Deal with Difficult Tenants

Tenants; a landlord’s best friend?

Some landlord’s would readily agree, some would vehemently disagree. Some tenant’s are a walk in the park, while others can he a living nightmare, and the worst thing is; there’s often no way of knowing which is which when they sign your tenancy agreement.

Even after conducting thorough referencing, problems can still occur once they are comfortably in situ in your buy to let property, so knowing just how to handle and deal with the issues that often go hand in hand with tenants is how you will resolve the situation.

Grandma’s House

We’re all different. Your tenant might have passed all the reference and credit checks, but there’s still no accounting for a big bad wolf. If you are using a letting agent to find tenants, then there is the possibility that you may not have had the opportunity to meet the tenant prior to them moving in.

Tenant’s are human, and referencing won’t always uncover their all their character traits and flaws, so even if you found the tenant yourself, then you always have to be prepared for the unexpected.

Talk the Talk

When a problem or issue first arises, then it’s your time as the landlord to meet and talk it through with the tenant. The most common problems or issues are

  • Late payment of rent
  • Non payment of rent
  • Making a general nuisance of themselves [noise, unsocial behaviour] and upsetting the neighbours or other tenants
  • Failing to take reasonable care of the property; causing damage to fixtures and fittings
  • Contradicting the terms and conditions of their tenancy agreement [i.e. smoking, pets if not permitted]

Approaching your tenant to talk is your first move, but you before you enter into any face to face dialogue, there are a few things that you must keep in mind

  • Be calm and reasonable – If you don’t consider yourself to be a ‘people’ person, then give some thought to how you will approach the issue and how to phrase what you have to say in advance
  • Is the problem or issue the result of miscommunication or misunderstanding?
  • Be flexible  – if there is unpaid rent, and your tenant explains that they can pay it in four days time, then don’t demand that they pay it within 24 hours or else
  • Resolving issue and problems that can occur with your tenant can ALWAYS cost you as the landlord if they escalate – and not just financially. Problems with tenants can primarily cost you pounds sterling, but landlords have been known to suffer from stress related health issues that were brought on as the result of conflict with a tenant.
  • You BOTH have rights. It might be YOUR property, but when a tenant resides in it, the law sees it as their home.
  • Remember; resolving the problem or issue amicably is often your cheapest option
  • When you have exhausted ALL potential remedies and it’s apparent that you and your tenant are not on the same page; it’s time to think about eviction.

A Cuckoo in the Nest

If your buy to let has multiple tenants, it may be just one individual that is your ‘problem’ child. If this is the case, keep the peace with the non offenders and try not to let any legal proceedings that you may be pursuing against an individual allow your relationship to be soured with the rest.

Solid Ground

Before you seek legal advice towards evicting your tenant, be certain that your case is valid i.e. the tenant has actually breached the terms of the tenancy agreement. As mentioned earlier i.e. late or non payment of rent, lack of care or misuse of the property etc. Make sure that you and your case are on solid ground.

The Big Guns

There are plenty of resources that you can call upon on the internet. A simple search will provide you with online experts and eviction specialists that will assist you through the eviction process for a fee. Alternatively, remember that you may have the option of solicitors on your local high street that have expertise in evictions and landlord law – local will give you the benefit of face to face dealings and may even be cheaper.

Getting the Ball Rolling

First things first.

What is known as a ‘Section 8 notice to quit’ or sometimes referred to as a ‘Section 8 possession notice has to be completed and served on the tenant(s).

[You will find a copy of the form under the ‘Tools’ tab of the buytoletlandlord.com homepage in the forms section.]

The ‘Section 8’ will allow you as the landlord to seek possession of your property from your tenant during their assured shorthold tenancy.

The ‘Section 8’ is the form in which you will need to show that your tenant has in some way breached the conditions of their tenancy agreement, for example, late, missed or non payment of rent – but there are many other breaches too.

Any term or condition of the tenancy agreement that is seen to have been broken constitutes a breach. The most common type of breach is the non-payment or late payment of rent however damage to the property, unsociable conduct, and subletting are also grounds for a possession order. To make a Section 8 form valid, the landlord must state which grounds the tenant has breached according to Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988.

What are the legal Grounds for Eviction?

All Section 8 forms require the landlord to specify the grounds they are citing as reason for eviction. These grounds are found listed in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 and fall into 2 main categories:

  • Mandatory Grounds – this covers Grounds 1 to 8 and if one of these grounds is cited on a Section 8 form the court must grant possession to the landlord.
  • Discretionary Grounds – this covers Grounds 9 to 17 and in these cases the court will only grant possession if it feels it is reasonable to do so.

Ground

 

Short Description

Ground 1 The landlord requires the property in order to use it as their main residence. This ground can only be used if the landlord used the property as their main residence prior to the tenancy beginning.

 

Ground 2 The mortgage lender on the property has served notice to foreclose. In this case the mortgage in question has to predate the start of the tenancy.

 

Ground 3 The property was previously used as a holiday let and is required to return to the status of holiday let. For the exact conditions that apply to this Ground please see the Housing Act 1988.

 

Ground 4 The property is being let by an educational institution and is now required by students of the educational institution. Written notice that this may happen must be served before the tenancy begins.

 

Ground 5 The property is owned by a religious body and they require possession for a member of their church i.e. a Minister of Religion.

 

Ground 6 The landlord wants to demolish and reconstruct, or redevelop all or part of the property. The tenant needs to have refused to live in all or part of the property while work is carried out for this ground to be feasible. If granted the landlord is required to pay all reasonable moving costs to the tenant.

 

Ground 7 The current tenant is a tenant heir and is not named on the original tenancy agreement. The landlord must serve a Section 8 notice within 12 months of the death of the named tenant.

 

Ground 8 The tenant has failed to pay more than 8 weeks rent in the case of weekly payments, 2 months in the case of monthly payments or 1 quarter in the case of quarterly payments. Ground 8 is often cited in conjunction with Grounds 10 and 11 so that a partial payment by the tenant just prior to the court hearing doesn’t render the possession order obsolete.

 

Ground 9 Suitable accommodation of the same type and quality has been offered to the tenant and refused. The landlord is required to pay all reasonable removal costs if possession is granted.

 

Ground 10 The rent is in arrears but by no more than 8 weeks in the case of weekly payments, 2 months in the case of monthly payments and 1 quarter in the case of quarterly payments.

 

Ground 11 The tenant is repeatedly late with payments or repeatedly fails to pay their rent until prompted by the landlord.

 

Ground 12 The tenant has breached any of the terms listed in the tenancy agreement.
Ground 13 The tenant has neglected or damaged the property, or they have sublet the property to another individual who has neglected or damaged the property.

 

Ground 14 The tenant is considered a nuisance to neighbours or other tenants and has received complaints concerning their conduct.

 

Ground 15 The furniture listed on the property inventory has been misused, damaged, broken or sold by the tenant or any individual living with them.

 

Ground 16 The property was let to the tenant as a condition of their employment but the employment has now come to an end.

 

Ground 17 The property was let on the basis of false information provided by the tenant or one of their referees/ guarantor.



How much notice is given in a Section 8?

The amount of notice a landlord is required to give differs according to the grounds they are citing on the Section 8 form. Ground 2 for example, requires a minimum of 2 months’ notice but grounds 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 only require 2 weeks’ notice.

What happens after the Section 8 Notice has been served?

All Section 8 forms have to clearly state the date on which the notice expires. This is the date that the tenant has to have vacated the property by, or paid their rent arrears by, and in nearly 80% of cases the tenant leaves or pays before this date arrives. If they refuse however the landlord can start court possession proceedings on the day following the date cited on the Section 8 form.

To do this the landlord has to acquire forms N5 and N119 from their local county court and pay the appropriate court fee. This then starts the process of gaining a possession order.

Will a Section 8 guarantee that a possession order will be granted?

In simple terms, no it doesn’t. The likelihood of being granted a possession order is dependent on the Grounds cited on the Section 8 form, and as mentioned earlier some grounds are mandatory while others are discretionary. Grounds 2 and 8 are always granted the order but the circumstances surrounding the other grounds are carefully considered by the court before a decision is made.

The evidence of the landlord and any evidence submitted by the tenant is looked at closely and factors such as hardship and extenuating circumstances suffered by the tenant are taken into consideration. If a possession order is granted it normally takes effect within 14 days, but in cases of true hardship on the part of the tenant this can sometime be extended to six weeks.