At this time of year as university life begins, landlords are often taking students on as tenants. Sometimes students can fall behind with their rent or don’t pay at all – leaving the landlord with a cash flow problem.
I have set out below some tips for residential landlords:
It is essential that landlords keep records of all their tenants such as:
- rent payments,
- copy of tenancy agreements,
- guarantor deeds
Remember to keep documents you give to tenants at the start of the tenancy. These documents are crucial particularly if you have to recover unpaid rent or deal with any other breaches of the tenancy agreement. In addition, you should keep a schedule of any rent received and (essentially) rent arrears as/when they accrue. Make sure you keep copies of letter/emails sent between you and your tenant about all rental issues.
Maintain a Relationship
It’s good to keep in regular contact with your tenants. A good landlord/tenant relationship is key. If your tenants fall behind with their rent you should talk to them to find out why. A calm chat can often resolve an issue quickly. You should keep a record of all correspondence during meetings with your tenant. If you have a good landlord/tenant relationship you can often sort out issues amicably without involving court proceedings.
Write to a Tenant
If you have not managed to recover the rent by talking to your tenant you then need to send a letter demanding repayment. The letter should set out the amount of arrears and the obligations of the tenant under the tenancy agreement. Then you may request a date for the outstanding rent to be paid.
At an early stage it is worth (if the tenant is in default) involving a guarantor (if there is one); advising them of a) the current position regarding the arrears, and b) the fact that they will be looked upon to pay the arrears off if the tenant does not.
When taking a new tenant on a landlord will, often, take a deposit from the tenant. This deposit can sometimes be drawn upon if rent arrears accrue from the tenant. Whether or not a landlord can use these monies to put towards unpaid rents will depend on the terms of the tenancy agreement. It is advisable to seek legal advice in this respect before going ahead and taking the monies.
Once rent arrears have reached a particular stage, the next step is to issue a notice to the tenant. In the event they don’t clear rent arrears by a specific date; you will need to make an application to Court for an Order. A Court Order will lead to the tenant being evicted from the property. A notice will set all this out to tenants (and should be copied to the guarantor where applicable). This often leads to resolutions of the matter with people preferring not to be involved in Court proceedings.
A Court Claim
If the tenant does not bring the rent arrears up to date after the Notice has expired; the next step is to issue a claim at Court. You can ask the Court to make an Order for possession of the property but also; for a Money Judgement to cover the arrears and a portion of your legal costs. A Possession Order will require the tenant; (on the order of a Judge, to leave the property by a specific date).
It is advisable to seek advice from a solicitor at an early stage in these matters. It is essential to make sure that any steps taken against the tenants are done logically and appropriately.