It’s surprising how many landlords let their delinquent tenants “off the hook” when they leave owing a lot of rent debt and perhaps a lot of damage behind as well.
Landlords are often so relieved to have got possession of their property again, so happy to see the back of a nightmare tenant, that they are completely resigned to taking a big loss.
It need not be like that. The courts are there to enforce contracts, and that’s what you should do. Tenants that get away with it will almost always go on to do it again to some poor unsuspecting landlord.
You may need to trace the tenant once they leave as you have to have their address to take them to court. Tracing agents will easily find most people when you have a few details about them. If you used a good tenancy application form you will have more than enough information, and the trace fee can be added to your claim.
There are four steps to winning a County Court Small Claims action and successfully obtaining a County Court Judgement (CCJ):
1 Can the tenant pay? If they are working or professional people, almost certainly, yes, eventually.
2 Do you have the evidence? You must have good documentary evidence if you are to win. A rental application form, a tenancy agreement, the correct deposit documents, a good inventory, a rent schedule showing what was received and what is owed and when, backed by your bank statements, letters showing your rent demands when in arrears and a statement of what is owed in total.
3 Can you put together a good case? Keep it simple and concise, and avoid waffle in the claims and evidence statements – “rent arrears” and “damage” is often all that’s required by way of a description.
4 Can you act professionally in court? Keep emotions and arguments out of it. State your case clearly and simply and don’t respond to spurious insults or accusations by the defendant.
Is a County Court Judgement (CCJ) worth the paper it’s written on when you still don’t have the money?
Yes it definitely is. Working and professional people will find it difficult to continue a normal life with this hanging over them. They will struggle to obtain tenancies, credit, finance, mortgages, insurance etc.
You will find that 90 per cent of tenants will pay up once the judge has agreed they owe you the money, most before the CCJ is registered against them – they have 14 days to do that.
Once a CCJ is made, and the money is not paid within a grace period, it will be entered in the Registry of Judgments, Orders and Fines.
This means that anyone doing a check on the individual with a credit reference agency will find they have the order against them. Any credit reference agency, used by a landlord or any other creditor, will hold details of the debtor’s CCJ, taken from the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines.
Most debtors will pay up once they come up against problems when creditors find they have a CCJ. I know of one case where a landlord was contacted after 6 years because his debtor tenant, long forgotten about, wanted to apply for a mortgage and could not get one because of the outstanding CCJ.
Anyone, for a small fee, can search the Registry of Judgments, Orders and Fines to see if there’s an outstanding CCJ against them or someone else.
Individuals can also apply for a copy of their credit report held by the main credit reference agencies to see if there is any adverse information which will cause them to get a poor credit rating. Again, a small fee is required.
All the details you need about County Courts and taking action can be found on the Justice.gov.uk website or from your local county court.
You will find contact details of these agencies below.
For landlords wishing to obtain credit checks and reference details on tenants or companies can use a credit reference company like
The Registry of Judgments, Orders and Fines
The County Courts
Web Site: www.justice.gov.uk
The UK Credit Reference Agencies
By Tom Entwistle,
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©LandlordZONE All Rights Reserved – never rely totally on these general guidelines which apply primarily to England and Wales. They are not definitive statements of the law. Before taking action or not, always do your own research and/or seek professional advice with the full facts of your case and all documents to hand.