PROBLEM TENANTS – ‘all guns blazing’ or ‘softly softly’?
Many landlords and agents panic when a tenant misses one month’ rent. Getting to know your tenants payment habits helps very much when deciding what action is needed to be taken. Do you go in ‘all guns blazing!’ or with a more ‘softly softly’ approach?
To begin with it is always beneficial to have a good working relationship with your tenants, be good to them, respond to their emails in a timely fashion, communication is key! Respond to maintenance issues quickly and update the tenant where possible on the progress and the outcome. Managing tenants expectations works wonders, for example inform the tenant that maintenance is dealt with as quickly as possible, and once they report a maintenance issue then they should expect the ‘trades-person’ to be entering in the next day or two. Drop them a text if you can to let them know when they are due- this would be a perfect scenario. Tenants get to trust you and know that you are looking out for them. On this basis, when things gets tight, and their rent is late, they will communicate with you.
When tenants don’t respond to a gently text reminder that the rent is late, or ignore your emails – this can be a warning sign. At this point we go our of our way to make contact. We gently ask them to respond, and to let us know ASAP if there is an issue, so we can help them find a solution. In 99% of case there is always a solution.
Here is a step by step approach for you:
FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING WRONG
Make contact ASAP, give them a couple of days grace following the missed payment. Always take things softly at this stage, don’t be aggressive. There can be many reasons why a payment is late, they may have swapped jobs and their employer pays later, and they just need to get back into the swing of things. Maybe the standing order failed – and it will go out on the second attempt. We all occasionally misjudge funds in and funds out. In desperate situations, such as loosing a job, the tenant may need prompting to start a housing benefit claim. If the claim is started, it can even cover them for a few weeks. Better to be proactive!
Speak with your tenant, find out as much information as possible to do with their current situation, so you can determine whether this is a blip, or a larger issue. Maybe they would prefer to vacate, don’t suggest this yourself! However the tenants questions may lead to this. For example ‘how much notice do you require?’ . You the landlord will know if they still have months to go in their fixed term. Sometimes its easier to re let, than to force a tenant to stay committed when it is going to get them in a worse position.
Keep a record of letters, texts and emails – you may need to show at some point, what steps you took to get the tenant to pay; these come in handy if you have to evict the tenant at a later date.
With students, who are jointly and severally liable, if their payment is more than two weeks later, it is always a good idea to let the rest of the group know, in a joint letter to all parties. If the tenant has a guarantor in place, let the tenant know my email and letter, that your next steps are to inform their guarantor, unless they make contact and arrange a payment schedule. This usually pushes tenants to make contact!
PAYMENT SCHEDULE/OFFERING A SOLUTION.
Hopefully this is just a blip with your tenant, and with a little help and patience from you, they will get themselves back on track with a payment schedule. Work out what they can afford to pay and when, and get them back on track ASAP. If they are making a housing benefit claim, ask for evidence every step of the way. Ask them to give the HB department permission for you to track the claim. This is very important, as you can ensure its not be left in limbo!
It an be helpful to the tenant to agree to spread a debt over a few months, and tag it on to each months rent moving forward. Ensure that this won’t delay the inevitable, by asking them to show you how they will be managing their income and expenditure moving forward. They may not be too keen on this idea, no one likes income and expenditure sheets!
BEGIN THE NECESSARY STEPS TO GAIN POSSESSION – LEGAL ACTION.
Explain to the tenant, that you are issuing a section 21 notice to quit, and that if they get up to date with their payments or adhere to a payment schedule then you will not pursue the notice. However this notice sits in the background in case they fail to keep to their agreement. It saves time later, when you are left no other option to get them out.
KEEP GOOD RECORDS OF ALL THE TENANTS PAYMENTS.
Make a note of all the payments received by the tenant, and forward a receipt to them. Up date your tenant regularly, so they can see what they owe. It is better to keep an accurate record from the off, rather than trying to work it out later. This can lead to a dispute also, and is unnecessary.
TAKE THE RIGHT LEGAL ADVICE.
Ensure the paperwork you issue is correct. Use the proper forms. Do not try and wing it, this is fatal! Any mistake in the paperwork or its content can result in you not being granted possession of the property. There have been many legal changes in the last year, so it is worth checking and getting the correct advice.
Landlords should not go to the property unannounced, too many visits can be construed as harassment. It could be argued that you are preventing the tenant from having ‘Quiet enjoyment of the property’, so always ensure if you are visiting to give 72 hours notice. Stay professional, don’t give the tenant ammunition to pursue a claim for damages.