Renting out property is not as easy as it might look to the outsider. The landlord has many responsibilities towards the tenant, and must take care of a multitude of repairs, insurance and other matters.
The landlord must also be prepared in case their greatest fear should materialise—the problem tenant.
How can you know when the problem tenant will arrive? And what do you do if they do?
The answer to the first question is that you can’t. You will only know you have a problem tenant when they start causing problems. References are no guarantee.
There are, however, viable, legal solutions to the second question.
Dealing with the problem tenant
Steps to follow
If your tenants are breaking the law, you can refer the matter to the police, or the local council if, for example, they are being excessively noisy.
Don’t be tempted to, for example, change the locks while the tenant is out, or cut off their water, gas or electricity – you could end up in court charged with a criminal offence of harassment.
If your tenant is doing something you’re not happy with (such as being unreasonably dirty or is damaging your property in some way) but you want them to remain in situ, try asking them – orally or in writing – to change their ways or issue them with a warning.
It’s a good idea to regularly inspect the property but remember that landlords must give 24 hours’ notice if they wish to inspect their property, and must arrive at a reasonable hour of the day. Otherwise, they are guilty of harassment.
If the property is rented under an “assured shorthold tenancy” agreement, which is the most common type of agreement, then the landlord can repossess the property in two ways:
Accelerated possession: this can be used where the rent is late by eight weeks or two months (according to when rent is paid) and has the advantage of not usually requiring you to go to court so long as all the paperwork is in order. To go down this route here must be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy in written form in place, a valid Section 21 Notice must be issued and the two months notice period must have expired.
Rent arrears ground for repossession: this can be used where there are at least two months’ rent arrears. A Section 8 notice gives the tenant two weeks to respond. This is the best method to use where the total arrears are more than £600.00 and you’re keen to claw the arrears back. (Be warned though, tenants can often dispute arrears of rent claiming that the property is in bad shape and you failed to fix it).
Whichever repossession ground it used, the court will issue an order which is served on the tenant telling them to move out.
If they don’t vacate the property, you’ll need to apply to the court for bailiff action.
These procedures can be tricky, and it is best to seek legal advice when seeking to repossess a property.
The law in Scotland regarding landlord’s rights to evict tenants is different.
You must give your tenant notification in writing that you want them to leave, stating the reason you are asking them to leave and the date you want them to leave by, which must be 14 days from the date of notification. If this doesn’t work, then you can apply to the court.
Non-payment of rent for more than three months is sufficient grounds for a sheriff to grant a repossession order, where the property is rented under an assured tenancy and short assured tenancy. The sheriff will also usually order the rent money owed to be paid.
Only sheriff officers can implement the repossession order.
Getting legal advice
Need help finding a landlord solicitor near you? LawyerLocator covers all of the UK from major cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham to small towns in the countryside.
Overview of occupiers liability
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Problem with your landlord - private landlord
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Citizens Advice Bureau - Common problems with renting
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LandlordAction - Problem Tenants? Which situation are you in?