everything you need for court, proving that you have provided every reasonable opportunity for the tenant to pay what they owe.
Evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic
Covid-19 has made the eviction process all that more complicated. The government is trying to offer some protection for tenants who suddenly find themselves out of work due to the pandemic so has introduced new guidelines for landlords. What follows is a very brief overview of these new rules (The following info is correct as of September 2020):
- In England, the notice period of the Section 8 has been increased from two weeks to six months.
- The same applies to Wales and Scotland, the latter of which has also passed new law which enables all eviction decisions to be discretionary. In other words, the court is encouraged to consider the impacts of Covid-19 before enforcing eviction.
- In Northern Ireland, landlords must provide 12 weeks notice, in writing, before the tenant is required to leave. Furthermore, if they do not leave, neither landlords or letting agents are able to force tenants out of their home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Only the courts can make such a ruling during this time.
It may be that your landlord insurance covers you for unpaid rent. It’s amazing how many landlords forget this in the heat of the moment and go through a lot of unnecessary bother to regain the money owed to them
The same applies to the tenancy deposit – many private landlords forget that they can extract the money they are owed out of the original tenancy deposit (or security deposit) the tenant paid at the start of their tenancy.
To do so, you will need to contact your chosen tenancy deposit scheme and inform them of what’s going on.
Have you had a problem with tenants not paying rent? How did you handle the situation? Let us know in the comments section below.