Dealing with Problem Tenants

August 19, 2016

The rental sector is currently enjoying something of a boom.  On the whole, tenants are usually responsible people and will treat you and your property with respect. Unfortunately at some point landlords may run into difficulties with tenants. This article will seek to address how to deal with some of the main problems that may arise.

Before a tenancy begins careful consideration should be given to the following to help avoid the situation of a problem tenant ever arising:

Have a well drafted and robust Tenancy Agreement. If in doubt have this drawn up by a legal representative or a reputable agent;
Choose your Tenants carefully – Have your agent carry out background checks on potential tenants to try and ensure that the prospects of problems arising are minimal;

Make an inventory – A clear and precise inventory, listing each item contained in the rental property and the state of repair of each item is vital should some of the security deposit be retained to repair any damage.  Photographs of the state of repair of any items before the tenancy begins would be advisable to assist with any claim or disputes down the line.

While helpful the above will not always guarantee you a perfect tenant. The remainder of this article will address the two main issues faced by landlords. These being the non-payment of rent/rent arrears and damage occurring to the property or to the contents of the property.

Non-Payment of Rent/Rent Arrears

If a tenant is having a difficulty with paying their rent, it is important that you open a channel of communication with the tenant to try and address the situation early.  There may be a valid reason for why a rental payment has been missed such as work issues or redundancies, unexpected additional expenses or other short term issues.

Quite often any shortfall or missed payment can be made up by the tenant if early detection and communication takes place.  A Repayment Agreement may be made and the tenant will be bound by this.

If a payment has been missed due to redundancy, you may want to advise your tenant that they can make a claim for housing benefit as they may be entitled to have their full rental payment, less service charges, covered for a period of 13 weeks subject to proving that the rent was affordable at the time of moving into the property and that no other claim has been made for rent in the past year.

Although good practice to try and discuss arrears with your tenant there is no obligation on you to do so.  Most well drafted Tenancy Agreements will contain a clause allowing for the termination of the Tenancy should rent fall into arrears.  A Notice to Quit in writing should be served on the Tenant. The Notice should contain the reasons for termination together with a date by which the tenant must leave the property. The amount of notice required is determined by the length of time the Tenant has been in the property as follows:-

Less than 5 years – 28 days;
More than 5 years but less than 10 years – 8 weeks;
More than 10 years – 12 weeks.

If the Tenant does not leave the property after the Notice Period has expired you can then apply to the Court for a Possession Order.  At this point legal advice should be sought. Your solicitor will then serve a Civil Bill on your tenant. This should include your grounds for seeking possession, any claim for rent and should indicate if you are seeking costs for the action. Once served the tenant has 21 days to respond. You must then apply to the EJO to have the Tenant evicted. A Notice of Intent to Enforce will be served on the tenant by the EJO. If this is ignored an Application for Full Enforcement may be made. An enforcement officer will then be appointed who will personally manage the eviction.

Once an Order has been granted/tenant has been evicted, you may wish to consider further legal action to recover the money that is due and owing to you if such sums were not included in the original Civil Bill. Proceedings may be issued in the Small Claims Court or the County Court.  Thought should be given to the realistic prospects of recovery before further money is spent on legal fees.  Again it is recommended to seek professional legal advice before initiating any further legal proceedings.

Damage to the Property

There is an onus on your tenant to keep your property in a good state of repair. If it is established that the tenant has caused serious damage outside of the rules regarding fair wear and tear there are a variety of options available to deal with this:

Security Deposit – Tenant’s should be asked to pay a deposit at the outset of a tenancy.  Any deposit paid on or after 1 April 2013 must be registered with an approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme.  Bearing in mind that you must allow for general wear and tear, if at the end of the tenancy or throughout the tenancy, damage has occurred as a result of the tenant’s actions, any sums you have paid to rectify the damage may be taken from the deposit;

Claim for Compensation – If the damage done to the property exceeds the tenant’s deposit, a claim for compensation may be made in Court.  If damages are less than £3,000.00 you can issue proceedings in the Small Claim’s Court.  Usually a legal advisor will not be required for this.  Any claim over £3,000.00 will be issued via a Civil Bill in the County Court and professional legal advice should be sought in relation to this procedure.  It is advisable that all receipts of monies spent to make the repairs and also photos of any damage that has occurred should be kept to prove your claim to the Court;

Eviction – If serious damage has been caused to a property there may be grounds upon which to terminate the tenancy.  The process for termination/eviction is the same as outlined above regarding the service of an Notice to Quit and or the need for a Possession Order if necessary.
When it comes to dealing with problem tenants, spotting any problems early and communicating early with the tenant may be the best and most efficient course of action. Should the tenant be unreceptive to this, legal action may be required.

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.

Should you have queries about the content of this article, please do not hesitate to contact Christopher McCluskey, Solicitor at Cleaver Fulton Rankin.

E: c.mccluskey@cfrlaw.co.uk

T: 028 9024 3141