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Rent Arrears – General Knowledge

Rent  Arrears - General Knowledge Landlord Knowledge
Rent  Arrears - General Knowledge Landlord Knowledge
Rent  Arrears - General Knowledge Landlord Knowledge
Rent  Arrears - General Knowledge Landlord Knowledge


Rent & arrears
Rent  Arrears - General Knowledge Landlord Knowledge


Scroll down to find the advice you are looking for. Most recent questions and answers are listed first.
Debt Recovery

I am a private landlord of a house (previously my home)in Pevensey Bay. My tenant has now not paid 10 weeks rent. I have just heard from Wealden Council today that they will pay me directly from now on. However, the amount they have stated they will pay is just over half what the actual rent was set at, so I continue to be out of pocket. My wife and I are Primary teachers and we work and live most of the year in Qatar.

I believe my tenant has been in a similar position before and seems very blase about the whole thing – texting she wtil only leave whenlegally obliged to do so and that she has no intention of paying anything etc. I have served a Section 21 notice but now believe it to be invalid (the tenant is unaware of this). I just want her gone but also for the rent debt to be retrieved. Please advise.

Ground 8 – Both at the date of the service of the notice under section 8 of this Act relating to the proceedings for possession and at the date of the hearing –

a) if rent is payable weekly or fortnightly, at least eight weeks’ rent is unpaid;
b) if rent is payable monthly, at least two months’ rent is unpaid;
c) if rent is payable quarterly, at least one quarter’s rent is more than three months in arrears; and d) if rent is payable yearly, at least three months’ rent is more than three months in arrears; and for the purpose of this ground “rent” means rent lawfully due from the tenant.

Ground 10 – Some rent lawfully due from the tenant –

a) is unpaid on the date on which the proceedings for possession are begun; and
b) except where subsection (1) (b) of section 8 of this Act applies, was in arrears at the date of the service of the notice under that section relating to those proceedings.

Ground 11 – Whether or not any rent is in arrears on the date on which proceedings for possession are begun, the tenant has persistently delayed paying rent which has become lawfully due.

Housing benefit payments never received

I rent a house out to 3 people who claim housing benefit. They have failed to pay the rent for over 3 months, but the county council refuse to reclaim it. I now receive the benefit directly. One of the tenants subsequently moved out owing me this 3 months rent. Another tenant moved in (all part of the same family), but has also since moved out and has failed to pay me for 2 months. The other tenant, who has remained in the house for the 10 months total owes me 3 months rent as well. In addition, all three agreed to top up the rent by £60 a month, which I have not received.

I have tenancy agreements in place, but I fear that they have moved out without informing me as they are now refusing to speak to me on the phone. I have no other address for them.

I have two questions:

1. How can I claim back the rent owed? Or, if they haven’t moved out, I wish to evict them and recover the debt. How do I do this? One of the tenants has a history of violence, for which he has served time. I am afraid that he will damage the house, or worse, if I was to attend the house to try to speak to him.

2. The council refuse to give them council tax benefit as they have separate tenancy agreements, but they are all part of the same family and therefore it is not a ‘house of multiple occupancy’. It is in the tenancy agreement that they will pay it, but as I have to pay the council (although I am appealing) and they are so behind in their rent, the chances are slim. How could I go about this?

Furthermore, I need to sell the house, to which they agreed to be accommodating to the estate agents. They haven’t been and have added another external lock (and internal locks to the bedroom doors) without my permission and breaching the tenancy agreement. Is there anything I can do about this?

The County Council cannot re-claim it from the tenants – the benefit is theirs and the fact they have chosen not to pay you is between you and your tenants.

– As soon as a second payment date is missed, serve a s.8 notice as they are then 2 months in arrears. At that stage, ask for the benefit to go direct to you.

– Why let a member of the same family, that is causing you problems, move in?

– The assured shorthold tenancy was established under the 1988 Housing Act to give a minimum of 6 months security for tenants, but also maximum re-possession rights to landlords. For future reference, serve a section 21 with the tenancy agreement at the start of the tenancy; if you have any problems at all, act on it – ie at the expiry of the tenancy, go to Court the following day – it is accelerated possession so should not take too long.

– if you fear they have gone, serve a Notice to Quit on the property. This is 28 days and if there is no contact within that time, you should be safe to enter the property. It may be worth speaking to the neighbours – did they see furniture being removed, had a chat over the fence where it was revealed they were leaving? Even then though, I’d serve the notice to quit – they may have left one of them in there.

– I am afraid that though members of the same family, they are clearly not living as a family unit, which is why the property is being treated as a house in multiple occupation. The bedroom locks would seem to support this.

– If it appears they are still in occupation, then you need to seek a notice of possession proceedings. The s.21 notice is a no-blame notice and though you have to give 2 months notice, you may feel safer giving in this in view of what you have said about the threat of violence. However, any notice is likely to result in damages being done to the property.

– Recovery of the debt is difficult if you have no forwarding address for them. I would try a debt recovery agency.

– I am not a bit surprised that they are not co-operating with estate agents; I’d put this on hold until they have left the property.

Change of payment date

Can a landlord change the payment date for rent.

I have heard of this happening, though probably most often at the tenant’s instigation, for example, to coincide with a salary payment date when a tenant changes employment. I think the main point is that you as landlord can probably not insist, if the tenant does not agree to it, as the tenancy agreement will state the payment date.

Discuss it with your tenant. If you offer some inducement, say foregoing perhaps a week or so of the rent, he or she may be happy to agree to this. If so, re-issue the tenancy agreement.

Claiming from DHSS

I paid an estate agent to let my two bed furnished apartment. A deposit was paid and the tenant moved in on 13 March 2009, and the guarantor for the tenant was DHSS.

However the April rent was not paid by the DHSS until 1 May 2009. Rent due in May was two weeks late. Rent due in mid June has still not arrived.

The estate agent gave the tenant notice to quit on 19 June. I have subsequently told the she has had other people living with her all along and has been partying for 14 weeks in the property with much disruption to the other residents and neighbours.

The tenancy agreement stated there were to be no pets. She has an Akita dog. The front and back of the ground floor property are in a terrible mess. There was also a ‘no smoking’ clause which has been disregarded.

How do I stand in getting my rent from the DHSS as the estate agent has informed me I may not. What do I do if there is internal damage to the property and my furnishings, wooden floors and the like are damaged. Do I have any come-back on the DHSS as it is her guarantor?

This is a very interesting question, as I have never heard of the DWP (DHSS no longer exists) standing as a guarantor for anyone. They have not been straight with you, as I am not aware of any circumstances where the housing benefit is not paid four weeks in arrears. The timescales you mention would not seem too far out from this.

Read the guarantor agreement. If you are sure this does commit them to duties of Guarantor, write to them explaining the issues and stating you will be pursuing them for reimbursement for all damage and rent arrears. If they are working with this tenant, they may be able to put some pressure on. You would probably have to take them to the small claims court, if they do not believe they have any responsibility, but hopefully, as a government body, they may be happy to pay.

What checks did your agent make, before deciding to give this tenant the tenancy? I have to be honest, my advice generallyis that if a statutory body is involved, don’t touch with a barge-pole – it indicates a very vulnerable tenant. What home visits after the tenancy commenced did the agent undertake? I advise a visit after four weeks, to check on standards. This may have nipped some of the issues in the bud, given that you could have then contacted the Guarantor at a very early stage.

Why is the agent advising you that you may not get the rent? Are they aware of something you are not? If the rent has started being paid direct to you, I cannot see why it would stop. If it is not coming direct at the moment, contact your local housing benefit section and ask them if the rent can go direct to you, if the tenant is eight weeks or more in rent arrears. The longest delay in benefit being paid is usually at the start. Once the claim is allowed, the rent should come every four weeks.

Only you know the full extent of the discussions that took place between you, the agent and the DWP, but if you feel that you have been given bad advice, write to the agent and outline your concerns. If the firm is not able to respond satisfactorily, then make a complaint through the governing body (ARLA?).

Get the agent, or do it yourself, to issue a section 21 notice to ensure that you can go to court as soon as the tenancy ends.

If the partying continues, serve a ground 14, section 8 notice, on grounds of Anti-Social Behaviour, but be prepared to get evidence from the neighbours, Police incident nos. Etc.

Good luck.

Asking for a reduction

Now that there is too many properties to rent on the market, rent are going down. How can I ask my landlord at the end of my first year contract to put the rent down for the next year contract?

In exactly the way you have phrased it here. However, do not be surprised if your landlord is prepared to take the risk of not getting a tenant to pay the full rent. Rent, remember, is based on many things, and it is possible that the rent is required to cover a mortgage payment. A cut would probably not be possible, in those circumstances. You feel you can get a cheaper property – he may feel he is happy to let you.

Notice of annual increases

We have a buy to let property in Swansea and have local agents who manage the property for us.

Two years ago we spoke to the agents about a rent increase, and were advised that we could increase the rent quite substantially. Our tenants are excellent, and we felt that the rise suggested by the agents was perhaps too large in one hit and might result in the loss of the tenants, so we decided to split the suggested rise over two years, raising the rent by 60% of the suggested rise in the first year (2008) and another 40% in the second year (2009). In due course the first increase was implemented.

At the end of October last year we contacted the agents again to ask them to issue a notice to the tenants that the rent would once more increase at the beginning of the year, and received a reply from them to the effect that as the previous rent increase took place on 4 April 2008 and we are only allowed to give them a rent increase once a year, we could not increase their rent again until April 2009.

They asked us to confirm that we wished them to give the tenants two months’ notice in February 2009 that the rent would increase at the beginning of April, and this we did.

We have now received the April Statement of Account from the agents, and no rent increase is shown. On querying this, we have been told by the woman we have been dealing with that her supervisor has now informed her they cannot send out the notice to the tenants until the twelfth month. The increase will, therefore, be effective from 4 June 2009. She apologised for the error in the earlier email, which she stated was her fault.

This seems to us an odd state of affairs. If we can only increase the rent once a year (which is fair enough), then in order to be able to do this we must be able to issue the notice to the tenants before that twelve months ends; if we have to add two months on to the year each time we wish to increase the rent, then surely we are only able to increase the rent every fourteen months, not every year?

Is the agent correct in what she says, and quite apart from this ‘twelfth month’ business, does the agent actually have to give two months’ notice, or is one month enough?

This sounds as though this could be their working practice as I was only aware that the formal notice needs one months notice. You state you have excellent tenants, but it sounds as though they are not happy to just accept the rent increase without the formal legal notification. I have checked my housing manual, and as I thought, there is no mention of two months notice, unless it is a tenancy where the rental period is two-monthly, ie rent is payable every two months. They do make reference to the possibility of the rent increasing on the 53rd week, but the actual wording is “52 weeks after the date on which the last increase took place” (Arden and Hunter).

I think this is something you will have to raise with the agent, and ask him to quote the legislation that states it can only be served in the twelfth month.

What to do

I have a tenant on a 12 month assured tenancy agreement with approximately 8 months to run. When he first moved in he paid me the first month’s rent upfront and two thirds of the deposit. A week later he paid the rest of the deposit.

He was late with the next month’s rent but told me he had set up a standing order from then on (to be paid five days late every month). When I queried it he said he didn’t see why it being late should be a problem.

Now he has started claiming housing benefit which means that he will not pay me monthly but fortnightly as that is when they pay him. However, he keeps promising that he will pay me the two weeks, but then only paying for one week, and then paying a bit more the following week but never the full amount so he is consistently in arrears.

He has given permission for me to talk to the housing benefit office and they confirmed that they are paying him every two weeks. I asked him to get the housing benefits to pay me directly but he says it is too complicated. Last week he paid me half of what he had promised, which means that I am finding it very difficult to pay my mortgage.

He sent me an email promising that it would be sorted out from next week, but has not replied to my return email and his phone is always off. I don’t know what my rights are in this situation – I am worried that he will keep not paying me properly or not pay me at all, and I really don’t know what to do or where I stand. Could you advise me?

You need to create a very clear rent statement, showing exactly what was paid, when, and what the shortfall is. If he is a full eight weeks in arrears, you should speak to housing benefits, showing them a copy of the rent statement. Under those circumstances, they have no choice but to pay you direct until the rent arrears are cleared. It is not complicated, under those circumstances. It is complicated if there are not eight weeks arrears, as the tenant would have to make a good case to the benefits people, ie evicted for rent arrears from a previous property, have a history of debt or would be unlikely to pay the rent (eg alcoholic).

I cannot make any comment on your local housing benefit section, but my local authority has been very helpful to landlords. If advised of non-payment or erratic payments, it will contact the tenant and see what the problem is. It may be worth having a conversation to see if there is anything the local authority can suggest.

I am afraid you have learned the hard way why tenancy agreements should only ever be issued, in the first instance, for six months. I could be wrong, but this sounds like someone who knows the system and will probably ensure that he never falls a full eight weeks in arrears, so you cannot evict before the end of the tenancy. You may need to discuss with your mortgage company if you are struggling to pay the mortgage – they are usually more helpful if you are transparent with them.

Tenant has fled

My tenant has fled owing me £2,000 in rent, we had no formal agreement signed, but my tenant had been paying me by standing order. What would you advise as to my possible courses of action?

As the property was split into three rooms I don’t think she registered for council tax and I fear I may also have that bill to pay as well.

Not quite sure what you mean about the property being split into three rooms. If it was a house in multiple occupation, with your tenant only having exclusive possession of one room, the council tax is your responsibility. If, however, it was a unit of accommodation with three rooms, the tenant should have registered for council tax.

I presume you do not have a forwarding address? Did you get next of kin, employer details when she moved in? The first difficulty is knowing her address to take small claims court action. Without addresses, that is very difficult. You could approach a specialist debt recovery agency – they are listed in the yellow pages. The second difficulty, however, is the fact that without a tenancy agreement that shows what the rent is, when it was payable etc., it is difficult to prove.

For future reference, always issue a tenancy agreement, provide a clear rent account and always serve a section 8, ground 8 notice as soon as the tenant is eight weeks in arrears.

When to take action

Unfortunately my tenants are now three weeks late in paying their rent. They are three students who have a 12 month assured shorthold tenancy agreement which commenced 30 May 2008. They have been late with rental payments every month but this month’s payment is significantly late. The tenants provided parental guarantors that were given to the credit referencing agency and I gather that they are responsible for the unpaid rent. I also have a deposit of just over one month’s rent held in a deposit scheme.

I have spoken to the tenants personally and they have promised to pay and to set up a standing order for next month, but I have doubts that this will materialise. I have subsequently put a letter in writing to them to request the rental payment. What steps would you recommend taking next. Should I be proceeding to court action and at what point?

For rent payments only three weeks late, I doubt that a court would feel it was reasonable for you to want possession. The rent arrears grounds you could use would be 10 and 11, which are discretionary grounds. As soon as they owe eight weeks rent, serve a section 8, ground 8 notice, and include grounds 10 and 11 which must always apply if ground 8 does. Ground 8 is the mandatory rent arrears ground.

I would send short, sharp letters saying this is unacceptable and that their tenancy is at risk. Also, that if you have not received the outstanding rent and sight of the standing order mandate, you will have no alternative but to write to their guarantors, explaining the difficulties you are experiencing. Hopefully, this will prompt them to do what they should. However, do remember that the Guarantors and the deposit you asked for would not generally “pay-out” until the end of the tenancy or eviction.

Lodger threatens court action

I have taken in a lodger and now find that he owes loads of debt and getting threats of county court judgment. I have asked him about this but to him it is nothing as he has nothing and everything in the flat is mine including in his room. What should I do? What is the impact on me and my address.

The main impact may be on black-listing of the address for credit. Should this happen, you may have some difficulty in having the address removed. I know this may seem harsh, but I would evict as soon as possible and you can then return anything that comes to your address as “not known”. Should you have difficulties in future in getting credit, discuss with Trading Standards who should know what steps you can take.

Returning rent?

My tenant, who is shortly leaving, has only been with me for about eight weeks after answering my Ad and taking a room on the understanding that the minimum let would be four months. He will be leaving mid-week.

I will be returning the deposit which I have no problem with. But should I also return rent paid in advance for the part of the week after he has left?

He started to pay me weekly about four weeks ago when he said he would be leaving but could not tell me when. In the meantime I have lost two would-be tenants who could not wait to find out if the room was available?

I presume the deposit has been protected by one of the tenancy deposit protection schemes. I do not think it is unreasonable to keep the rent for the remainder of the week, if you have not found a new tenant to pay from the day he leaves. I think you should be advising the tenancy deposit protection scheme that is protecting the deposit that you will be withholding the cost of a re-advertisement and an amount to cover the lost rental income until you get a new tenant.

Should he stay or should he go?

I have let a property to a friend of a friend using an assured shorthold tenancy agreement from a commercial provider. I also have a reference from this man’s employment agency, saying he was in permanent full time employment.

He paid the rent in cash from May to November last year but has not paid anything since. He now owes four month’s rent (£2,300). Every time I call him he comes up with excuses and promises to pay. Two weeks ago he said he had a new job and would pay £200 each week until he has paid the debt back, no money was forthcoming. Last week he said he quit his job and is now avoiding my calls. He has offered to leave but I am concerned that he will disappear if he does.

It is in my interests to keep him in the property or to evict him? What is my next step legally? Unfortunately all the chasing was done by phone, not letter. If the case was to go to court, would it hold up without written evidence?

I am afraid my view is that you need him out. He may be perfectly genuine, but this is a mounting debt. Do you have his next of kin? If he moved out, where will he go? You say he has offered to go, but you cannot rely on this, so serve him a s.8. With any luck, he will move before you have to go to court. I understand what you mean about him disappearing, but to be honest, I would rather have an invisible debtor, than one who is sitting there, very visible, and stopping you getting the rent you have a right to expect. You may need to bite the bullet, and accept that you may not get your money, but if you can get an address, go to the small claims court and get a CCJ. It may not get your money back, but may stop him doing the same to someone else. Just a point – your rent seems quite high, so why was he paying cash? Could he not pay through the bank because of debt issues?

Calculating weekly rate

We have some tenants who only want to rent for 10 weeks – which we are fine with. The rent is agreed at £800 per month – we took this to mean they would pay two full months plus half a month.
However the tenants are disputing this, saying they want the rent worked out on a daily basis (which works out cheaper).

It works out cheaper because you have assumed two months plus half – but for example, May has 31 days, June has 30 which equals 61 days, only two days off 9 weeks. If you multiply your monthly rate by 12 and divide by 52, you get a weekly rate of £184. It is a weekly tenancy, so their calculation of a daily rate does not apply – it is the weekly rate that should be used.

Taking benefit but not paying rent

My tenant owes me £1,227 pounds and left giving me post dated cheques of £50 each and a signed agreement to pay £50 every week until the outstanding debts is cleared. But now every cheque is coming back unpaid and I don’t know what to do or what are my rights.

This tenant was on housing benefits. The DHSS wanted to pay rent directly to me but stupidly I asked them to give the money to the tenant because they were not paying the full rent.

But the tenant did not use this money for his rent. Please tell me what I can do in this situation.

I have his forwarding address. Is there is any company out there that can take this case and deal with it.

Check your local telephone directory/Thompson’s local – there are debt recovery agencies that it may be worth contacting. I am very surprised the housing benefit section wanted to pay you direct – I wonder whether there was a history there which obviously, they could not discuss with you. I would also be inclined to say go to the small claims court, but there is no guarantee that you would the money from the tenant, whereas debt recovery will pursue it.

Method of payment

Do we have to accept rent by cheque? We have tenants who have started to pay us by cheque but as the husband has an IVA against him, we don’t trust their credit rating. We want them to pay in cash but they refuse. Can we refuse and insist on payment in cash. We have contacted Citizens’ Advice which said the tenants must pay us in the way we wish but the tenants will not accept this.

We can’t find anything on the Internet as proof of what CAB has said. Can you help? (We have no legal tenancy agreement – big mistake I know, but we were doing them a favour at the time – another big mistake!)

Most landlords would feel quite happy with a cheque, in that it is traceable and provides proof of what has been paid. CAB are right, the tenant should honour what you want – but your tenant does not want to and you cannot force the issue with them. Normally, I would say that when you have awkward tenants, you don’t need the hassle, so be prepared to get them out at the end of the tenancy. However, without a tenancy agreement, you cannot use the accelerated possession procedure, so I think you will have to wait and see whether your fears are justified and evict as soon as they are eight weeks in arrears.

Bailiffs have been calling

I have recently found out that one of the properties I have been letting out has had bailiffs entering the property due to tenant’s unpaid bills. Is there anything I can do about this situation as he has now fallen behind substantially with his rent as well?

Substantially in arrears – if he owes a full 8 weeks rent, serve him a section 8, ground 8 notice. You should also include grounds 10 and 11. If he sorts the rent out, fine. If not, go to court the day after the notice expires. Remember your experiences, if you are asked for a reference for this guy.

Agent gone out of business

The tenants of my rental property are withholding their final rent payment as they are unlikely to get their deposit back. This is because the agency that was managing the property has gone into liquidation and the deposit is unlikely to be recovered. I’m not sure what to do here. I would have thought that they should be paying the final rent and then dealing with the letting agent to get their deposit back? The issue is between the tenant and the agent so I shouldn’t be out of pocket.

You are right, but your tenant is highly unlikely to see it that way. The problem is that the deposit should have been protected in one of the deposit protection schemes. If it was not, you will have difficulty enforcing your rights. If the deposit was protected – the tenant should have been informed of which scheme was used – there should be no difficulty in getting the deposit back even though the agent has gone into liquidation.

Rent increase

I am approaching the renewal of my tenant’s assured shorthold tenancy agreement, and in doing so have taken the opportunity to increase the rent. The existing AST is for 12 months so the rent hasn’t increased during that time. As I am not increasing the rent during the period of the existing agreement, do I have to give the tenants a minimum period of notice of the increase, or can I just increase it as part of the new tenancy agreement?

I think as a matter of courtesy to tenants who presumably have been very good, you should give them notice that when the new tenancy agreement is issued, it will show an increased rent. Make sure it says in the agreement that the rent will increase yearly.

Non-existent guarantor

In October 2006 I let an apartment through an agent. The tenant was a Polish woman who gave a guarantor who was supposed to be a director of a company. The tenant was supposed to be employed by this person’s company.

The guarantor’s signatures were witnessed by a supposed associate. The tenancy was for six months with the rent was paid through a bank standing order. After four months the tenant wished to renew the tenancy agreement for another six months. As there was no problem with the payments I agreed and a new tenancy agreement was signed the same way as before. However after the fifth month’s payment the standing order stopped. For the next four months the guarantor’s associate sent cheques which always bounced. However I still managed to get the rent for these four months.

For the next three months I did not receive any rent. The only phone contact with the associate was a mobile number which stopped functioning. The agent sent an S21 notice. I asked a debt collection agency to recover the rent. The tenant vacated the property on time without leaving any forwarding address. The debt collector eventually told me that all the letters and court letters addressed to the associate were returned marked ‘not at this address’. When I checked through the companies register I found that my guarantor was not listed as a director although his associate was a director and secretary of the company. He also lived at the company’ address.
When I looked at the signed guarantor’s document provided by my agent I discovered that the guarantor’s signature bore a marked similarity to that of his associate. To me they appeared to be signed by the same person.

My questions are: How should I recover the rent? Is forging the signatures a criminal offence? And should I contact the police?

I think if the debt recovery agency could not trace her, she has probably gone to ground somewhere and it will be difficult to get anything off her. I think I would try the small claims court for the guarantor, though it sounds this is someone else who has gone to ground. Forgery is a criminal offence, but it may be difficult to prove and, if you cannot provide an address for the person committing the offence, it is unlikely they could help. Unfortunately, sometimes, landlords have to accept that the they have lost money and will not recover the outstanding rent – though I hope you do. If anyone reading this has any good suggestions, I would be delighted to hear them.

Pursuing the guarantor

Our tenant is behind with his rent. As his mother acted a guarantor, we asked her to pay what is owed. She refused, so we have now issued a notice to quit on ground 8. If the tenant doesn’t pay the outstanding rent can I take his mother, the guarantor, to the small claims court to recover unpaid rent?

Yes. I presume you ensured that mother was able to cover any debt? Ie home owner, in full time employment etc.? I suppose I am old and old-fashioned to boot, but I cannot understand how anyone could act so dishonourably. If you sign to be a guarantor, you should be prepared to pay up and/or put pressure on your child to clear the debt.

Lodger left owing rent

I have a lodger who agreed to move in for six months. He agreed to sign a tenancy agreement which outlined this information. Just the other day he turned up with three members of his family and moved most of his things out of my property. I explained to him that he still had two months left on his contract.

Further to this, he agreed on a date to pay me one month’s rent and agreed that I would keep the deposit for the second month’s rent. The deposit only makes up half of the month’s rent but we both agreed on this in order to call a truce. He has not turned up to pay me on the agreed date and instead put his keys through my letter box. What action can I take in order to get the money that I am owed. Are the small claims courts expensive? Not only would I like to get my money back but to make a point.

The small claims court was set-up to provide a simple and cheap means of recovering debt. I am afraid I have no current figures for costs, but it is not expensive. If you have clear paperwork, showing that he owes rent, you should have no difficulty in recovering and the cost anyway will be added to his debt. You need an address for him and you must also understand that if he makes a good case that he cannot afford much etc., the court may order him to pay only a very small sum each week to clear the debt – but you will have made a point and perhaps affect his ability to do the same to someone else as his credit rating will be altered.

No tenancy agreement

As a gesture of goodwill I allowed my friend and his girlfriend to rent my house. I had just bought a new one and they had nowhere to live. I figured they could live there while he finished his studies, then I could sell.

They were paying me some rent to cover the bills and mortgage, but have decided to not pay me for six weeks. I have no tenancy agreement with them and I’m sure his girlfriend isn’t registered as living there with the council tax office (he’s a student and would be exempt from paying if he occupied the premises solely)

Having been the victim of a bad tenant before, I do not wish to go the way of evicting, it’s a time consuming joke. I make no profit from them living there, and I haven’t asked for a bond. They have never paid by standing order, always cheques cash or both.

Can I just change the locks and move their things out and move back in myself (most of my things are still in the house as I am letting them use these). Must have sucker written on my forehead.

No, you have kind and generous stamped on you – but change the locks and that will change to sucker. With friends like this, who needs enemies? As they have behaved in this unscrupulous and totally unfair fashion, I would not be surprised if they then tried to pursue you for illegal eviction.

Without a tenancy agreement, you cannot go for accelerated possession. Most people finish their studies in June – was that the plan, that they would stay until then? It may be worth discussing with them and seeing what their feelings are – do they intend to start paying again? Once they owe eight weeks, you could try a section 8, ground 8 notice – but you will need a clear rent account for the court if you do this.

Arrears building up

A tenant moved into my rented flat approximately 18 months ago. As he is a self employed builder and couldn’t confirm regular income but paid six month’s rent in advance through an agency. I subsequently ended my agreement with the agency as I didn’t feel I was getting value for money and my tenant asked if we could renegotiate the rent as he wanted to stay for two years and he knew I now didn’t have agency fees to pay. I agreed to lower the rent slightly as a gesture of goodwill as long as he signed another agreement for at least six months. He made various excuses and no new agreement was forthcoming. He then wrote to me giving two month’s notice to quit. I began looking for a new tenant.

Then my tenant asked if I could evict him as he wanted the local housing authority to re-house him as his son had moved in with him and it was cramped in a one bed flat. I took advice and was told that I couldn’t evict him without reason and that the authorities would check up on the situation anyway. I told him there was nothing I could do and I carried on looking for a new tenant.

Next, I was advised that he’d had an accident at work, had hurt his back severely, was no longer able to work, and was now receiving housing benefit – that this was insufficient to cover the whole rent. I wrote back advising him that it was his duty under the original agreement to pay the shortfall which for that month he did. During this time I realised that due to increased interest and other costs I was only just breaking even with the current rent and attempted to put it up. I gave him appropriate notice and contacted the housing benefit people to ascertain the rent assessment on my property – although they said they couldn’t give me any information due to data protection rules.

Now the tenant has sent me a copy of a letter from the housing benefit people to say they’re stopping his claim whilst they investigate further. So he’s advised me he’s not going to pay any more rent. At the moment he’s not a full month in arrears but his next rent is due this week and I have no idea how much, if anything he’s going to send me.

Please can you advise what I can do from here?

Whoever told you you could not evict your tenant without reason was wrong – this is the whole point of an assured shorthold tenancy and the accelerated possession procedure. This allows you to evict, giving no reason at all, provided you give two month’s notice, which should not expire before the fixed term has ended. As the tenant did not sign the new agreement, the tenancy automatically converted to a statutory periodic tenancy – so only two month’s notice is required.

The Homeless Welfare section may contact you and ask why you are evicting, which in this case, you can truthfully say that you need a tenant who can pay an increased rent.

Stopping the benefit pending investigation is the standard procedure, though I cannot understand why they would do that, given that they have told you they cannot give the assessment.

Keep the lines of communication open. I think it is unlikely the tenant will honour the notice he has given you, so you need to serve him notice to make sure he goes. Speak to him pleasantly but advise that he must get his housing benefit sorted out. As soon as he is two months/8 weeks in arrears (depending on what the tenancy agreement says), you will also serve a ground 8,section 8 notice on rent arrears, which requires only two week’s notice.

Remember, if your tenancy agreement said rent was payable monthly in advance, as soon as the tenant owes five weeks, he is in fact two months/8 weeks in arrears. In addition, serve a section 21, accelerated possession procedure notice, which may be all he wants to present to the council. Obviously, point out that any reference you may be asked for will reflect how he has conducted the tenancy, and this includes how he paid the rent.

What to claim

I have a claim for possession going through the local county court. I am also about to issue a claim for rent arrears of two months – another month’s rent is now due (due date falling after service of notice). Can I also claim this in advance or must I issue another claim for the monthly rent owed in arrears?

I would leave the claim until it is correct to ask for three months rent arrears – I am not aware that issuing in advance is legal. If the tenancy agreement states that rent is payable monthly in advance, as soon as the date it is due has passed, he is in a further months arrears.

Changed locks

My tenant is two months in arrears and I have issued him with a notice to quit and raised a County Court judgment against him.

I believe that he has changed the locks to the property – is it legal for him to do so without asking/advising me and/or issuing me with a new set of keys?

It is not actually illegal to do so, though it would be good manners to discuss with the landlord and good practice to let you have a spare set of keys. Have you issued a Notice Seeking Possession, section 8? This is a two week notice and you can then go to court to get a notice of possession. I think you are worried that this tenant will stay where he is, hence the concern about the lock change. If he stays beyond the date the court gives, you will need to get a bailiff to attend. You would be as well taking a locksmith along who can take off your tenant’s locks and replace with new ones, just for the security of the building anyway.

Last two month’s rent

Our tenants have told us that they have cancelled their standing order for their last two rental payments (the tenancy is due to expire at the end of July). They say they have done this because they have spent £900 on alarm servicing and gas servicing (both tenant responsibilities as clearly explained in the agreement) and they do not think they will get this or their deposit returned when they leave.

They have cancelled the telephone connection to the house, moved all their furniture out, apart from a television, kitchen table and chairs and one bed. In other words they have vacated the property but not put it in writing. They want us to keep the deposit, and have written us a cheque for £1,500 totalling two months rent minus the £900 they think we should pay.

Where do we stand as landlords? We obviously cannot touch the deposit money until the inventory is done at the end of the lease and have not banked the cheque.

I wonder, have your tenant’s had any legal advice, because although the tenancy agreement states it is their responsibility to have the alarm and gas serviced, this is unusual and the tenant cannot sign away responsibilities that are yours in law.

I know this situation where the tenants don’t pay the last month or two months is very frustrating, but these tenants appear to have been quite reasonable, in that they have sent a cheque. I think I’d get it cashed, hopefully without it bouncing. You could try the small claims court, but I think you are unlikely to win, given that they have paid what they feel is reasonable and could throw in that you had included what could be seen as an unfair contract term. Sorry!

Tenants have fled

My tenants have fled owing a month’s rent (even after taking the deposit into account) and leaving the place in a terrible state. I do not have forwarding addresses for them but do know where they work. The tenancy was in both their names and they work in different places. Can I do anything?

You could discuss with the Small Claims Court whether you could use work addresses, but I would be very dubious about something that could be seen as harassment. Do you have any guarantors/next of kin addresses? If you decide to write to them at their workplaces, make sure it is marked ‘Private and Confidential’, but this may not be allowed by their employers which could raise questions anyway. Maddening as it is, I think you may have to let this go.

Housing benefit shortfall

I have a tenant who has been in my property since October 2004, originally through an agent. She is receiving housing benefit and my agent arranged the payment to come to me directly.

Last October 2006 I received a statement from housing benefit stating that my tenant’s entitlement has been reviewed and that due to a change of circumstances had been paid too much. They have taken the over-payment back from me by deduction from monthly payments.

When I spoke to my tenant she explained she had started work and assured me she would pay the difference to make up the monthly amount. This she did for the first two months but after this she made various excuses. As I knew she was having a hard time and Christmas was approaching, I accepted her excuses.

Later she told me she was not going to pay the difference until a leak in the roof was fixed – something I promised to look into by asking more than one builder to see if there was a problem and if so provide a quote.

Finally I was told there was a problem with the partition wall and this was rectified. After this I wrote to my tenant asking for the overdue amount as I was concerned that this was mounting up.
She replied saying she would be leaving and she would not be paying any arrears as I had caused her son to have to sleep on the sofa, which gave him back problems.

She also told me that I had put her life at risk because I had been a bad landlady.

What can I do? All I want is for her to leave and get my money back.

A bad landlady for nearly three years? I don’t think so. I think this is the usual case of someone being unpleasant to justify non-payment of what you are entitled to ask for. Check her rent account carefully. Exactly how much does she owe? She needs to owe at least two full months rent if it is a monthly tenancy or eight weeks if it a weekly tenancy. If she does owe this much, issue a section 8, ground 8 notice, available from this website.

Add grounds 10 and 11, which do not specify an amount but apply if she owes eight weeks. This is a two week notice. After it has expired, go to court and get a possession date.

If she does not owe the eight weeks, then issue a section 21, two month notice, to end when the tenancy ends, if you gave a new tenancy agreement at the expiry of the last tenancy period. If you did not re-issue the agreement, it became a statutory periodic tenancy and you can therefore issue two month’s notice to end at any time. BUT – please make sure you follow the tenancy dates on the notice – the two week notice should end at the end of the tenancy period, the two month’s notice should start at the beginning of a tenancy period. So if tenancy began on 1 of the month, so should the notice. Section 8, two week notice, would end on 30 or 31.

No agreement

I rented out my spare room to a lodger as I am rarely at home and was looking for a bit of house sitting really. I have no written tenancy agreement and she is not named on any bills or have anything to say she ever lived in my house. She has now disappeared whilst I have been away and owes me two months rent. She is not answering my phone calls and I only have her parents’ address. Where do I stand legally? Do I have any way of getting my rent?

The small claims court would be the answer for the rent, but you would have to use the parents’ address and they may say they don’t know where she is. Even if it got to court, I think someone who could live in your house and leave owing two months rent, is a) unlikely to pay b) dispute that she lived there as a lodger. She could say she was house-sitting, so no payment was due from her. I think this might have to be a lesson learned as I don’t think you will get anything from her. For future reference, always prepare a lodging agreement – you can write it yourself, make sure it is dated and include the rent, notice arrangements, how the bills are to be divided, use of kitchen and the like. Sorry.

Selling a debt

My tenants have moved out having paid nothing for six months. I have found out where they have gone and I did have a solicitor working for me but have run out of money to pay him for further work. Meanwhile I have started small claims court action.

But I was wondering if it is possible to sell this debt, and if so, who to. My solicitor said he has done this in the past in the case of business debts.

The tenants who owe me money own a 4 by 4 Range Rover although I think this is in a relative’s name.

Is there any way I can warn other landlords about these people as I think they are likely to leave other with similar debts not to mention damage to their properties.

Perhaps the best way of seeing whether this is possible is to check your local Yellow Pages – under ‘Debt Collection’ – I put the circumstances to one such firm which said it could help.

You have to be very careful about warning other landlords. If asked for a reference, always be honest. Is there a local landlords association? It would probably be extremely helpful to you if something like this occurs again and you may be able to gain from the experience of others.

No formal agreement

One of my friends introduced me to one of his friends who wanted to rent a room in my flat – in fact it belongs to my sister and I live there for free. He moved in, we agreed the rent, but we did not draw up a legal contract.

Now he is not paying his rent regularly owes my £2,000.

I have drawn up agreement which acknowledges this debt, which he has signed – although he has not paid this month’s rent either.

How can I get what I am owed. Can I lock the door and not let him come in and only give him back his belongings after he has settled? Or is there any point in drawing up another agreement?

This guy is taking the Mick! What is the point in a second agreement that he will also ignore? Write him a polite, short letter asking him to accept this as one week’s notice, stating that if he does not leave at the expiry of the notice you will be taking court action to remove him from the premises. The notice should be headed ‘Notice to Quit’ and can be written by yourself – he has no tenancy, he was a lodger and you only need give him reasonable notice.

At the expiry of the notice, go to court and get an order. Only after you have a court order can you change the locks. You cannot keep his goods, but as there is a very large debt, you can ask the Bailiffs to remove his goods to recover the debt – though I would be surprised if he has goods that would raise £2000, simply because second-hand goods raise very little, unless valuable antiques. Speak to Court

Protected Agricultural occupancy

We have been living in tied accommodation since 1987. When I was recently made redundant the owners of the property arranged for a rent officer to register the rent. On the form the landlord requested that the rent should be £700, and this was the amount at which the registered rent was set.

Some time ago we were told that we would only ever have to pay half of the rentable value of the property. We have contacted the rent service whose officials said the amount of £700 was reached after taking into account the poor condition of the property.

What we would like to know is, do we pay the £700 or should we push for paying half of this.

Operative word here is ‘told’ – did you get anything in writing confirming this? In what context was it said? For example, ‘because of the state of the cottage, you’d only ever have to pay half’. I think you need to discuss this very openly and see what feeling you get back from the landlord. If the rent has been set at £700, that clearly is not an unreasonable rent level. Are you concerned that if you get another job, you will not be able to afford it? Raise these concerns, but be aware, if this is not an unreasonable rent, if you had to find somewhere else, what will you have to pay then? Discussion it may clarify matters for you and remind the landlord of what was said.

Unlikely promises

I have a lady lodger living in my house and since she moved in (in September 2005) she has been very erratic with her rent. I allowed her to default on the rent date by approximately a fortnight every time as she said she was unable to pay when due as it didn’t coincide with her fortnightly pay date.

I did not take a deposit off her when she moved in and just recently she has been making excuses about her pay date changing therefore said she could only pay me on a date three weeks in arrears.

I said to her that this was not acceptable and that I would only allow her the two week’s grace and no more.

She was due to pay me four weeks rent (in advance) on the 20 of last month. As usual I allowed her another two weeks but when I pressed her for payment she said she had changed jobs and that the pay date had changed again and that she could not pay me until 19 of the month – by which time she will be a whole month behind. She also told me she would be moving our one month after this.

I suspect she will tell me on the 19 that she is unable to pay. I know that she owes other people money. And I am worried that she will leave owing me over two months rent.

What should I do? Can I change the front door lock if payment is not forthcoming on 19?

Most definitely not! This would be construed as illegal eviction, which even though she is only a lodger would be treated seriously. Serve her what she is entitled to in law – reasonable notice. Probably one week is enough, though more is always preferable, to give her time to find somewhere else. She has few rights and would have to go. I would be inclined not to make too big an issue of the rent – just tell her you feel you need your own space at present.

Reporting bad tenants

My tenant has absconded owing me over £1,250 and also taking the keys. After serving a Section 21 he avoided me at all costs and asked for all contact to be via correspondence.

I wanted him out after he had been such a bad tenant and had even sworn at me on occasions.

Now I am left in debt and the flat has been damaged. I called the police but they said they were powerless and that this is a civil matter. Surely the theft of keys and my money must count. Why are we so powerless as landlords when we own the property?

I’m advised to go to my solicitor but I fail to see how my money is going to be recovered. Is there a forum where you can report bad tenants?

Not that I am aware of, though your local landlords association may be interested. I am afraid that rent arrears and keeping keys are not viewed in the same way as stealing money. I usually advise landlords visit their properties every month to check they are being looked after. Issue tenancies that say rent is payable monthly in advance. As soon as the tenant is eight weeks in arrears, issue a ground 8 notice – and if you do what is suggested, issuing tenancies payable in advance, means rent need only be missed for five weeks before you can take action.

A solicitor will only really be able to help if you know where the tenants are; if you do, then go to the small claims court – a solicitor would be expensive.

Giving proper notice of increases

I have been renting my current flat since April 1996, originally on an assured shorthold tenancy. Originally the property was managed by the letting company, to whom I paid my monthly rent.
In October 1998, I was advised that the tenancy would change to a statutory periodic tenancy, and that the terms would remain the same as the previous AST, except that it would be for an unspecified period.

In March 2000 I received notification that the landlord had sold the property, and that nothing would change other than that the new landlord would manage the property himself and that I should now pay my rent direct to him.

In July 2002 the landlord wrote to me to advise that as from September he was were putting the rent up so that it was in line with other properties in the area. At the time I didn¹t know that the landlord was supposed to do this in a particular way, and being unable to find the additional £100 demanded, I offered to pay an increase of £50 pounds from September, with an additional £50 from April (after my next salary review).

The landlord said he would accept the £50 from September, but wanted the full increase from January. By this time I knew the landlord should be following the correct procedure, so I did not agree to this, although I paid the extra from April as I had offered.

During the discussions around this, the landlord agreed (in writing) that the flat was in need of redecoration. Most of the work discussed still remains incomplete, (and I had to threaten to return to the original rent until they did something before any work was undertaken).

I find getting any repairs done quite a challenge (having to suggest I will get them done myself before anything is done). I do not currently hold a gas safety certificate, or a recent electrical or fire safety certificate.

In December last year, the landlord wrote to advise me that the rent would be going up by a further £100 from February and that I must also pay the arrears of £150 for the claimed increase from January to April – to which I had not agreed. I have just written to say that I am not able to raise an additional £100 at one month’s notice, but that I would be willing to negotiate a more reasonable increase after my salary review in April, and that as far as I am concerned, there are no arrears as I paid from the date I agreed to pay.

I am after some confirmation that I am within my rights to say what I have said, and that I do not have to pay any additional rent until the landlord makes a proposal giving me correct notice and using the correct procedures and allowing me right of appeal.

I agree that the rent would be about average for the area, however, I feel that the landlord does not take his responsibilities seriously, and I am not happy to pay any additional rent until he does all the things that we previously discussed, and which I believe he is obliged to do by law. Am I within my rights to do this?

Well, yes you are, but remember you are on a statutory periodic tenancy – the landlord need only give you two month’s notice. If I were the landlord, asking for what is average for the area, I may be inclined to evict and start again with a new tenant. Try and keep things pleasant. There is a legal procedure for raising the rent and if he has not gone through that, you have every right to say that there are no arrears.

Using deposit to make good arrears

I have a tenant who has not paid his rent for July. He is now three weeks late. His telephone is switched off and he does not reply to my emails. I have heard that he no longer has a job so it is unlikely he will be able to pay me. Can I take his deposit as payment of unpaid rent and serve an eviction notice up to the date the deposit will cover the rent to?

I cannot answer this one without knowing fully the tenancy dates. Your tenant may no longer be working, but he may have made a claim for housing benefit in which case, you may get some rent at some time.

He needs to be a full eight weeks in arrears for you to be able to use the usual rent arrears ground. If the tenancy period is coming to an end, then you could serve a section 21, giving two2 month’s notice. You should not, at this stage, touch the deposit, though obviously, if the tenant leaves, you will retain it to cover any rent arrears.

I know you have e-mailed, but perhaps you should write to him, asking him to contact you to discuss the situation. If you do it in a pleasant manner, he may respond. Otherwise, issue the ground 8, two week rent arrears notice, as soon as he is eight weeks in arrears.

Notice of increase

I wrote to my tenant to inform him of a rent increase. When the rent was due his payment by standing order remained the same as the previous month. Since then I have written twice at one week intervals asking him to amend the payment. There has been no reply.

Is there a prescribed number of times I must write to him before I take further action eg give him notice to quit.

Your tenant is obviously not agreeing to an increase of rent. I presume this is a statutory periodic tenancy, as if it was a new tenancy, you would just have increased the rent. If I am correct in this, then you must use the formal procedure for proposing a rent increase. You should use the Landlord’s notice proposing a new rent under an Assured Periodic Tenancy of premises situation in England (same form but with Wales at the end, if the property is in Wales). You would give a month’s notice, but if the tenant still does not agree, he would have to apply to the Rent Assessment Committee which would set the rent.

I am not aware of a prescribed number of times for writing, but you could not issue a notice of possession proceedings until he was eight full weeks in arrears.

Gone home for summer

My tenant signed a new six month contract in April and has been paying his rent by direct debit each month. He informed me in the middle of June that he was going home for three months but would be back. July’s rent has not been received (it looks like he’s cancelled the direct debit) but the bank can’t say for sure). The house is still full of all his belongings.

I’ve tried to contact him to no avail – do I wait to get the money from him when he returns or serve notice? Can I change the locks? I’m worried that he may come back and move his things without paying arrears?

Did you get next of kin details? When he said ‘home’, where did he mean? Did you get an address? If so, a pleasant telephone call to him might elicit some information. I don’t think there is much you can do, I am afraid. If it was my house, I would not want it to be left vacant for three months – there are security issues, in which case this should have been fully discussed when he told you what he was doing. You could serve a notice to quit, on the basis that you believe he has abandoned, but I think he is justified in saying that he advised you he had not abandoned and that he has every intention of returning, at which point he will pay the outstanding rent.

For future reference, put it in the tenancy agreement that the property should not be left untenanted for long periods, unless by prior arrangement and, in that case, prior payment in advance of at least part of the rent. In student accommodation, students generally pay an honorarium of half the rent during holidays when they are not going to be there.

Lodger bother

I have two lodgers who live with me. One has lived in my house for over two years but for the last two months has been late with his rent. When he moved in he signed a contract agreeing to pay his rent on the first of every month. I assume that this makes him in breach of contract? I was told in the past that as I live at the same address I am legally entitled to evict him without further notice if he is in breach – is this actually correct? I do have a clause in the contract that states that I can give him four week’s notice to move out (and vice versa), but I want to make him aware (and be sure myself) of the possible consequences of continued late payment. I would be grateful for your advice.

Send a warning letter stating that you are considering terminating his agreement because of the breach – that he is failing to pay the rent on the first of the month. However, if this is due to a change of work payment dates, you would be prepared to discuss payment dates with him.

I believe that even where there is a breach, eviction without further notice could be considered unreasonable. I would be inclined to give one week’s notice. If he argues, remind him that the four week’s notice in the contract does not apply where there is a breach. Hopefully, this will bring him back into line.

Doing a bunk

I have had two tenants (both students) living in my property (in which I also live in) for the past year. Their contract ends on 1 July 2006.

Recently I received various utility bills which I photocopied together with a letter to each tenant stating exactly what is owed and reminding them that all bills and unpaid rent (one of the tenants has not paid June’s rent) must be paid by 1 July.

Three days ago in my absence, both tenants moved out without leaving me a cheque for what is owed. I am unsure of what to do because they have shown no respect for me throughout the tenancy agreement by continually being late in paying rent and bills – this may be in part because I am only 23 and they are one or two years younger than myself.

Fortunately I have their parents’ addresses – where they have probably fled, because they told me they had little cash at the moment. They owe me about £1,000 and I really don’t want to have to take this to court because that could become costly. What should I do?

The Small Claims Court is not unduly expensive, and of course, the costs, if you win (which you should) would go against them. Did the parents stand as guarantors? If so, you could pursue a claim against them.

Try not to get too upset about the lack of respect – it is not nice, but actually, probably most landlords dealing with students would say this tends to be the norm at some stage of the tenancy. You will know in future to be extra vigilant when it comes to the end of the academic year. I presume you have some deposit, which will cover some of the debt.

Lodger’s rent arrears

I have recently refurbished a room with the intention of renting it. A good friend of my son’s took the room three months ago at an agreed rent of £60 a week. As he was a friend no licence or tenancy agreement was drawn up. Now he has given a week’s notice that he is quitting to move into a flat that is considerably more expensive. The problem is that he has not paid any rent or any of the bills he said he would and has caused considerable (expensive) damage.

He has consistently promised to pay but as he had no job was unable to do so. As he is moving to this more expensive flat, still with no job, I can’t see how he could pay the money he owes me and pay his new rent. Could a binding agreement now be drawn up to make sure the unpaid rent and damage can be recovered?

Another good example of not mixing business with friendship. I think a retrospective binding agreement would be very difficult to use to recover your losses. He has no agreement and will almost certainly deny that he was there as a paying guest – he may say his friend wanted to help him out, for example. This is supported by the fact that although he gave you no rent, you did not ask him to leave. Yes, I know you were being patient and trusting, but it does not support your case.

The lodger has probably gone for a better property because he will be entitled to housing benefit, which is paid at a higher lever for a tenancy than for lodgings. I do not understand why he did not try to claim housing benefit, and at least got you some rent. But sometimes there is a logic with tenants and lodgers which is unfathomable.

As he was a good friend of your son, can he put gentle pressure on him? Do you know the lad’s parents – would they be prepared to cover his debt? Or is this why he was not living at home?

Good luck – I think small claims court is your only option.

Waiting for housing benefit

I have been renting my flat for two and a half years. It started in November 2003 as an assured shorthold tenancy, which I believe lasted for six months, but has carried on till now. I have recently lost my job and have put in a claim for job seekers allowance and housing benefits. I have been paying my rent for the last two weeks with what savings I have.

I have told my landlord that I have no more money left but that the housing benefit will be sorted within six to eight weeks and that the rent will be paid directly to him. He said that the housing benefit was my problem and that he is not prepared to wait for it come through even if it is going to be back dated. He wants his rent every Friday night otherwise he will kick me out.

Until now I have never missed a payment or been in arrears. Can he do this?

No, he cannot. You have a statutory periodic tenancy and are entitled to two months notice, if he wants to end the tenancy without a reason, or two weeks notice using ‘ground 8’ which covers rent arrears – but only when eight full weeks rent is owing.

Try and discuss the situation with him reasonably. If he is not prepared to do this, advise him you will contact the Housing Benefit section. They can pay an interim payment if they cannot pay the full sum, but this will probably be enough to stave off possible ground 8 action.

Advise your landlord that any action on his part to evict you without legal notice would mean you would contact a solicitor and the local authority, which can prosecute in cases of illegal eviction, which this would be.

I have every sympathy with landlords who feel they wait a long time for housing benefit and then have other problems, but illegal eviction is a crime. If the landlord turns up on your doorstep to evict, call the police. Good luck!

Pressure for pump

Last October I let out my flat for the first time. My tenant has not paid the rent for January or February. He wants me to install a pressure pump and says that unless I do so he will not pay the rent.

I do not think a pressure pump is a ‘necessary need’ and I cannot afford one anyway. I am single mother and have to pay the mortgage for my flat and also the rent for the place where I live.

Reading few of the questions and answers I gather that I can use a section 8 notice, but I am not sure if it is right procedure or where to get the relevant forms.

I would be grateful if you could tell me what to do at this situation.

He is two months in arrears, so serve a ground 8 notice.

I always try to be balanced and see both sides, but I cannot understand why tenants feel they are able to dictate terms. Despite my professional qualifications, I am afraid I am unsure what a pressure pump does. My guess would be something to do with water pressure (and if I am wrong, I don’t mind people laughing) but if there is sufficient water pressure to run a bath, use the washer etc., then I would not think it is necessary. Do I assume correctly that you have lived in the property yourself? If so, unless something has happened to change the water pressure, I cannot see that there is any necessity to change it. I think your tenant may be trying it on with someone he thinks he can manipulate.

Raising the rent

Rather than leave my apartment empty I took the advice of a letting agent and let it at a considerably lower rent than I had originally wanted. I’ve subsequently realised that I will not be able to continue renting it out at that price for much longer. Would I be able to raise the rent or is there a set time that I have to wait before I can raise the rent?

Your agent should be handling this for you. Generally speaking, you can raise the rent when a new tenancy is issued, though you should probably aim to raise it every 12 months at the anniversary of the tenancy.

Shortfall in initial payment

We currently let a flat through an agent. The tenant, who receives housing benefit and whose rent is paid by the council, moved in on 31 October. He was supposed to have paid a deposit plus a month’s rent plus a month in advance – £2,025 in total. All we have received from the agent is £1,000, which was paid over in January.

Can we give the tenant two month’s notice as he and the agent are both in breach of contract? The agent has also had the cheek to take £95 for contacting the council and the like.

If we do not receive any money from the tenant can we claim it from the agent?

Before you do anything extreme like evicting, I feel you should ask the agent to explain what you have been given. Ask them to put it in writing.

Read the agreement you have carefully – I would not expect that you would receive the deposit, I would expect the agent to hold it, ready to return following inspection at the end of the tenancy.

I am not clear, from your question, how you see the tenant is in breach of contract. If he has not paid the sums required, then he is, but you are not clear about that because you do not know what the agent received, only what you have had.

I don’t know the area you are in, but it is possible that there is a delay with housing benefit, hence the small sum received. I am not sure about the £95 you paid for contacting the council, but I would have thought if this was reference checks, the tenant should have paid.

Sit down with the agent and discuss fully. If not satisfied, contact ARLA or any other relevant professional body.

Girlfriend stayed on

We have a tenant who has not paid his rent for two months and has now informed us that he has vacated the property leaving his girlfriend and daughter there. His girlfriend is not on the tenancy agreement but has been advised that she has every right to stay even though she is not named.

The tenant has told us that he cannot afford to pay his arrears as he is now unemployed while his girlfriend is not contacting us to discuss payment. How can we get her out of the property if all notices served were not originally in her name?

I believe this is a ‘Notice to Quit’, issued in her name as the illegal occupier. Notice would be 28 days and if she stays where she is, you would go to court to obtain a possession order. Please make sure you take no rent from her as that would create a tenancy and give her rights in the tenancy which she does not have as a licensee (meaning she is there with the tenants’ permission).

Obtaining payment

My tenant is now eight months in arrears with the rent. We are seeking possession under ground 8 and hope the court will grant this as the tenant’s 12 month agreement is almost finished. If we are successful in this, will the judgement enable us to get any of the money owed to us? If not, how can we recover the debt? Can we sell the debt?

I would go to the small claims court now. Also, put in a claim for costs. This could be quite complex and obviously talking about a lot of money, so I think I would see a solicitor.
Selling the debt will not recover the amount lost, but you may feel this is easier in the long run.