Your landlord rights when tenants don’t pay

It can be frustrating when a tenant misses a rent payment, especially if your own mortgage repayments depends upon your rent being a predictable source of income. But there are simple and supportive steps you can take to avoid the situation escalating. Our advice for landlords will help you decide what to if your tenant is not paying rent.

Your rights as a landlord: the important bits

There are a lot of responsibilities associated with being a landlord, but it’s important to be aware of your rights too. Knowing your landlord rights can help clarify your position with the tenant in advance of signing an agreement, as well as helping you to tackle issues that might arise during a tenancy.

  • You can increase your rent

Your tenancy agreement should include details of how and when rent payments will be reviewed. There are two types of tenancy: periodic tenancy (a tenancy that rolls over on a week by week, or month by month basis), or a fixed-term tenancy (which runs for a set period, e.g. six months or a year). In a periodic tenancy a landlord cannot usually increase rent more than once a year without the tenant’s agreement. In a fixed tenancy the rent can only be increased with the tenant’s agreement, or at the end of a fixed period. More detailed information can be found on the government website  .

  • You can end a tenancy

If you have a fixed-term tenancy agreement with your tenant then it is your right to regain possession of your property once that fixed period expires should you wish. To do this it’s necessary to give good notice. This notice is known as a section 21 (or no-fault notice), which advises tenants about the date the tenancy is due to conclude. You must supply at least two months’ notice to give the tenant adequate time to seek alternative living arrangements, as well as allowing for ‘reasonable time’ for tenants to receive that notice as they might be away or on holiday.

  • You have a right to know who lives in your property

It’s perfectly acceptable for your tenants to have overnight guests for short periods, but if there are new occupants then the tenant will need to get your consent first. New occupants need to be adequately referenced so that you can be sure no one is living in your property illegally, even if they are not paying any rent.

  • You can access your property

Your tenants have a right to their privacy and it’s not acceptable to ‘pop by’ on an ad hoc basis, and certainly it’s not ok to gain access to the property uninvited. However, if it is necessary for you to make repairs or to inspect the property then landlords do have a right to enter a property with a minimum of 24 hours’ notice.

My tenant is not paying rent

The tenancy agreement should set out clearly the date rental payments are due. If the tenant does fall behind with payments, then you do have the legal right to regain possession of your property by following the proper procedure. However, people fall behind on rent for a number of reasons, so before taking steps that could have significant consequences for a tenant, it’s worth contacting them first. A payment may have been missed for reasons as simple as a change in bank details, or other oversights that are quickly resolved. If the tenant is deliberately ignoring the landlord, however, then it might be necessary to take further action.

How to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent

In the unfortunate event that a tenant continues not to pay rent, and no solution is forthcoming, then it might be necessary for you to be aware of how to evict a tenant. There are several steps to take before doing so.

  1. Firstly, if your tenant continues not to pay rent several days after the due date, then a formal written demand can be sent by first class mail.
  2. If rent remains out-standing after 14 days and your tenant has a guarantor, then the next step is to write to the guarantor to advise them that rent has not been paid.
  3. After 21 days, if rent remains out-standing then you can send a final letter that advises your tenant of your intention to take legal action.
  4. Ultimately it might be necessary for you to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, in which case you will need to issue a Standard Possession Order.

What is a section 21 and a Standard Possession Order?

If you need to evict your tenant at the end of your tenancy, then it is necessary for you to issue a section 21 Notice of Possession. Section 21 is the legal eviction notice a landlord can give to regain possession of a property. Tenants with a fixed term contract cannot be evicted until the end of their tenancy and you must give them at least two months’ notice of your intention.

If you need to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent, however, and you’re a landlord in England or Wales, then you will need to get a Standard Possession Order  .

It’s important to follow the proper procedure when evicting tenants from your property as outlined on the government website . It might also be necessary, to get help from a solicitor. Not following the appropriate procedures might mean your tenants have a right to claim damages against you through court for harrassment or illegal eviction .

How to get the best from your tenants

The overwhelming majority of tenancies run smoothly and good relationship management can minimise the likelihood of disputes that result in eviction. But if you want to lessen the possibilities of things going wrong then having a vetting process is important. If you use a lettings agent then they will reference check tenants for you to ensure prospective tenants have the required right to rent in the UK. If you do not use a lettings agency then you must be sure to undertake the necessary Right to Rent checks  yourself. It is a legal requirement in England for all new tenants aged 18 and over to be checked, not just those who you think might not be British citizens.

If you’re interested in becoming a buy-to-let landlord, then read our comprehensive guide, which tells you everything you need to know about being a landlord  .

Are you considering investing in buy to let property? Standard household insurance is not sufficient and it’s important to find the right level of insurance to protect your investment  .

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