Here's a scenario which was put to me by a very nice, trusting landlady.
The tenant was introduced to her as an acquaintance of an acquaintance. He had nowhere to go; had made no preparations for taking a private rented property, so had no deposit; nor could he provide references from a previous landlord or a Guarantor. All reasons for me to feel that the landlady should have put kindness to one side and allowed logic and business sense to come in, but as already said, she was a nice lady.
The tenant moved in and paid his rent for a couple of months then, disaster! He lost his job. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem, he was entitled to housing benefit. Yes, he was – but as so often happens, it didn’t get to the landlady. 8 weeks in rent arrears, she asked housing benefit to pay her direct, which they did – until the tenant started work again.
He paid for another few months with tiny payments off the arrears, but then the payments stopped. After reminders, he advised he was out of work again. Back on housing benefit, payments went to him until another 8 weeks arrears had accumulated. The landlady had to request again that payments be made direct to her. All continued well – until he gained a third job. But this time, the payments reduced to a dribble.
In June, the landlady was getting desperate. No rent for some months, no income to allow her to service her properties properly, something had to be done. She wrote him a courteous letter, but pointed out that if the rent was not paid regularly and something done to reduce the outstanding arrears, she would have no alternative but to seek possession and served him an S.8 notice. She contacted the person who had introduced him to her, but he was no longer speaking to him and was not prepared to discuss the matter with him.
However, the letter galvanised the tenant into action. He was prepared to sign an agreement to pay the arrears. The landlady was very happy.
It did not last long. The first payment was made, then nothing. Texts were responded to with ‘I’ll pay you by the end of the month’ – but no payment was made. His most recent contacts were ‘I’m leaving at the end of October’, then ‘I’m leaving at the end of November’.
The landlady wanted to know whether she should believe him. I’ve never met the tenant, but going from his history, my answer was “no – he’s playing you along – evict”. Eviction is expensive and no landlord can be blamed for trying to avoid it, but there are times when there is no choice. This tenant is in debt. He is also trying to stay as long as possible. Is it likely that he has accumulated a deposit for a new place? I think not. Is he likely to find an equally kind landlady a second time? I sincerely hope not.
The main mistake made by this landlady was not acting quickly enough. She is left with thousands of pounds worth of arrears, the cost of going to Court, the distress it has caused that someone she tried to help has shown he was unworthy of it. Act on rent arrears immediately you are able to do so. This gives the tenant a chance to improve his payment record and saves the landlord/lady from madness.
For advice on buy to let – Ask Sharon