Preventing Eviction - Help for Landlords
We know that eviction is a last resort for landlords and is often expensive and stressful. This online tool can help you with some advice about alternatives courses of action that you can try before you go down the eviction route.
We’ve taken some common problems that you might encounter during a tenancy and given some solutions that you can follow to resolve those problems.
Above all, it’s important that you keep open communication with your tenant when there are problems.
The following measures have been put in place by the UK Government to prevent all evictions whilst restrictions are in force to control the Coronavirus outbreak.
- From 26th March 2020. All landlords will be required to give 3 months notice to renters if they wish to seek possession. This applies to all landlords and all tenants and all grounds for eviction.
- From 27th March 2020, the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed. This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licences covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This will apply to both England and Wales.
- The Guidance issued by the Government
My tenant is behind with their rent
Sometimes a tenant is regularly behind with their rent and arrears keep building up. Sometimes a tenant has gone through a change in their circumstances which has caused them to be in arrears at a particular time, but they currently pay their rent on time and in full – where this is the case call this “static arrears”.
If your tenant is already behind with their rent, you can agree on a repayment plan with them to pay off the arrears over a period of time. This should be at an amount that they can afford and that you’re happy with. Agree on a written repayment schedule and share this with your tenant so that the amount that they should repay each month is clear. This works particularly well where the arrears are static (no longer increasing).
If your tenant has contacted you to tell you that they can no longer afford their rent, but they are not in arrears yet, discuss the reasons that they can no longer afford the rent with them and ascertain whether they will be able to afford it in the future. In which case, you can to come to an agreement with them about bridging the gap until they are able to pay the full rent again. Their drop-in income may have been caused by a temporary change in their personal circumstances such as changing jobs, or a relationship breakdown. You can put a repayment plan in place for any arrears later on when their income has stabilised.
Your tenant may need to claim Universal Credit or Housing Benefit to help them to afford their rent.
Universal Credit has a minimum wait time for payment of 5 weeks, but the first payment will be a backdated payment covering those five weeks and your tenant should be able to pay their rent when their first Universal Credit payment comes through.
If your tenant is in rent arrears, you can request that Universal Credit or Housing Benefit are paid directly to you.
There are lots of agencies who can help when someone is experiencing financial struggles and these can be accessed easily online or by phone.
If your tenant is claiming Housing Benefit, and this has stopped or been reduced, you can contact the Housing Benefit Landlord Liaison line 0115 7184444, and they can help.
My tenant is claiming welfare benefits but my landlord insurance or buy to let mortgage conditions state "No DSS"
The majority of mortgage lenders have now removed this clause from their buy to let mortgages and you can find information about the reasons for this here.
There are also many insurance brokers now offering insurance for landlords letting to DSS tenants. It may be a good opportunity to shop around for a better deal rather than go through the costly and stressful eviction process. You can use consumer comparison sites to do this.
It’s worth noting that it is now considered discriminatory to post an advert for a property to let which explicitly excludes tenants on benefits. There have been recent test cases in court where tenants have succeeded in winning significant out-of-court settlements on these grounds.
I want to sell my property
You could sell your property to another landlord with your tenant in situ. Ask your estate agency about this as they may be able to put you in touch with landlords who are purchasing properties.
Consider the benefits of keeping the property for a longer period. Its value will rise in the long term. If you are selling because there have been issues in the tenancy, you may want to try to resolve these before selling.
I would like to put the rent up but my tenant says they can’t afford the increase
There are special rules which set out how you can increase rent and a notice containing specified information needs to be served. You can find out more information about this here.
Have a look at market rents for similar properties in the area.
Letting Agencies will often quote a higher achievable rent for your property but be aware that their quote for achievable rent will include their fees and so the increase may not be as profitable as it first appears.
Consider the cost of reletting your property should you have to evict your current tenant and find a new tenant who can afford your increased rent. You may have to factor in -
- The cost of evicting your current tenant
- Agency reletting fees
- Lost rent whilst the property is empty
- Cost of improvements that you may need to make in order to achieve a higher rent
You may be better off increasing your rent by a lower amount which your current tenant can afford or keeping the current rent but retaining a more stable long term tenancy.
My tenant and I have a dispute about disrepair at the property
Your tenant may contact you about disrepair at your property. It is a legal requirement that a property let as someone’s home is fit for human habitation. This means kept in good repair without safety hazards.
If you would like more information about minimum safety standards for rented homes you can find guidance about the HHSRS Standard.
A home could be unfit for habitation for a number of reasons and if this is the case, your tenant may be entitled to compensation under the Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018. More details of this legislation can be found by clicking here.
It can be upsetting to hear from Environmental Health where disrepair has been reported to the Council. However keeping open communication with the Council and your tenant is important during the process of completing repairs.
If you want to complete improvement work or repairs, consider whether you would be able to complete the work around your tenant rather than evicting them in order to make the repair easier as an empty property.
My tenant has requested that I serve notice or they have handed the keys back to me
Sometimes a tenant will request that you serve notice because they believe that they will be able to obtain a tenancy with a different landlord on the grounds that you have evicted them.
We would ask for your assistance in these circumstances. There is significant pressure on homelessness services, and we have a shortage of accommodation for homeless families. If your tenant does this, please do all you can to confirm that they have found a permanent home to move into. This could mean having sight of a letter with an offer of accommodation on it. If they have not secured permanent accommodation to move into, and they intend to approach the Council as Homeless, we may not be able to assist them with rehousing as we may consider that they have deliberately contrived their own homelessness.
If your tenant has requested the notice because of other issues in the tenancy, you can try to resolve these issues according to the advice in this tool rather than serve notice.
If your property is in the Nottingham City area the NPRAS Team at Housing Aid offers practical help and support to landlords to maintain tenancies in Nottingham City.
You can call us on our dedicated Landlord Line on 0115 8761644 or by email NPRAS@nottinghamcity.gov.uk. For help and advice on any of the issues outlined in this guide or at any other time that your tenant is at risk of eviction.