How to deal with a tenant whose rent has fallen into arrears

It can be frustrating if you're owed rent from your tenant. If you're having trouble ensuring the rent is paid, these guidelines explain how to recover the money owed.

1 Record of payments

Keep a record of payments that are due and when they're to be paid.

This system is particularly helpful if you have more than one tenant in the property, as it will enable your tenants to see who hasn’t paid.

If the tenants are held on a joint tenancy agreement, you should make it clear they must all be equally responsible for the arrears and clear the debts as a single unit.

Also, if you decide to make an application for possession against the tenant based on rent arrears, you will be required to provide a copy of the rent payment transactions under court rules.

In summary

 

  • If after several days the rent hasn't been paid, then send your tenant a formal demand by first class mail
  • If after 14 days you still haven't received outstanding rent, send the tenant's guarantor a letter informing them that the tenant hasn't paid that rent
  • If after 21 days you still haven't received rent send a final letter, confirming your intention to take legal action
  • Use our letter to demand outstanding rent from a tenant

 

2 Write to the tenant

After several days, if the rent hasn't been paid, and your telephone calls have fallen on deaf ears, then send your tenant a formal demand by first class mail or hand deliver it.

In the letter, request that the outstanding arrears be paid immediately and ask the tenant to ensure that all future rental payments are made in full and on the due date.

It may also be a good idea to add to the letter that unpaid arrears could result in court action being taken against the tenant. 

You should also state that you may make an application to the court for possession of the property should more than two months' rent remain unpaid.

3 Send a letter to the guarantor

If you still haven't received outstanding rent 14 days after the rent is due, send another letter telling the tenant that if he doesn't pay, you'll take the matter further and seek possession of your property. 

If your tenant has provided a guarantor, send the guarantor a letter advising them that the tenant hasn't paid the rent according to the tenancy agreement. 

Normally the arrears will be paid quickly after this letter.

4 Possession of your property

If, after 21 days you haven’t received any rent from your tenant, you should send another letter. 

This should be the final step before considering further action to reclaim your property.

If you have previously sent a guarantor letter, you should now send another letter to inform the guarantor that you haven’t received any rent. 

You should also confirm your intention to take legal action if the rent isn’t paid.

If your tenant has gone a whole month without paying rent, and another month is due, you can now consider your tenant to be two months in arrears.

This means you have the right, under the Housing Act 1988, to take action to claim possession of your property. 

Serving a Section 8 notice will inform your tenant that you intend to take him to court if he doesn't pay within a further 14 days. 

The notice must be in the prescribed form to be valid. 

5 Court action

If your tenant doesn’t respond to your demands for rent, you are entitled to take legal action to seek possession of your property.

You may also ask the court to make a judgement against your tenant for the arrears of rent and reasonable costs incurred.

If you do take action and do get judgement against the tenant, you will have six years in which to enforce it.

Some insurance companies supply cover to landlords which will protect you if your tenant doesn’t pay the rent. 

For a monthly premium you can ensure that your rent and any costs of evicting your problem tenant are taken care of.

6 Renting guide

The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a How to Rent guide, which includes some useful tips for both landlords and tenants. 

Please tell us what you think of the Which? Consumer Rights website.

Your feedback is vital in helping us improve this site. All data will be treated confidentially. This survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Please take our survey so we can improve our website for you and others like you.

Live Chat Software by Click4Assistance UK