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checky
08-02-2009, 17:46 PM
Our tenants, who are on benefits, have refused to pay rent and been extremely abusive towards us, making communication virtually impossible. At first they said they were waiting to recieve the housing benefit, and would pay as soon as they got it. At that time, they seemed very pleasant and reasonable, and we had no reason not to believe them. About week 10, we began to worry, and asked them for their contact in the benefit office, so that we could ask them when the rent would be paid. The tenants then became abusive, accused us of all possible landlord crimes, and said they would not pay rent until a roof repair job (which was ongoing at the time) was completed. We rang the benefit office, who told us to put this in writing, which we did. We have now had a text message from the tenants, stating that they are giving us 2 weeks notice (this is 4 months into a 6 mont shorthold tenancy), as the condition of the house is putting their childs health at risk. This cannot possibly be true. They clearly do not intend to pay the rent they owe us. We think they are hoping to bully us into not pursueing the rent, by being abusive and accusatory in their language.

Has anyone any suggestions here? We feel that we would rather try to get the money, even if it costs us more than we eventually get, on principle. As they are breaking their contract now, do they have a legal obligation to pay rent till the end of the contract?

Thanks.

mind the gap
08-02-2009, 17:54 PM
Our tenants, who are on benefits, have refused to pay rent and been extremely abusive towards us, making communication virtually impossible. At first they said they were waiting to recieve the housing benefit, and would pay as soon as they got it. At that time, they seemed very pleasant and reasonable, and we had no reason not to believe them. About week 10, we began to worry, and asked them for their contact in the benefit office, so that we could ask them when the rent would be paid. The tenants then became abusive, accused us of all possible landlord crimes, and said they would not pay rent until a roof repair job (which was ongoing at the time) was completed. We rang the benefit office, who told us to put this in writing, which we did. We have now had a text message from the tenants, stating that they are giving us 2 weeks notice (this is 4 months into a 6 mont shorthold tenancy), as the condition of the house is putting their childs health at risk. This cannot possibly be true. They clearly do not intend to pay the rent they owe us. We think they are hoping to bully us into not pursueing the rent, by being abusive and accusatory in their language.

Has anyone any suggestions here? We feel that we would rather try to get the money, even if it costs us more than we eventually get, on principle. As they are breaking their contract now, do they have a legal obligation to pay rent till the end of the contract?

Thanks.

Yes, they do have a legal obligation to pay for the full six months' rent.

My understanding is that if they do not pay for 8 weeks, you can apply to have the benefit paid directly to you, but this may require their consent, and it might not be of much use to you at this stage. anyway. I would issue both a section 21 (mandatory grounds for possession) and a section 8 grounds 8, 10 and 11 now just in case they change their minds and do not move out...then you can gain possession more easily. Also apply for a court order requiring them to pay you the arrears, but don't hold your breath about getting this back.

As you say, it may cost you more than them, in the end. They will get a ccj against their name, which may or may not bother them. But it will make it harder for them to get alternative accommodation.

If they threaten to counterclaim on the grounds of disrepair, don't worry. you are clearly acting responsibly about that and they are winding you up, I think.

checky
08-02-2009, 18:26 PM
Thanks for the information. Do we need to do that through a solicitor, or is it fairly simple?
We aren't really concerned about the tenants claiming that the house is in poor repair, as it was certainly not so when they rented it, and every concern they raised (and there have been many! Including the damp wall that was damaging their child's health, which was so damp that they didn't spot it till some time after they painted the wall white) we have addressed straight away. We now think that these type of threats might have worked for them in the past.
We stupidly did not take a bond when they moved in (they seemed so nice, and didn't have much money, recently been made redundant, and so on.....), so now we are a bit worried that they will trash the house before they leave.

mind the gap
08-02-2009, 18:35 PM
Can I assume they had no guarantor either?

If not, then, yes, you run the risk of having to stand the cost of their trashing the place, if they decide to be vindictive and do that. Let's hope not. If they do, then (assuming you had a watertight inventory in place on check-in), then you can claim the cost of damage at the same time as the unpaid rent ...but if they have no money, you will be waiting a long time, even if you get an attachment of earnings order. You may get a few quid a week, over a lifetime.

Use the search facility on LLZ to read up on how to claim. You would be advised to employ a solicitor to represent you, unless you confident you can represent yourself at a hearing.

Please...please...next time you rent the property out, insist on a deposit (bond), protect it in a scheme - find out about these by googling Tenancy Depsosit Protection - there are three schemes) and insist on a UK guarantor for any low/no income tenants.

See it as a learning experience - I wish you all the best.

checky
23-02-2009, 10:53 AM
We have now moved on, and I'm hoping for some advise about how to proceed.
We did get a solicitors letter sent. The tenent rang the solicitor, and said that we had given them permission to stay there rent free! How likely is that! We went to the house yesterday, as the moving date that they set was the 21st, and found that they have indeeed left, and the house is in an awful state. Obviously no housework done since they moved in, some damage to doors/frames, been using cupboards as rubbish receptacles........need I go on? We will need to partially redecorate before we can re-let. The damp problem, which they had quoted as a reason for not paying rent, was nothing much, and has in any case been fixed now.
Due to a letter lost by the council, the tenants rent payments were only frozen on the 18th Feb, and by that time they had recieved £1190. The benefits office tell us that they will not take the matter further, and will not inform ajoining councils, so there is no reason that the tenants can't do exactly the same again.
We feel that we would like to try and get something back from these people, even if it's just for the sake of the next landlords that might consider letting them property. What would be the sensible next step?

jeffrey
23-02-2009, 11:37 AM
If you do believe that they are a "won't pay" case, rather than a "can't pay" case, you could instruct an Enquiry Agent to trace them with a view to suing them wherever they've now landed. However, think; that might lose you even more. They have been HB/LHA claimants, so is it at all plausible that they have any assets to which you might look for this payment? I doubt it, frankly.

Tiggy
23-02-2009, 12:59 PM
I think your best option is to accept that you have had a bad experience and move on - finding them and trying to get money will not be easy and will be expensive. Just next time make sure you get references and a bond as well and a guarantor if you can. Renting property out can be a experience and sadly not all are good so just try the best you can to not make the same mistakes again. Good luck with your next tenants. Maybe you should consider using a good agent to find your next tenant for you although it is not guaranteed to get a better tenant in that way but sometimes it does help as quite often the dodgy ones will try and rent via landlords who do not use a agent as its often easier to persuade them not to take bonds etc

islandgirl
23-02-2009, 16:02 PM
We had a similar experience but got HB paid to us from week 8 or 9 to when they left - you do not need permission of the tenant. However if money has already been paid to the tenant you cannot be paid for the same weeks. I think the advice re throwing good money after bad is sound. If they are on benefits and everything on HP you have little chance of getting paid. We learnt our lesson and now insist on the Tenantverify check - the form alone scares off lots of people who look and sound OK! Good luck

Poppy
23-02-2009, 16:07 PM
But by not obtaining a CCJ, this tenant looks like a perfect prospect to another unsuspecting landlord. I realise that these people probably cannot pay, so why not make it more difficult for them to do it again?

islandgirl
23-02-2009, 18:14 PM
It is a great intention but it will cost you money - it is up to you if you are prepared to pay out again and again with no realistic prospect of collecting the original debt plus court fees - men of straw....

checky
24-02-2009, 10:03 AM
Thanks for all advice. We are undecided about whether or not to pursue it. I understand about throwing good money after bad, but I do feel guilty about inflicting these people on another unsuspecting landlord.
What is a tenant verify check? I can see that getting someone to fill in an official form might sort the honest from the dishonest, or maybe the expert cheats from the amateur cheats!

yaf201
24-02-2009, 13:42 PM
Thanks for all advice. We are undecided about whether or not to pursue it. I understand about throwing good money after bad, but I do feel guilty about inflicting these people on another unsuspecting landlord.
What is a tenant verify check? I can see that getting someone to fill in an official form might sort the honest from the dishonest, or maybe the expert cheats from the amateur cheats!

see www.tenant-verify.com. To be honest, I'm not that impressed with them. I have a friend who went through a dodgy financial patch and had to deal with a lot of debt collectors. None ever got as far as court and he has recently managed to get everything paid off. with his permission, I put his details through tenant-verify.com to test the system and his results showed up as a perfect credit score :rolleyes:

Now that I'm a member of the national landlords association, I'll be using their tenant check system. I can't say it's any better, but it is a lot cheaper!

yaf201
24-02-2009, 13:49 PM
It is a great intention but it will cost you money - it is up to you if you are prepared to pay out again and again with no realistic prospect of collecting the original debt plus court fees - men of straw....

How much will it actually cost? By claming less than 5 grand, you can use the small claims procedure, which I understand is not expensive. i haven't tried it myself though.

Paul Gibbs
24-02-2009, 13:59 PM
How much will it actually cost? By claming less than 5 grand, you can use the small claims procedure, which I understand is not expensive. i haven't tried it myself though.


The court fee is a sliding scale depending on how much you claim. find form EX50 on the court service website: -

http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/HMCSCourtFinder/FormFinder.do

You may also have to pay an allocation fee (either £35 or £200) and possibly a hearing fee - but this will depend on the value and also how far the case goes.

checky
26-02-2009, 18:52 PM
What is a tenantverify check, please? And what can we do to protect ourselves in the future, without discriminating against some groups of people? Also, what is the procedure that goes with taking a deposit? We have been reluctant in the past to take a deposit, as it seems a lot of money to ask for, with a months rent in advance. However, our past experience would have been better had we done so.

islandgirl
26-02-2009, 20:07 PM
Hello Checky - tenantverify is linked to this page. A check costs about £30. You give the potential tenant a very detailed form to fill in (you download this from the site) which asks for loads of info including NI numbers etc. The complexity and detail of this form has scared off quite a few of my applicants! I have found the checks OK and have seen much worse though as yaf201 points out they may not be perfect! They will however pick up CCJs etc. One I did picked up a bad ref from several years ago which I discussed with the tenants as turned out to be OK. Court fee for claiming unpaid money is a sliding scale depending on amount owed as PG says. It is currently costing me just over £200 to claim £5000 (I believe you can claim up to £99,000). Moneyclaim online is really easy to use and I would recommend it. If tenant does not pay up you need to send in the baliffs (further charge). If they get nothing (all tenant's stuff on HP, can't gain access) then its back to court and a further fee. But what options are left? You can't put a charge on property if they do not own their home. You could try going after the bank account (if you have details) which is OK if there is anything in it! The point is you have to be realistic about your chances of getting something. As for protecting other LL, there will still be some silly and naive enough (as I once was) to let people in without checks, so these parasites will always find somewhere to live. Totally up to you to decide if you have a realistic chance of getting something.