Landlords - late or unpaid rent

Even the best landlords have to deal with late or unpaid rent, and even good tenants may sometimes be late with rent payment.

The best way to deal with rent arrears is to try to stop them happening in the first place. 

  • Set up a standing order - if your tenants set up a monthly bank transfer to your account, payment will occur automatically without their having to remember or be reminded that the rent is due
  • Check the money has gone through - whether by bank transfer or by cheque, always make sure the rent has actually gone into your account
  • Cash or cheque payments - make clear arrangements with your tenant as to whether you're collecting payment or the tenant is delivering it to you. Set up a regular time and date to meet. Provide a rent book and receipts for any payments and keep copies for your records
  • Have a rent-tracking system - a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel is useful. The spreadsheet should list the amount and date due, as well as the amount and date paid
  • Keep the lines of communication open -  at the start of the tenancy, tell your tenants you hope they will always be able to pay on time but if they have a problem they should let you know rather than just not paying. Let them know that if they have genuine problems you may be able to come to some arrangement. Starting the tenancy on good terms, and demonstrating goodwill will improve your relations and hopefully make your job easier
  • Housing benefit tenants - if you are letting to a tenant who gets housing benefit, ask them to sign a letter of authority to our housing benefit office giving permission for you to access information about their housing benefit application. That way you can see if there are any problems with a claim that are delaying payment

Once you realise the month's rent has not been paid, don't assume the worst. Assess the situation and try to take steps to resolve the issue.

Send out an initial reminder - contact your tenant immediately, whether by phone or in writing. This helps to sort the problem out quickly, and sends a strong message that you are on top of things and will not tolerate late payments.

Find out what's going on - see if there is any way you can stagger payments or give your tenants an extra two weeks to pay. Remain calm and professional in your dealings with them.

Get in touch with their guarantor - if the tenant has a financial guarantor, get in touch with them right away - they are ultimately responsible for the debt.

Wait two months - you can't take legal action until your tenant is two months in arrears. In the meantime, maintain contact and continue trying to negotiate a solution. This might be arranging small additional rental payments; or a single payment to pay off the entire rental arrears.  Put any arrangement in writing and get the tenant to sign it - written evidence is useful if the case goes to court.  
 
Issue a written warning - explain to your tenant that they are two months in arrears and you intend to serve a notice seeking possession unless arrangements are made for the rent to be paid. If your tenant is claiming housing benefit, speak to our benefits team about arranging payment of the benefit direct to you.

If your tenant fails to pay after two months, you can take legal action to regain possession of the property and/or to recover unpaid rent. You need to serve a Section 8 or Section 21 Notice.

Mortgaged properties

If you are experiencing financial difficulties due to non payment of rent, speak to your mortgage company straight away. You might be able to organise a payment holiday or reduced payments to help you in the short term.