Are you a landlord who is experiencing trouble with your tenants? Are they wrecking your property or not paying the rent? Do you know what to do if things go wrong with the tenancy? Tessa Shepperson, a solicitor specialising in landlord and tenancy work, outlines what you can do if the tenancy agreement turns sour.
1. The tenant has refused to sign the tenancy agreement.
Never let the tenant in until the paperwork has been completed and the tenancy agreement signed!
2. The tenant won't allow access to the property for the annual gas check.
Explain to the tenant that the gas check is for their benefit, and is a statutory requirement. After three attempts to make an appointment (provided you can prove them - keep copies of all of your letters), you will probably be safe from a prosecution under the gas regulations. However, you may want to consider whether you want the tenant to remain in your property after the end of the fixed term and be taking steps to end their tenancy; for example, by serving them with a Section 21 Notice. For more information on evicting a tenant see our article Managing and Evicting Troublesome Tenants.
For help and advice on writing landlord's letters, why not simply purchase our Landlord's Letters book, which provides template letters for you to use.
3. The tenant won't allow access for the quarterly inspections.
Explain to the tenant that you're entitled under the law to inspect the property regularly and that by refusing you access they are not only breaking the terms of their tenancy agreement, but they will have lost any chance to claim against you (or your insurers) if they suffer any injury due to the property being in disrepair (as it will be their fault that it wasn't dealt with and repaired!). Again, consider ending the tenancy at the end of the fixed term.
4. The tenant fails to pay their rent.
Rent arrears can be a major problem. Keep a close check on rent payments, and make sure that you contact the tenant promptly as soon as they fall into rent arrears. If you can arrange a repayment program quickly, the tenant may be able to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, however, you cannot get blood out of a stone, so if the tenant is genuinely without funds, then you may never be able to recover the lost rent. In this situation the best thing to do is to take steps to recover possession of the property as quickly as possible, so you can limit your loss and re-let it to a paying tenant as soon as possible.
5. The tenant proves unsatisfactory.
You may be dissatisfied with the tenant because they are causing a disturbance to the neighbours, for example, or they are not looking after the property properly or they are persistently paying the rent late. Unfortunately, once a tenant has gone into a property, there is very little you can do to prevent them from behaving badly. Taking care when choosing tenants is important and it's always wise to do a tenant credit check - see our article Landlords: How to Find, and Check Out, Your Would-Be Tenant. You should, of course, speak to the tenant and ask them to behave properly and, in many cases, the tenant will listen and moderate their behaviour. But with the worst offenders, often the only real solution is to end their tenancy by serving a Section 21 Notice and making them leave at the end of their fixed term. For this reason it's not a good idea to give long fixed terms to new tenants until they have been in the property for a while and have proved themselves satisfactory. An initial fixed term for a new tenant should never be more than six months.
6. The tenant leaves the property in a poor condition when they vacate.
In this instance you'll have to claim against the damage deposit - this is what they are for. If the damage deposit is insufficient or the tenant leaves owing rent as well, then you will be left with bringing a small claim in the Small Claims Court for a County Court Judgment (CCJ). It’s simple to make a Small Claim using our Money Claim Online Guide.
If you find that you cannot make a small claim (e.g. if your tenant has no assets to satisfy a CCJ (or County Court Judgement) or if you don't have a forwarding address for the tenant, you can make a claim on your insurance (if possible) and try to choose your tenants more carefully next time.
For more information on choosing a tenant, see our article Landlords: How to Find, and Check Out, Your Would-Be Tenant.
7. The tenant leaves property behind when they vacate.
As the tenant's possessions belong to the tenant and are not yours, you cannot keep them or sell them to offset any money owed to you by the tenant, until you have carried out the proper procedure. This is laid down in the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977, and involves sending the tenant a letter giving details regarding the property held and how they can reclaim it, and giving them a time limit. If you don't have an address for the tenant, you need to make reasonable efforts to trace them.
For more expert guidance on how to prepare a property, find a tenant, create a tenancy agreement, deal with deposits, and, ultimately, how to evict a tenant, read Lawpack's book, The Complete Guide to Residential Letting.
Tessa Shepperson is author of Lawpack's books The Complete Guide to Residential Letting and Renting: The Essential Guide to Tenants' Rights. She is a solicitor specialising in residential landlord and tenant law, and editor of the popular online legal information service at www.landlordlaw.co.uk.
Published on: June 2, 2008