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What To Do If Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent

23 March 2021

Is your tenant not paying rent? Don’t worry. There are many things you can do to address the situation. Indeed, you might even be able to resolve things without getting the law involved.

In this post, we’ll explore your available options should your tenants stop paying rent – including some things that you should never do.

What to Do if a Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent

So the tenant’s rent didn’t arrive when it should have. Before you do anything else, you need to get a full measure of the situation. There’s a world of difference between a tenant who can’t pay the rent, and a tenant who won’t pay the rent. With the latter, you’re probably going to have to instigate legal proceedings. But with the former, you might be able to reach an agreement.

So get in touch with the tenant. Send them a text, or an email. Or better yet, give them a call. Don’t be confrontational. Just let them know that you didn’t receive their rent, and ask them if there’s a reason for this.

It might just be a temporary thing. The tenant might have a good idea of when they expect to be able to pay their rent. You might not have to wait for very long.

How to Support Tenants Who Can’t Pay Rent

When you talk to your tenant, it might emerge that they have some serious problems. Maybe they’ve lost their job, or their benefits. Or maybe they’ve separated from their partner. They might struggle to pay the rent for the next few months. But you might be able to help.

Could you reduce their rent for a short period, while they get back on their feet? If you can come to an agreement, get it in writing, specifying a date on which the tenant’s rent will revert to the normal amount. Your rental income would fall for a few months. But this could prove less than the costs of finding new tenants.

You could also advise your tenant to approach Shelter, or to go directly to their local council, to apply for benefits or other allowances from the government.

Once you’ve exhausted all possibilities, it might be best for everyone if you just let your tenant leave, even if it means breaking your existing contract with them. That way, your tenant can find suitable accommodation as soon as possible, and you can find suitable replacement tenants. Hopefully meaning you won’t be out of pocket for too long. And once again, you can signpost them to any help and support they need.

What If Your Tenant Doesn’t Respond After Not Paying Rent?

Your tenant should have provided guarantors and references when they applied to let from you. If you can’t get in touch with your tenants, try getting in touch with the contacts they gave you. They might be able to reach your tenant in ways that you cannot.

Don’t mention that it’s an issue with the rent. Just say that you want to talk to them. If you reveal too much, it could prove humiliating for your tenant. This might make it harder to resolve the issue, and if it’s just a temporary problem, you could damage your future relationship.

What to Do If Your Tenant Won’t Pay Rent or Leave

If your tenant is simply refusing to pay rent, or refusing to leave the property, it’s unfortunately time to start legal proceedings.

Rent Arrears, Evictions and Covid-19

The Coronavirus Act 2020 put measures in place to protect both landlords and tenants during the lockdown period. Originally, this Act was valid to a period up to 31 March 2021. But on 10 March, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced further measures for landlords and tenants to last until 31 May 2021.

The Act states that “tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.”

The Act also states that “it’s important for landlords to offer support and understanding to tenants who may start to see their income fluctuate.”

So the government advises you to try and reach an agreement with your tenants. Their guidance talks about schemes they’ve put in place to help tenants pay rent, and schemes they’ve put in place to help landlords deal with rent arrears. When you can’t reach an agreement, the government recommends a mediation process.

You can read the advice for tenants and landlords in full here. But in short, they’re urging tenants and landlords alike to work together to resolve issues. It seems they want landlords to treat legal proceedings as an absolute last resort.

But if it comes to that, let’s explore your options.

How to Issue a Section 8 Notice

If your tenant doesn’t pay rent, it means they’ve broken the terms of their tenancy agreement. If you’re still within the fixed term of your contract, you can issue your tenant with a Section 8 notice. This is notice that you’re seeking repossession of your property. In the notice you’ll have to detail just why you’re seeking possession. In this case, it’ll be because the tenant’s stopped paying rent.

If your case makes it to court, depending on the specific situation, the court might take your conduct into consideration when deciding whether to give you back possession of your property. This is why it’s essential to keep your cool throughout this whole process! Any threatening, uncivil or otherwise unprofessional behaviour could be used against you in court.

Landlords can still issue Section 8 notices under lockdown. However, under the Coronavirus Act 2020, you must give your tenants at least six months to leave the property. Yet if you’re evicting tenants for antisocial behaviour, then you might be able to give a shorter notice period.

Head to the government’s website to get started with issuing a Section 8 Notice.

How to Issue a Section 21 Notice

Landlords issue Section 21 Notices when the tenant’s fixed tenancy period comes to an end, and they wish to repossess the property. Unlike Section 8 notices, there’s not necessarily any fault involved here, so you don’t need to specify why you want your property back.

In normal times, once they receive a Section 21 Notice in writing, tenants have two months to vacate the premises. But under the Coronavirus Act 2020, this notice period is extended to six months.

Once you’ve issued a Section 21 Notice, you will no longer be able to pursue any rent arrears. Landlords traditionally choose this option when they want to cut their losses – when they realise that any loss of rent is a small price to pay for getting their property back, or for replacing an uncooperative tenant with a more reliable tenant.

Head here to download a Section 21 Notice template.

Tenant Won’t Pay Rent – Other Things to Consider

First, there are certain things you should never do, even if your tenants refuse to pay rent. You can’t change the locks, and you can never enter the property without the tenant’s permission. You cannot sign up new tenants while you already have tenants in place. And you certainly cannot remove tenants or their property by force.

Take any of these drastic actions and the law will favour your tenants. They could quite reasonably take legal action against you. You could face fines, or even a prison sentence.

So no matter how difficult or unruly your tenants are, you must stick to the official, legal routes to resolve the issue.

It can take time to deal with difficult tenants. And if they cannot or will not pay their rent, it can compromise your mortgage payments and put you at financial risk. It’s stressful, we get it. That’s why we offer tailored Rent Guarantee insurance. Our flexible policies can safeguard you against many risks of letting, including a loss of your rental income.

So no matter what happens, and no matter how long it takes to resolve your issue, with our cover you’ll at least be able to rest assured that all of your finances will be taken care of, leaving you free to resolve the issue as best you can. Head here for more information on rent guarantee insurance and to get started.