Rent arrears are a real concern for UK landlords as it can have a significant impact on their ability to pay their mortgage.
Fresh research by the Residential Landlords Association shows that 28% of landlords have experienced rent arrears in the past 12 months.
Kerri Hunter is a Solicitor with experience in all aspects of legal advice and proceedings between a landlord and a tenant, offering clear, practical and honest advice. She has compiled the following top tips for landlords dealing with rent arrears:
Prevention is better than cure
Robust tenant reference procedures are the first step to preventing arrears. By doing your homework on a prospective tenant and having high standards of the credit history that you require, it increases your chances of finding a reliable tenant who will pay their rent on time.
Nip any arrears in the bud before they get out of hand. I recommend that you contact the tenant as soon as a payment is missed. Initially, keep this amiable and informal, but by acting swiftly, the tenant sees that you are on top of the situation. Often it’s a mistake which can be rectified quickly. If it’s something more long term, at least you are aware of this at an early stage.
There are a number of procedures you should follow with the aim of saving time and money by avoiding going to court. Give your tenant every chance to rectify the situation, as this is preferable for you both. Consider arranging a payment plan, requesting that housing benefit (if applicable) is paid directly to you, or contacting the guarantor (if there is one). Regular and official contact is crucial. Letters stating how much they owe and warning of court action is often enough to ensure the arrears will be settled without the need for legal action.
If the situation does not improve, gaining possession of your property is the next port of call to avoid the debt growing. My recommendation is to use a section 21 notice on accelerated possession, this will enable you to get new tenants in more quickly. Be aware that this option is only available if the fixed term has ended. If the tenancy is still in the fixed term and the rent arrears are greater than two months, you may choose to use a section 8 notice.
Kerri comments “We are happy to help you serve a section 21 or Section 8 notice, as the timing and procedure of these must be exactly right. If you have sought possession on a section 8 there is the option to claim arrears at the hearing. However, if not, you will need to use the County Court Small Claims route. We can help with all of this as it can be a daunting prospect and we will also help you to identify whether it is worth your while; it is a costly and time consuming process and there is no guarantee that you will get your money. For this reason we recommend landlords follow the advice above to reduce the risk of legal action.”
Our Landlord & Tenant Team are happy to discuss any issues that this raises for you. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Kerri or a member of her team, will be happy to chat about your situation and your particular requirements.