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How to Deal with Nightmare Tenants

A nightmare. The tenant from hell. They are labels used to describe their least desirable renters by private landlords. Those tenants the landlord will certainly not be renting to again. Most landlords who have had buy to let properties for a number of years will have a war chest of horror stories about nightmare tenants. Rogue tenants are a serious problem and one which gives even the most experienced landlord sleepless nights.

But a rogue tenant can end up costing the private landlord far more than a few hours’ sleep. Legal problems in evicting the tenant, the inevitable lost rent and the added expense involved in clearing up and getting the property ready for letting again. For buy to let landlords the ultimate nightmare is not being able to pay the mortgage because the tenant has stopped paying the rent.

But how do you, a private landlord, deal with nightmare tenants?


It is the only real weapon in the landlord's arsenal. Eviction is the only recourse when faced with a tenant who isn't paying the rent, is causing damage to the property or being obstructive. Understandably some new landlords may be reluctant to take this step. But this is business and at the end of the day, the tenant is costing you a great deal of money.

To evict a tenant you can go down one of two avenues. The worst cases will require a Section 8 notice. This gives the tenant two weeks to respond. You can serve a Section 8 notice if the tenant has violated the tenancy agreement. This includes rent arrears as well as causing damage to the property. The object of Section 8 is for the court to issue a possession order.

The judge will award a possession order if the rent is substantially in arrears. But for grounds such as neglect or damage, the court has discretionary powers. You need to prove your case. Before issuing the Section 8 notice ensure you are in complete compliance with the law. The court will throw it out if you have not served a valid notice. If you have failed to protect the tenant’s deposit for example.

The other means of eviction is a Section 21.You must give your tenant at least two months’ notice in writing but the notice cannot end prior to the end of the tenancy. In other words, a Section 21 cannot evict a tenant during a fixed tenancy.

The major issue facing landlords with any eviction is cost. Legal fees can rack up during the eviction process and there may also be the additional cost of bailiffs if the tenant will not vacate the property.

A nightmare tenant after the fact

More than one landlord has had a nasty shock at the end of what had seemed like a perfect tenancy. Check out day is usually a quick box-ticking exercise. But landlords have been known to uncover a trail of damage they had no idea existed. If this happens you need to gather evidence and submit a dispute to the deposit protection scheme you have used.

Your inventory will be invaluable here. Take plenty of photos of the property and submit a detailed report along with a copy of your inventory. Hopefully, all will be well and the arbitrator will rule in your favour and you can use the withheld deposit to rectify the issues caused by the tenant.

Avoiding your nightmare tenant

The vast majority of tenants are no problem at all. They pay their rent on time and take care of your property. They don't cause problems, are polite and a pleasure to deal with. Unfortunately, there is always an exception to every rule. And sometimes the seemingly perfect tenant can turn out to be a nightmare. But you can reduce the chances of this happening. And prevention is always better than cure.

Finding the right tenant

The best way to avoid nightmare tenants is to do your due diligence right from the start. You may use a letting agent to find a tenant for you. In this case, they will do all the checks for you. However, if you are finding your own tenant make sure you check their references.

Ask for financial and employer references and do follow them up. If the tenant is using a guarantor make sure the guarantor is credit checked and referenced as well. Ensure you check bank statements. References from previous landlords are worth their weight in gold so make sure you ask for them. If they won't provide a landlord reference ask yourself why.

If you are in doubt about any prospective tenant move on to the next person on your list. Sometimes gut instinct is more reliable than any number of background checks.

Before the tenant moves in commission an inventory and make sure the tenant signs and dates the document. Also, make sure all your legal compliances are in place - gas Safety Certificates, smoke alarms etc. And, of course, ensure you protect the tenant's deposit with a deposit protection scheme.

To prevent problems arising during the tenancy keep in touch with your tenant and have your letting agent carry out regular inspections.

No system is foolproof but by doing your due diligence before the tenancy begins you will lessen the chances of being stuck with a nightmare tenant. And the financial headache that brings

Through our pre-screening and referencing process we'll help you find tenants who are right for you. To find good tenants faster, list your property with MakeUrMove.

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