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What a Landlord Should Do When Their Tenant Has Fallen Into Rent Arrears

28th February 2022

Do you know how to handle a tenant that’s fallen into arrears? This can be a difficult issue for landlords as you have to be careful to remain compliant with all of the relevant legislation throughout your process. Also, many landlords do not have a systemised formula for dealing with these situations, leaving them with the sense that they are unprepared. Today, we’re going to cover some of the do’s and don’ts of chasing rent arrears. We’re also going to discuss which legal notices to use, as well as the process we recommend for handling these complicated situations. 


A Tale of Two Tenants

At Concentric we have found that there are two different types of tenants who fall into arrears. There are those who do so against their will who have simply fallen on hard times and cannot pay at the moment. On the other hand, there are those who are capable of paying their rent but refuse to do so of their own volition. The tenants in the latter category are always more challenging to deal with. You need to have a process in place so that whether the tenant falls into one category or the other, you will know what to do. 


Dos and Don’ts of Chasing Rent Arrears

As you form your process, we’re going to share with you our recommendations for what you should and should not do in these kinds of situations. First of all, communication is key. You should try to make contact with the tenant as soon as you become aware of the missing payments and see if there is a problem and what it might be. 

You can use these communications to ascertain which group the tenant falls into, and hopefully, work your way to a solution that satisfies all parties. The first step to take when a tenant misses rent for 7 days is to send a formal letter demanding the payment. Then a follow-up letter should be sent again every 7 days throughout the process. During this time, you should also be attempting to contact them through phone or email to see if you can get an explanation and negotiate a plan for payment. 

It is of the utmost importance that you do not harass them. Contacting your tenant every hour of the day is legally defined as harassment and should be avoided. Rather, only contact them at previously scheduled times. 

If a tenant is simply unable to pay, it may be worth making an application to Universal Credit for a direct payment. The great thing about this step is that there is no harm done whether or not the tenant is actually in receipt of payments from Universal Credit. All you need to do is make an application. This can be a way to alleviate the tenant of the responsibility of making the rent payments themselves. 


What To Do When They Just Won’t Pay

Speed is of the essence when it comes to responding to tenants who are refusing to pay their rents despite their economic ability to do so. In these cases, we recommend quickly acting to take possession of your property. Ensure that the letters demanding rent are sent promptly every 7 days and then on the 28th day, you should send a notice of possession as soon as you can. You need to take court action as soon as you are legally able to do so. Now, you may be wondering, what is the appropriate notice to send tenants in arrears?

Serving a Section 8 notice is what we recommend, citing the grounds you wish to rely on (usually 8,10 and 11). It is the notice to send when the tenant is in two months of arrears or more. We recommend it because it comes with a 14-day notice period in England and is the quickest way to secure possession of your property in these cases. 

You may have also heard of serving a Section 21 notice to tenants in arrears. This is a valid option. However, the notice period on Section 21 is 2 months long, delaying your ability to deal with the situation effectively. 


Final Thoughts

In the end, communication is the most important aspect of responding to tenants who have fallen into arrears. For most tenants who may be struggling with financial difficulties and cannot pay the rent, communication will be a way to understand their problems and negotiate a payment plan that will work for you and them. Unfortunately, most tenants who refuse to pay of their own free will are not very communicative, and legal action is usually required. Comprehending the current legislation pertaining to these issues is important. A helpful resource that we recommend is Gov.UK, a site that will give you the latest guidance as well as information on the legal notices we’ve discussed today. 

Hopefully, this has given you more insight into what to do when a tenant falls into arrears. We at Concentric are dedicated to helping landlords manage their rental properties and have released tons of content that will help and advise you with practical step-by-step guidance on the specific legislation that matters for landlords. 

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