More than one quarter of landlords have experienced problems with tenants falling behind with their rent. In the past 12 months, 28% of landlords have experienced rent arrears, according to research by the Residential Landlords Association. This can have a major impact on cashflow, particularly when it comes to paying a buy-to-let mortgage and other bills.
A further problem is that it can take months for the problem to be resolved, if the tenant continues to remain in the property without paying rent. The lengthy eviction process means it can take almost a year for a landlord to repossess the property. Calls have been made for new housing courts to be set up, to help speed up the process. At present, the process is often delayed because of a backlog of cases in the county courts. Under the law, a tenant is entitled to stay in the property during the repossession process until the bailiffs are sent in to evict them. This applies even if they are not paying the rent.
Obviously, no landlord or property manager wants the situation to get so bad that legal action is the only option. The RLA suggests landlords thoroughly research would-be tenants before giving them a contract. By doing diligent checks, such as credit checks and taking up references, you are more likely to find a good, reliable tenant. The association also says landlords should contact the tenant as soon as a payment is missed. This can be a gentle reminder that rent is due and shows you are aware of the situation. This can often prompt a tenant into paying.
In this situation, this is where accurate, up-to-date records are needed. Landlords can use software to assist, and this can keep on top of all records such as contracts, inspection dates, inventories and rental payments. It can alert a landlord if a payment has been missed and ensure that prompt action can be taken.
Once you have been alerted to a non-payment of rent, you could discuss the situation with the tenant to see what the problem is and whether it can be rectified. Maybe a payment plan could be set up or it could be that housing benefit has been delayed. Put everything in writing, to ensure there is no misunderstanding. This can also be used as evidence, if legal action ends up being the only option.
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