Dealing with tenancy problems
The fifth episode of the Buy to Let Show looks at the tenancy problems landlords can experience, how to avoid them, and what to do if they do happen. We've also partnered with tenancy deposit protection scheme mydeposits to provide tips on reducing the likelihood of having a bad tenant and the best way to deal with problem tenants.
What can you do to minimise the likelihood of that happening and what’s the best way to deal with problems when they do arise?
Problems can often be avoided altogether by taking some simple steps from the start:
- Choose your tenants carefully. Use an application form, make credit checks and take references from previous employers and landlords.
- Minimise potential damage by having hard-wearing fixtures, fittings and furnishings.
- Make a detailed inventory of all fixtures and fittings, and use photos or video to support your check in inventory. Find out more.
- Take out the appropriate Landlord Insurance, including public liability and legal expenses cover.
- Consider using a letting agent with trade association membership, such UKALA, ARLA or NALS.
- Consider using a rent guarantee scheme.
- Ask your tenant to pay rent by standing order.
- Deal with your tenants in a friendly, professional way.
- Visit the property regularly and make midterm inspections, but make sure you arrange the visit with your tenant ahead of time.
- Sort out maintenance problems quickly.
- Keep accurate written records of any issues and correspondence such as emails, letters or SMS texts.
- Make sure you use a robust tenancy agreement with fair terms. It’s your legal contract with the tenant.
We’ve outlined some of the most common problems and issues you’re likely to face. As and when you come up against any of these, you can get more information and advice from your letting agent or a specialist buy-to-let solicitor. You might also consider joining the National Landlords Association.
Non-payment of rent
When a tenant doesn’t pay their rent, you have to act quickly and stand your ground. Find out why they haven’t paid and try to negotiate alternative payment dates and/or methods. If that can’t be done, you may have to take steps to evict the tenant/s and obtain possession of the property (see below).
Warning: Harassment! - Although non-payment of rent is frustrating at best and financially difficult at worst, be careful not to push your tenants too hard. Don’t be tempted to change the locks or cut off utility supplies to the property. Doing these things could result in your tenants bringing a harassment claim against you. Keep communication polite, professional and in writing.
Damage and criminal activity
If your property has been damaged by your tenants, contact your insurance company (and, if necessary, the police). If you believe your property is being used for any criminal activities, such as drugs or prostitution, contact the police immediately. Don’t try to confront the tenants yourself.
You may discover or believe that your tenants are no longer living in your rental property and that it’s simply lying empty. But before you can regain possession, you’re legally required to take all possible steps to contact your tenants and issue an abandonment notice.
Noise and antisocial behaviour
If you get reports from the neighbours that your tenants are making excessive noise or engaging in antisocial behaviour, you need to act right away. You may be able to sort things out by speaking directly to the tenants, but make sure you follow it up in writing. If the problem persists, you can take further steps, including contacting the local authority or calling the police. In the most serious cases, you might need mediation or to take legal action.
Evicting tenants and obtaining possession
(Under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement).
Evicting tenants and gaining repossession of your rental property can be time-consuming and expensive. And if you don’t follow the correct legal procedure you could be committing a criminal offence, so it’s essential you take legal advice.
Section 8 procedure - Notice to Quit (also known as possession)
The first step to evicting a tenant who is not paying their rent is to issue them with a ‘Section 8’ notice. If they owe you more than 8 weeks’ or 2 months’ rent then, provided there are no exceptional circumstances, the court will probably award a possession order in your favour. A possession order can be issued at any time during the tenancy.
- You issue the tenant(s) with a S.8 notice.
- The tenant has 14 days to respond.
- If the tenant fails to respond, does not pay rent arrears and refuses to vacate the property, you apply to the county court for a possession order.
- The court issues a possession order in your favour (unless exceptional circumstances exist).
- The tenant leaves the property.
- If the tenant refuses to leave, you then apply to the court for a bailiff to evict the tenant.
If you have still not received the rent arrears, you may be able to recover the money by using debt collectors.
If you want to gain possession of the property on grounds other than rent arrears, the S.8 procedure could still apply.
Section 21 procedure - Notice to Quit
This procedure allows a landlord to obtain possession of their property only at the end of the assured shorthold tenancy. You can issue this Section for any reason and it’s valid as long as the correct legal procedure has been followed.
You must serve a written S.21 notice on your tenant(s) if you intend to obtain possession at the end of the tenancy. It can be served at any time during the tenancy, with a minimum of two months’ notice.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll get troublesome tenants. Be professional and polite, keep written records of all communication and follow the correct legal procedures and you’ll have the best chance of resolving things effectively.
The information contained within this article is for general information purposes only, it does not constitute advice. Direct Line for Business endeavours to keep the information up to date and correct but does not make any representation or warranties of any kind about its completeness, accuracy, reliability or suitability. Any reliance you place on the information is strictly at your own risk. Direct Line for Business will not be liable for any direct or indirect loss or damage arising out of or in connection with the use of this information.