It’s the day all landlords dread; the rent is due, and your tenant has not paid it. It’s several hundreds (sometimes thousands) of pounds and you most probably pay your mortgage with it. Panic sets in; what are you going to do?
Stay calm. Whatever you do, do not call your tenant pleading or ranting. Take a moment to collect yourself, and then start with the following steps.
- Contact the tenant
If your rent has not been paid, wait a couple of days and then call your tenant. Make sure you are calm and collected; their lack of payment might be a mistake. Gently remind them of the date their rent was due and the amount you are owed. Ask when you can expect a payment.
Make sure that your tenant knows that you would much prefer to know if they have run into financial difficulty, as this will allow you to plan for a shortfall. It might be possible to arrange a temporary payment date, or a series of installments whilst they weather the storm.
- Write to your tenant
If payments are not made on the new promised date or your tenant is refusing to take your calls, send them a written demand for the rent by recorded delivery, so that you can prove they have received it.
Your letter should set out the following:
- The outstanding arrears.
- A date by which you expect payment.
- A reminder of the agreed monthly payment date and an expression of your expectation that rent be paid on time.
- A reminder that unpaid arrears could result in court action and an application to take possession of the property back, which will result in their eviction.
If you still have not received any rent after 14 days, send another letter, informing your tenant that you plan to take the matter further and seek possession of your property.
- Contact the guarantor
If your tenant has a guarantor, now is the time to contact them. Send the guarantor a letter and inform them of the situation. Make it clear that you have been trying to contact the tenant, but that rent is still not forthcoming.
Rent arrears are commonly paid at this stage, since guarantors are well aware of the fact that they are liable for any arrears not paid by the tenant they’ve volunteered to sign an agreement for. They’ll most likely put pressure on your tenant to pay.
- Serve a Section 8 notice
If your tenant has still not paid you after 21 days, it is time to move towards claiming back your property. This can take some time, and therefore should be done swiftly.
Send a letter to the tenant informing them of your decision to reclaim your property and tell them exactly what this means. If you previously sent a letter to a guarantor, send a letter to this person, too.
Once you are owed eight weeks worth of rent arrears, you have the right under the Housing Act 1988 to take action and reclaim possession of your property, which will lead to the eviction of your tenants.
- Serve a section 8 notice
This is an official document and must be served correctly, so pay special attention to these instructions.
- fill in a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy’
- specify which parts of the tenancy agreement they have broken
- give the tenants between 2 weeks’ and 2 months’ notice to move out (this depends on which part of the tenancy agreement they have broken).
Apply to the court for a possession order if your tenants do not leave by the specified date.
- Go to court
If your tenant does not respond and has not vacated the property by your specified date, you are entitled to take legal action to evict them and reclaim your property. You can also ask the court to make a judgement on the rent arrears they owe you, as well as any costs you have incurred through the process.
The judge will dismiss your case if you have not followed the correct process, so it is really important that you follow these steps carefully. If you make a mistake, you might find yourself with no choice but to start again from step one.
For more information, visit the Landlord & Tenant section of our website.