A landlord rang me recently. He had a fairly new tenant, as the tenancy had only been running a few weeks. The tenant was a female who was very nice, and she had a boyfriend who was also very nice – well, he was when he was sober. A recent occurrence had seen them both extremely inebriated, shouting, screaming and breaking pots. The neighbours called the Police and the landlord. He now wanted the tenant out – how could he do this?
The answer had to be, ‘with great difficulty’ if there had been only one incident. To evict on an anti-social behaviour ground, which is a discretionary ground, there should be more than one incident as a raft of information is needed to put before a Court. One incident, with female weeping in Court about how sorry she is and how her behaviour has changed, makes it too easy for a Judge to take pity on her after one, bad incident. No, it needs statements from neighbours, probably multiple Police incident numbers, warning letters sent.
The boyfriend smokes in the property, which is against the tenancy agreement. Again, another discretionary ground. Smoking is an unpleasant habit to non-smokers, but seen as essential to the addicted. The landlord had not taken a deposit (many landlords ask for a higher deposit when there is the possibility of smoking in the property) nor had he interviewed at the tenant’s previous property, where evidence of smoking by someone may have been seen.
Can I serve a section 21 now, so she knows she has to leave at the end of the tenancy? He asked. Unfortunately not. New legislation from 1st October – s21 cannot be served before the tenancy has run 4 months.
My advice was that, as this was only one incident, a letter should be sent to the tenant, advising that whilst everyone is entitled to have a drink, sometimes to excess, the Police being required to intervene is not acceptable behaviour and could put her tenancy at risk. He should also mention that he was unhappy with the smoking which could cause deterioration to the property and therefore, as there were gardens front and rear, the boyfriend or other smokers should smoke outside. Regular inspections should show whether this is being complied with.
Make sure your tenant is aware that you are in contact with the neighbours, who will report any further incidents. Speak to the neighbours, ensure they know you are taking their complaints seriously and would like them to contact you if they have any further concerns. If the tenant continues to create nuisance, then issue a section 21 at the 4 month stage.
It is always difficult when complaints are made early in a tenancy and the natural reaction is to want to evict. The Law (quite rightly) gives tenants an opportunity to improve behaviour so does not allow for immediate eviction. This tenant had lived peaceably for 4 weeks. Hopefully, she will amend her behaviour and continue to live there as she had impressed the landlord to start with. The next tenant could easily be worse!
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon