Many landlords will soon find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to sue for rent when restrictions end – here’s how to go about it.

How can you recover rent owning when the tenant is refusing to pay? Yes, the government has provided measures to protect tenants during the pandemic, but as we come out of that, rent owning is still due.

If landlords want to forgive outstanding amounts or reduce the amount due as a matter of goodwill, that is up to their own discretion, but as far as the law is concerned, the total contracted amount owing is due in full.

Some landlords will decide to pursue their tenants for the money owned to them, many have mortgages to pay and it is not likely that their mortgage lenders will forgive them their payments.

For small-scale private landlords the rent is often a crucial element of their own income. There is no legal obligation on the private landlord to negotiate any form of rent reduction or early release from the tenancy agreement.

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Questions to ask yourself before you sue

The first question is, can your tenant afford to pay? Suing someone who can’t pay or is unlikely to be in a position to pay in the future is futile, a complete waste of your own time and money.

Those on state aid, students, especially those from abroad are likely to be difficult, so think hard and long before pursuing these people.

If the tenant has left you, do you have a postal address where they are settled? You can’t pursue a claim otherwise; if they are on the move, you can’t pursue a moving target through the courts, and if they live abroad, it’s even more difficult, you might as well forget it.

Do they have a reputation to maintain? If tenants want to rent again, they will need a clean credit record, otherwise they will very likely get turned down for tenancies. If they are professional people they will not want a county court judgement on their CV, so you need to remind them of these facts.

Suing someone and successfully getting a county court judgement (CCJ) may give you some satisfaction, and that may be enough for some, but it does take time and money to proceed – sometimes its just best to put the loss down to experience and claim it against you tax liability.

Follow the practice guidelines

If your tenant is still with you, you may decide to go for eviction on the rent arrears ground and attached the amount of rent arrears to the claim (Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988), or simply sue for the arrears, whether the tenant is resident or not.

However, before such drastic action you should consider mediation, which allows an independent third-party to assist those involved in a dispute to try to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their differences. There are also other sources of financial help that tenants can be alerted to.

The starting point is to read the pre-action protocols  for rent arrears and evictions. The key thing is trying to negotiate with your tenants and giving them ample notice in writing, of your intentions. Write to them and give them time to pay, set up a schedule of re-payments if you can and remind them of the above points.

If that fails, write a letter before action giving them at least 14 days’ notice of your intention to claim and setting out the details of your claim, or serve a section 8 notice.

Should I use Money Claim Online?

The internet portal operated by HM Courts & Tribunal Service known as Money Claim Online is a convenient way to start off and pursue a claim. The Small Claims Court (or County Court) offers a convenient and relatively informal way for the man in the street to pursue debtors.

You can claim up to £100,000, but more commonly claims up to £10,000 are pursued on what is known as the “small claims track”. Legal professional’s costs cannot be recovered, so most people do not use a solicitor for this, but the court fee can be recovered if the claim is successful, plus the judge will usually allow reasonable expenses.

How do I progress my claim?

Keep it simple and concise. State your claim on the forms simply as rent arrears, setting out what and when it is due and answer the other questions of the on-line forms

If the other side puts up a defence, answer that in a simple straightforward manner, stick to the facts, the judge will not be impressed if you try to answer or stray into a load of emotional justification.

At the court hearing, present you case clearly and concisely and with courtesy, whatever the defendant may say.

Read more about mediation.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I note the comment about ‘forgive outstanding amounts or reduce the amount due as a matter of goodwill’.
    If so minded why not allow it to remain outstanding but not actively pursue. The if in time things go sour and over 2 months rent is outstanding S8 or its replacement can be utilised more swiftly.

  2. Why is this the only servicce offered that people can get away without paying. If you go to the shop to buy say for example food to feed your family, they will not let you out without paying. Why is providing a premesis any different? We are landlords with one property for rent. We rely on the income from it to live and pay our debts.

    • As you have correctly surmised Govt facilitates theft by tenants of LL services.

      If LL don’t want this risk then they need to stop being AST LL.
      Having RGI if possible solves a few problems.

      But the reality is being a LL is just an opportunity to be ripped off by tenants due to the completely dysfunctional repossession process.

      Do LL wish to be such targets of feckless tenants.

  3. I have to say I’m completely baffled as to why it is deemed acceptable to obtain services fraudulently. Totally agree with you that there is zero difference between paying rent and paying any other bill. I find it particularly galling that a tenant can find money to pay their sky sports subscription and their mobile phone bill etc but somehow cannot pay rent…
    The govt have made it plain over the last 10 years that they are against small landlords and favour the big boys.
    Govt seem determined to eradicate small landlords with a mix of tax, regulations and eviction bans etc.

    At the beginning of covid I was told by HMRC I am not eligible for any help because I’m not in “Trade” I’m an investor.
    Well as many landlords sell up and rents rocket because of a shortage of rental property we will see who was providing housing services…. Yes, those “Investors” so badly treated by the govt.

    There was a recent debate about pets…. Two days ago the plumber that does a lot of work for my letting agent was om an out of hours call to a tenanted property when he was bitten by two out of the three dogs in the place. When the plumber fought off the dogs the tenant threatened to “Sort him out” for hurting his dogs!!!

    As I have said before… The only safe pets are the ones in the Taxidermists window.

  4. As you have correctly surmised Govt facilitates theft by tenants of LL services.

    If LL don’t want this risk then they need to stop being AST LL.
    Having RGI if possible solves a few problems.

    But the reality is being a LL is just an opportunity to be ripped off by tenants due to the completely dysfunctional repossession process.

    Do LL wish to be such targets of feckless tenants.

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