Landlord lowdown: What to do about late rent

By 2nd June 2017Landlords
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Being a landlord isn’t always plain sailing, and you might eventually have to deal with that most common of landlord woes: late rent. Thankfully there are ways to deal with late payers, from those who are an irritating few days late to those who cause serious problems by being months in arrears. If you have a tenant like this, check out our five tips for dealing with late rent.

1. Stay calm

If you’re meeting all your obligations as a landlord – providing a safe and comfortable property for your tenants – then you are entitled to the rent, no question. No surprise, then, that landlords can feel extremely frustrated when a tenant pays late, especially if they do so often. However, a landlord’s number one priority in this situation is to remain calm. Although it might be tempting to call every few hours or even go round to demand your money – don’t. Remember, you have obligations too (e.g. to provide notice before you visit), and if the matter does end up in court it will help your case if you have remained calm and professional throughout. Read over your tenancy agreement: this will tell you the grace period in which your tenants have to pay, and the action you’re allowed to take once that period has passed.

2. Leave a paper trail

When you ask for your money, make sure that there is a written record of your communication with the tenants. If you phone, send a follow-up email confirming what you talked about, or send an official rent arrears reminder letter. The important thing is to be clear and firm, and to keep a record in case you end up having to take legal action. Once you’ve sent your reminder – with clear terms laid out about the number of days they have to pay – leave it alone. It might be tempting to keep chasing, but this will only cause both of you frustration and sour the relationship, which will make things difficult in future if the tenant pays and stays in the property.

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3. Offer solutions

The best way to deal with a late-paying tenant is to talk to them. There may be unfortunate circumstances behind their late payments, and if they feel threatened they might lie or even avoid talking to you altogether. Instead, give the tenant a chance to explain what’s going on, and try to offer a solution that works for both of you. This may involve drawing up a repayment plan, such as adding a little extra to the rent each month until the debt is paid off. Not only does talking about it help both you and the tenant, if the case does end up in court, it will reflect well on you if you have tried to be helpful and reasonable at every stage.

4. Consider legal action

When the rent is two months in arrears, you are able to take legal action against your tenants. For fixed-term tenants you can issue a Section 21 notice, which notifies them that you want the property back (i.e. that they must leave) when their fixed term is up. You must provide at least two months’ notice for a Section 21. Alternatively, if they have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement (which they will have done by not paying), you can serve a Section 8 notice, which gives the tenants between two weeks and two months to evacuate the property. If they do not leave in that time, you can then apply for a possession order to have the tenants evicted. The Citizens Advice Bureau can offer free legal advice if you find yourself at this stage.

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5. Prevent it happening again

Nobody wants the stress of chasing late payments or evicting tenants, so it’s best to take preventative measures at the start of the tenancy to ensure that you never have to deal with this again. First, make sure that you get good references for all prospective tenants and look out for any red flags that might indicate they won’t be able to keep up with the rent, such as asking to pay the deposit after moving in. You can also add guaranteed rent cover to your specialist landlord insurance – this will ensure that you get paid even if your tenant defaults on their rent – or you can take on a property manager like Gough Quarters to collect the rent for you. With just a few protective measures you can give yourself peace of mind.


Are you looking to rent in Bristol? Contact Gough Quarters today to find out more.

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