1. Do your research – the information you obtain on the tenants before the tenants even pick up the keys is important. What is the tenant’s work, what is the tenant’s previous rental history, how is the tenant paying the rent? Use a tenant reference agency. If tenants get into arrears of rent this information will be useful. The importance of starting off on a good footing with tenants should not be overlooked. When rent arrears arise you should be able to discuss the reasons with the tenants.
2. Act as soon as one rental becomes overdue – if you are on good terms with the tenant a simple telephone call or meeting should allow you to find out why the rent is late. There is no use prolonging this discussion. It could be a simple problem which can be resolved or it may be the start of something more serious and prolonged. Either way you need to know this.
3. Payment plans – if the tenant can pay the arrears in instalments this can be a useful way of getting things back on track. If a payment plan is not proposed then it is unlikely that the tenant will make the effort to clear the arrears and the problem will become more problematic.
4. Housing benefit payments – tenants may become eligible for some assistance with payment of rent if circumstances have changed. For tenants already on housing benefits the local authority may be prepared to make payments directly to you as landlords in some circumstances.
5. Guarantors – is there a guarantor? Contact the guarantor to notify them that you are calling upon the terms of the guarantee because the tenant has fallen into arrears of rent. Often either the guarantor will pay the arrears of rent, or put pressure on the tenant to do so.
6. Notices – if you have carried out the previous steps but the rent arrears are still outstanding, or a solution to the arrears cannot be found then a notice should be served. You should seek advice on the appropriate form of notice, it is vital that the notice is accurate as the notice is the first stage of the eviction process.
7. Is your deposit correctly placed in a tenancy deposit scheme? If not then your notice may be not be valid.
8. Eviction and judgment for the rent arrears – if a notice has expired and the tenant remains in the property then Court proceedings for possession of the property and judgment for the arrears of rent should be commenced.
9. Any one who has experienced tenants in arrears which have reached this stage will know that achieving payment of the judgment amount can be difficult. Enforcement of the judgment is not a one stop fits all. For example for tenants who are working an attachment of earnings order could be obtained whereby the tenant repays the judgment amount directly from their salary.
Landlords should consider obtaining legal advice certainly before commencing Court proceedings. Stephensons offer fixed fee services to landlords to recover rent arrears and eviction proceedings. Click here for details
By associate solicitor, Louise Hebborn