This week we had a call from one of our members who needed advice in managing an issue they were having with one of their tenants.
They had a long term tenant in one of their rental properties who had been there for a number of years, and maintained a good relationship with the landlord.
Up until now, the tenant had always paid their rent on time. However they had become difficult for the landlord to contact recently, having missed a rental payment, and had not been in contact since missing that payment. Our member wanted to know what practical steps they could take to help their tenant, as they were not keen on evicting the tenant as this was the first issue they’d had.
The costs and effort of going through what can be a lengthy court process and then enforcing a possession order can be a lot of work, so a good approach is to try to work with the tenant to address the root of the issue first.
We suggested that if the tenant could not be contacted, a good first step would be to give 24 hours’ notice to attend to inspect the property. This can help you establish if they are indeed still at the property, or may at least prompt them to respond to you even if you are refused access to the property.
If the tenant does then get in touch, trying to establish why they may not have paid and if they intend to cover the arrears or what their intentions are. Perhaps they are between employment or have had issues with their benefit payments, which can be quite common.
Some landlords choose to signpost various charities or other services which the tenant can go to for assistance if they are in need, for financial help or mental health advice or otherwise, such as Citizens Advice. Landlords do not have to do this, but if you feel it may assist the tenant it can be a good idea.
Once you are able to have a better understanding of your tenants’ position, then you can decide whether you are going to have to take steps to regain possession, or if there is some way that this issue can be worked through.
However, if this landlord was still struggling to get hold of the tenant, the issue with not paying the rent persisted and the tenant ended up accruing more rent arrears and non being co-operative, then the landlord may want to consider their options for recovering the money or even gaining possession.
This could be done either through Section 8 (which includes a money judgement as part of the process), or Section 21 and also the small claims court (small claims could be against the tenant or against the guarantor if the guarantor was not forthcoming with any payment).
Maria Sheldon, Advice Team Leader, said “Not every circumstance means that the first step for a landlord is to regain possession. Often, it can be useful to explore other options before deciding to begin to go down that route.”
- Learn more about what you can do as a landlord to manage rent arrears in the RLA’s eLearning Managing Rent Arrears course.