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How To Remove A Tenant Who Refuses To Pay Rent (in England)

Article Posted - 14th February 2020

If your tenant hasn't paid the rent, it may be some consolation to know that many landlords are dealing with the same problem. According to a survey of our members, more than one third (36 per cent) of landlords had tenants who were in rent arrears over the past year. On average, these tenants owed £1,815. Fortunately, there is a well-worked process for pursuing tenants and, if necessary, taking them to court.

As a matter of course, it is important to keep a record of when rent payments fall due and acknowledge receipt of payments when they are made by the tenant. This is because if you eventually have to take the tenant to court over non-payment, then you will need to present a copy of all the rent transactions.

If, after a few days of it becoming due, you have not received a rent payment, it is time to send your tenant a formal demand. If, after 14 days, they have still not paid, then you should write to the tenant's guarantor (if  they have one) informing them of the tenant's failure to pay the rent. Wait another 7 days before writing a third letter, this time to the tenant and the guarantor (if relevant): this letter should set out your intention to take legal action.

If, after one month, you still have not received payment, then you can consider your tenant to be two months in arrears. You can now begin formal proceeding to reclaim possession of your property under the terms of the 1988 Housing Act.

Serving A Section 8 Eviction Notice 

Your first option is to serve a Section 8 notice. This lets your tenant know that you will take them to court if they don't pay within a further 14 days. Make sure you follow the formal possession process, using the Government's dedicated form. If you fail to do this, then your application may be deemed invalid.

You must:

If, after all this, your tenants still do not leave by a specified date, then you can apply to the court for a possession order.

Another Option: Section 21 

If the fixed term of a tenancy is coming to an end, then you might consider serving a Section 21 notice rather than a Section 8 notice. You still have to give your tenant at least two months' notice to leave your property, but the advantage of this option is that it's typically quicker than the cumbersome Section 8 option because it doesn't require you to apportion blame or attend a court hearing. It is for this reason that it is sometimes called a “no-fault” eviction.

A Third Option: Early Surrender

A “surrender” is when the behaviour of the landlord and the tenant makes it abundantly clear that the tenancy has come to an end. It could be that a tenant's circumstances have changed and they want to move out of your property before the end of the contract. Equally, it could be the case that the landlord needs the property before the end of the fixed term. In these cases, you can agree, by mutual consent, to end the tenancy agreement.

Bit it is important to get this agreement down in writing—hence the fact that it is known as an “express” surrender. If there is no documented mutual agreement, then the surrender is known as “implied”.

Does The Tenant Need Help?

Despite your frustration with the situation, you may be concerned about the welfare of your tenant. If you suspect your tenant is suffering with poor mental health, may require support because of a disability, or is perhaps a victim of domestic abuse, there are many charities and organisations that can provide support and advice on how to help.

What Are The Implications Of Swiching To Universal Credit Mid-Way Through The Contract? 

More often than not, if your tenant is struggling to pay their rent mid-tenancy it will be because of a change in their circumstances – typically their income. It is important to speak with your tenants at the earliest sign that they are having difficulty meeting their financial obligations in order to agree on an appropriate course of action. 

In some cases, it will be clear that your tenant is no-longer able to afford to rent their home, and they may wish to surrender their tenancy rather than fall into arears. Landlords do not have to accept such an offer of surrender but may wish to consider the option. In many cases, where the tenant has lost their job or suffered a reduction in income, then it is likely that they will be eligible for financial support in the form of Universal Credit. 

The implications of a tenant making a Universal Credit claim mid-tenancy will depend very much on the specific circumstances. Housing support rates may not cover all of the agreed rent, so it is important to discuss how your tenant intends to make up any shortfall. Additionally, there can be a delay of a number of weeks before recipients received their first payment. Should this lead to arrears you may need to come to an agreement about how any structural arrears will be repaid. 

Should your tenant fall two months in arrears you may opt to apply for an alternative payment arrangement (APA) to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly. Guidance on how to do say can be found here

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