Many landlords are frustrated at facing potentially losing significant sums in unpaid rent. In recent times, the long delays encountered in the courts have exasperated the problem as they can leave the sitting tenant in the property, not paying any rent at all, for several months, or even longer, when many landlords are reliant on the rent to cover the mortgage on the property.
Despite having taken steps to recover their property many landlords write off such sums, as they anticipate the prospects of recovering them are highly unlikely, given the difficulties already encountered in dealing with the tenant, whose location will be unknown after the eviction has taken place.
In my experience, it is often possible to recover such sums, and they should not be written off lightly, unless you are satisfied the former tenant will never have the means to pay them, or, for example, they have been made bankrupt and the debt has been included in the bankruptcy.
It is worth bearing in mind when applying for an order for possession that you can also apply for a money judgment at the same time (CCJ) for any unpaid rent that the tenant owes to you up to the date of the order.
You may also be entitled to recover your legal and court costs, which, can also be included in any money judgment awarded at the hearing.
A CCJ is generally enforceable for 6 years from the date of judgment, which, gives you plenty of time to try and recover the sum due to you.
Once the order for possession (including your CCJ) has been granted, the tenant will have a period in which to comply with the order, often, 28 days from the date of the order.
Once the time has expired, you are then able to enforce the order. The normal course of action is to issue a warrant of possession to obtain an eviction date from the county court bailiff service. Due to the significant backlog of cases in the county court waiting for eviction dates, we recommend transferring up to the High Court for enforcement.
In most expedited cases the eviction can be within a matter of weeks compared to having to wait several months or even longer for an eviction date from the county court.
High Court enforcement not only significantly speeds up the process of evicting but also means you minimise your losses in unpaid rent which would have accrued while you were waiting for an eviction date from the county court bailiff service.
Most landlords are focused on recovering their property and re-letting it, while others are more conscious of their financial losses and what they can do to minimise them and to ultimately aim to recover any unpaid sums.
Combined Writ of Possession and Control
One option is to issue a combined writ of possession and control, which, covers both the recovery of the property by eviction and seizing any goods left at the property to cover the money owed to you.
If at the eviction, under a combined writ, the Enforcement Agent finds the former tenant has left items in the property, they can be seized and sold to cover the debt if they are of sufficient value to cover the cost of removal and sale.
Timing is Everything
Often, it is best to allow the former tenant a period of time in which to resettle before undertaking a trace investigation to confirm their new address. Allowing them some time can also result in establishing that their change in location has helped to improve their financial position.
Some landlords prefer to allow the former tenant time to reestablish themselves at their new address and hopefully time for their financial circumstances to improve. The former tenant is then likely to be more traceable and can be pursued for any sums still outstanding.
Court Enforcement Services has a highly successful in-house trace investigation team, which, is often instructed to locate former tenants who owe arrears of rent and other costs awarded under a CCJ.
The team have access to several sources of information, which, enable us to trace former tenants to their new address. All enquiries are carried out in a compliant manner for a reasonable fee, on a ‘no trace, no fee’ basis.
Once we have traced the former tenant, if they appear to be in a position where they should have the means to make payment of the sum due to you, or at least to enter into a payment arrangement with you, we recommend transferring the CCJ up to the High Court to enforce the money judgment by issuing a writ of control.
The life of the writ is 12 months from the date of issue; a court fee of £66 is payable on issue, which, is added to the debt and recoverable from the former tenant.
Where we are successful in recovering the debt due to you, any enforcement fees will be payable by the debtor. If we are unsuccessful, your liability for our fees will be limited to a compliance (abortive) fee of £75 plus VAT.
Please get in touch if you think we can help or if you would like more information or guidance.
How Can We Help?
Contact us and discover more about how we can help you to locate former tenants and recover any monies owed to you:
Call: 01993 220557