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– A few common questions when letting out properties for private residential tenancies
Associate & Chartered Legal Executive Stephanie Walker explains a little more to help you get by
Can I take back my property if my tenant fails to pay their rent?
One of the most common queries I receive relates to a tenant failing to pay their rent. Obviously this can be very frustrating and leave a landlord hugely out of pocket. If a tenant is not paying their rent then you can take steps to terminate the tenancy however in order to do this with any certainty, you need to be able to establish that your tenant owes you a certain level of rent. If they do, then it is possible to serve a notice in a prescribed form upon them which will bring their tenancy to an end 2 weeks after the notice is served. We can assist you with preparation and service of this notice.
After the notice, can I then take back my property?
Unfortunately, no – you cannot enter the property, change the locks and kick your tenant out! Instead, if your tenant has not left, you need to apply to the court for a possession order and it is only once a possession order has been made, that you will be able to ask for bailiffs to enforce the eviction. We can assist you with both the initial claim, attendance at court and enforcement if required.
What about the rent that I am owed?
If you wish to try and recover outstanding rent arrears then your claim for possession needs to include a claim for rent arrears. At the final hearing, you can then ask the court for a county court judgment in the sum of the arrears together with some limited fixed legal costs.
If I get a judgment, what happens next?
If you obtain a judgment against your tenant then the tenant should pay you the full amount of that judgment within 14 days of the judgment being made. If they do not then it is for you to seek to enforce the judgment. We can discuss with you different methods of enforcement. You may also need to trace the tenant if they have moved out of the property and not told you a forwarding address. We can help you with this.
What do I do with any items that the tenant has left behind?
You do need to be very careful with any items which your tenant has failed to remove from the property. This is because, you will become an ‘involuntary bailee’ of these items and you need to take reasonable care of the items until you have given sufficient notice to the tenant to remove them. We can help you prepare and serve a bailment notice if required.
What if my tenant is paying rent but there are other reasons that I want to end the tenancy?
You are able to end a tenancy for a variety of reasons and if the fixed term of the tenancy has ended, you can terminate the tenancy without a reason at all. You are however still required to serve notice upon your tenant which needs to be in the relevant prescribed form in order for that notice to be correct. We can advise upon appropriate notices, time frames and arrange and serve the notice of your behalf if you wish.
If my tenant doesn’t leave the property after receiving this notice, what do I do?
You will still be required to issue a possession claim through the court however if you are not seeking rent arrears, it may be possible to do this quicker than if you were – this is called the accelerated procedure. We can assist you with this.
Is there any way that I can just end the tenancy and take back my property?
No, residential tenants are protected from unlawful eviction and you must therefore be very careful that you comply with the rules to bring a tenancy to an end. If you do not comply with the rules and just evict a tenant without a court order then there can be very serious repercussions which could include a prison sentence!
My tenant has paid a deposit – what do I do with it?
You must ensure that if a deposit is taken from a tenant at the outset of the tenancy then this deposit is placed in an approved tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of it being received. If you do not pay the deposit into one of the government backed schemes then the tenant could bring a claim against you through the county court. If a claim is brought against you then they can ask the court to order that you repay the deposit plus up to 3 times the original deposit amount!
Further, if you do not put a deposit in an approved scheme then this could cause difficulties obtaining possession of the property should you need to.
I want to rent out my property – should I put this in writing?
We advise that you enter into a written AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy) agreement with your tenant. This means that all of the terms of the tenancy will be written down in one document. We can assist you with the preparation of an AST.
I have heard that I need to provide my tenant with ‘prescribed information’ at the beginning of the tenancy – what does this mean?
At the outset of any residential tenancy, you must provide to your tenant certain information;
- Deposit certificate/receipt (if you take a deposit and protect it).
- A valid energy performance certificate
- A valid gas safety certificate
- The ‘How to Rent: the Checklist for renting in England’
Failing to provide these documents may mean that there are difficulties in obtaining possession of the property at a later stage should you need to.
Above all, please ensure that you take proper advice about the legal process and ask questions to ensure that you understand all of the options and implications – there may well be different ways to deal with aspects of your case and it is important to know where you stand.