Process Server Guide For Landlords: Eviction of Tenants For Non-Payment Of Rent (arrears)
Landlords are often tarnished with the same brush. They’re known for being greedy capitalists, with their primary interest being to make a quick buck. They aren’t interested in hard luck stories, such as the fact that things are a little tight this month as you’ve had the final payment for your holiday in Majorca to cover. While the fact they don’t like the wool being pulled over their eyes may be true, the majority of landlords we work with as a process server to speed up the eviction of tenants are honest and decent people. Their primary objective as a landlord is not to make all tenants’ life a misery, contrary to popular belief. Believe us, the last thing they want is to force proceedings for the eviction of tenants, but it is a necessary course of action when a tenant refuses to pay the rent and the landlord is out of pocket.
As frustrating as it is when a tenant refuses or is unable to pay you, there is a process to follow as a landlord to avoid falling foul of the law and being guilty of harassment or illegal eviction.
Eviction Of Tenants: The Process
The first thing to be aware of is that the earlier you raise the issue of non-payment of rent to the tenant the better. It may be a simple oversight, or short-term issue that you can work together on to resolve quickly and without drama. It is important to raise the issue early to make the tenant aware that you need paying on time and you are aware of non-payment. It is possible that your tenant is in financial difficulty, and the harsh fact of the matter is that those that react quickest often get an amount of money back when there is actually some left in the pot. Make a phone call to the tenant initially, but if this falls on deaf ears then send a letter 1st class or hand deliver it.
Q: What should the letter say?
A: Mention the due date of the rent, and that payment is late. Also, write a reminder of future rent payments and their due date and state that missed payments could result in court action being taken. This letter is only if the tenant is elusive in the early stages.
Serving Formal Notice On A Tenant
When your tenant reaches two months of unpaid rent. You can serve a formal notice on your tenant under the mandatory rent arrears ground for possession at this point. Serving a Section 8 notice or a Section 21 notice will inform your tenant that you intend to take them to court if they do not pay within 14 days. The notice relates back to the Housing Act 1988 and 1966.
A process server such as Diem Legal can process serve Section 8 notices and Section 21 notices on your behalf directly to the tenant. The paperwork and process involved can be understandably stressful and confusing for some landlords and they prefer us to step in.
If your tenant is on benefit, you can also seek payment directly from the benefits office at this stage of proceedings.
This stern reminder is usually enough to provoke a positive reaction from your tenant, but if things don’t progress positively, then a claim for possession should be made.
Eviction Of Tenants Via The Court
This is when you must seriously consider the eviction of the tenants via the court if they have not responded to the Section 8 or Section 21 notice served on them. Some insurance companies provide cover to tenants for non payment of rent. This and other costs of the eviction of tenants are taken care of by the company if you have insurance cover. If you do not have cover, move on to the next step.
*Section 8 notice: can be served on a tenant by a landlord wishing to gain possession of a property during the fixed term of an assured shorthold tenancy agreement (ast)*
*Section 21 notice: this is the notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of the property at the end of of an assured shorthold tenancy agreement and end of notice period (2 months) .
shorthold tenancy agreement (ast): a binding contract between landlord and tenant usually of a fixed term of 6-12 months*
Legal Proceedings Against A Tenant
Once the Section 8 notice has expired (usually after 14 days) the landlord can start legal proceedings via the court. A professional process server can help at this point, as it’s important to comply with all the rules and regulations regarding paperwork and timescales – the course of action taken can depend on the start of the tenancy period. The tenant can also request a defence if they disagree with the judgement. If repairs haven’t been carried out as requested, for example, you as the landlord could be liable for the tenant’s legal costs if they are successful in challenging the order. Speak to a professional solicitor if you are in any doubts. Acting irrationally or illegally at any point in the process could cost you dearly.
A section 21 notice is the easiest and most guaranteed route to possession of the property, but it can only be used at the end of the tenancy period and notice period. It does mean that a less expensive and accelerated route of possession can be taken, so it all depends on what stage of the tenancy the non-payment happens. You are unable use a Section 21 accelerated procedure if you are claiming for rent arrears.
If the tenant doesn’t leave by the date in the court order, then you can apply to the court for a warrant of possession and the court will assist in evicting the tenant with a bailiff. This is when a Section 8 notice has been served during a tenancy period. It is commonplace for both a Section 8 and Section 21 notice to be served at the same time, but note once again that the 21 can only be used at the end of the tenancy and notice period. Once you have the backing of the courts for bailiff eviction it is only a matter of time before you have possession of your property back.
Did you know?
Members of the National Landlords Association (NLA) report that it takes an average of four months and £900 to bring a tenancy to an end – without the loss of rental income. So, if you are charging a rent of £712 (the current monthly average) you could be £3,748 out of pocket (£2,948 in lost rent plus £900 in legal costs).
Top ten excuses that we’ve heard for non-payment of rent
- I lost my job
- I forgot to go to the bank
- If I pay my rent this month I can’t afford to live
- I haven’t received my benefits
- We are moving house soon
- I will pay double next time, but I can’t afford it this month
- My electricity bill was extortionate this month
- My pet needed treatment so I am out of cash
- I’ve made loads of home improvements, and you haven’t even contributed (to the landlord)
- You increased the rent last month after a yearly review and I am not happy
Although the above are all probably genuine excuses, and can vary in severity in individual cases, landlords are often individuals with their own financial obligations to meet. They’re not all millionaires with rental properties scattered throughout the UK and a holiday home in the Algarve.
Take Preventative Steps
Of course, prevention is better than cure, and there are some things you can do to help prevent tenant rent arrears and eventual eviction of tenants.
- Check credit reports, references and Experian’s Rental Exchange service before you agree to a tenant moving in
- Purchase Tenant history reports from Tenant Referencing UK to help prevent problems with bad tenants
- Aim for shorter length of tenancies to protect you as the landlord
- Always get a holding deposit of at least one month’s rent and hold it legally within the tenant deposit scheme
- Communicate with your tenant clearly and promptly, especially when they contact you first.
Avoid any confrontation and handle disagreements with tact – face-to-face ideally, or via the telephone. Text messages can be misconstrued.
- Have an Assured Tenancy Agreement or Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST) in place
- Keep a paper trail of all payments as you will be required to prove proof of non-payment
- Act quickly if you spot non payment of rent but be polite and understanding in the first instance
Need a professional process server to assist with the eviction of tenants? Diem Legal is a process server that serves section 8 and section 21 notices to tenants. We will accelerate the communication to the tenant, and mediate where necessary to reconcile landlord and tenant relations. We can also assist with the eviction of tenants if it is required as a last resort. Using a third-party can help repair relationships and eliminate successful harassment claims by the tenant.
Writer’s Bio: Lewis Murawski is the marketing and business development manager at Diem Legal and Managing Director of Kahootz Media. Need professional help with digital marketing? You can connect with Lewis directly on LinkedIn
*These notes on eviction of tenants are for initial guidance only and do not constitute legal advice or an authoritative statement of the law. Never rely totally on these notes, which apply primarily to England & Wales. Before taking action or not, always do your own research and/or seek further professional advice with the full facts of your case and all documents to hand*