When a tenant falls into rent arrears it can be a frustrating and worrying time for landlords. It is very important to address the situation as quickly as possible. If you are a landlord in this situation you should talk to your tenant first and explain that the situation is unacceptable. If a debt has already accrued, your tenant is likely to be in breach of the tenancy agreement and you may need to consider beginning the eviction process.
It is worth noting that being evicted from your home can be very traumatic; it is most likely that if the tenant had been able to pay the rent most would have done so. Thus, the situation needs to be handled sensitively. We are often approached by landlords who are under the impression that if they evict their tenant/s, the tenant will be liable for all costs incurred. In our experience very few landlords are able to recover costs, or even get the unpaid rent.
Unfortunately, the eviction process can be costly and time consuming. If a previously good tenant has fallen into arrears because of a short term issue that can be resolved we would advise you to be lenient. For example; allowing the tenant to resume normal payments and make contributions towards the arrears over a longer term. However, if there are repeated missed payments or rent arrears greater than two months rent,it is probably time to consider eviction.
If a tenant fails to pay the rent, there are two types of court action that can be used:
- Accelerated possession as set out in Section 21 of the Housing Act 1998
- A fixed date action can be taken using a Rent Arrears Ground. You will be required to attend a hearing after the court order
Obtaining possession through the accelerated method as set out in Section 21 has the advantage of being cheaper as no court hearing needs to take place, and this also reduces the time it takes. This action can be taken when a written tenancy agreement or assured shorthold tenancy (AST) is in place. A 21 day notice has been served and a 2 month period following notice has expired.
Alternatively, if rent arrears exceed the value of two months rental payments, The Rent Arrears Ground method can be used. This process requires a Section 8 notice to be served; also known as a “notice to quit”. Once the 2 week’s notice period has expired, the landlord can then apply for a possession order. The court will set an initial hearing date where the landlord will be required give evidence of the arrears. If the possession order is granted it takes effect fourteen days after it has been issued (although this can be extended to six weeks in some circumstances).
The costs will vary from case to case, depending on what action is taken. The costs can include; issuing an application for possession costs £280, a possession claim online (PCOL) (which is slightly cheaper) £250, a warrant of possession £110. For most landlords the loss of rental income during this period will also be substantial, not to mention the time and resources expended.
Evicting a debtor can be a difficult and protracted process, but it is the only way to legally remove a problem tenant. The burden and stress can be reduced by using a professional company such as ourselves (there are other companies available). It is of course possible to do it yourself. More information can be obtained here: https://www.gov.uk/private-renting-evictions/rules-your-landlord-must-follow.