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What should I do if the rent isn't paid?

Most of the time the rent arrives like clockwork. Every month the payment appears in your bank account. This is just as well. Because your expenses also appear like clockwork. Mortgage payments, insurance premiums, letting agent's fees etc. They all need paying. This is why regular rent payments are essential for every private landlord.

Being a private landlord is like every other business. Cash flow is hugely important. It's when that cash flow is interrupted problems begin. When the tenant doesn't pay their rent.

When this happens you need to take quick action. Don't leave it and hope the situation will resolve itself. Don't let it get out of hand by letting the arrears mount up. You must do everything within your power, and within the law, to recover the lost rent. There are steps you should take when the rent isn't paid. These include:

Make sure the rent really hasn't been paid

I know. It's highly unlikely you're mistaken but do check. Go over your bank statement and make sure you haven't received the payment. It's easy to think you haven't received the rent when you've just overlooked the payment. Especially when you have multiple properties.

But let's assume you're right. The tenant hasn't paid the rent. Don't start typing up the eviction notice just yet. There are a few things to do first.

Contact your tenant

Don't immediately fire off a warning letter. Give your tenant a call. Ask why they haven't paid the rent. There could be a perfectly simple explanation.

The tenant could simply have forgotten. It does happen. In this case, they can easily rectify the issue. Or in these days of bank IT meltdowns, the payment may have been delayed or lost. Once the bank has sorted it out you should receive your payment. In these cases, it's unlikely the tenant will fall further into arrears.

If no memory oversight or bank error is to blame it's likely the tenant has encountered financial difficulties. They may have lost their job, had to take a wage cut or perhaps a relationship has broken down leaving the tenant struggling to pay the rent. If the reason for non-payment isn't financial it could be the tenant is refusing to pay the rent. This does pose more of a problem for you as their landlord.

If the tenant is refusing to pay the rent you need to take swift action. Many tenants believe they have the right to withhold rent if they are in dispute with their private landlord. They don't. Explain to the tenant they have no legal right not to pay their rent and by not doing so they are putting themselves at risk of eviction.

The next steps

Get legal advice

Whatever the reason for the tenant not paying their rent you should get legal advice. It always pays to know where you stand legally. Even if you're sure of your ground. Your landlord's insurance policy or property management contract may include access to free legal advice.

Contact the guarantor

If your tenant provided a guarantor now is the time to contact them. Getting in touch with the guarantor can produce very fast results. Especially if they are a family member. Let the guarantor know you haven't received the rent and they are liable to pay it. You may find the tenant quickly settles up after a phone call from an irate relative.

Gather your evidence

Even if you don't think you'll have to resort to serving an eviction notice you should still gather evidence. Keep copies of everything you send to the tenant; emails, text messages and letters. Note the dates and times of all phone calls. You should also make brief notes on what was discussed during each call. Take copies of bank statements and of the tenancy agreement highlighting the section regarding payment of rent.

All this evidence will be essential if you have to take legal action to evict the tenant and recover the lost rent.

Try and reach an agreement

Hopefully, you and the tenant can come to an agreement. You may be able to put a payment arrangement in place. It takes time to find a tenant so keeping the current tenant in your property is desirable if possible.

Evict the tenant

If all else fails you will have to evict your tenant. Once the tenant is eight weeks or two months in arrears you can serve a Section 8 notice. Hopefully, this will be enough and the tenant will vacate the property. If not you will have to go to court for a possession order. If this is the case you may have to rely on county court bailiffs to remove your tenant.

Private landlords can find tenants fast by listing their property with MakeUrMove the original online letting agency.

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