While a lot of legal changes over the years have been designed to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords, landlords have rights too when it comes to dealing with unscrupulous tenants. This can include eviction under section 21 or section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, for which legal advice is necessary.
Know your rights to possession
A landlord cannot seek possession until a tenant is two months in arrears with rent and it can take several months before an eviction can finally take place. Tenants must be given proper written notice, usually of at least two months, if you want possession of your property.
We wrote here about the experience of landlords in seeking to evict bad tenants and can only repeat the advice we gave then to be prepared.
The communities department has a fact sheet on the possession process here. It says that section 21 gives a landlord an automatic right of possession without having to give any grounds once the fixed term of a shorthold tenancy has expired.
Section 8 allows a landlord to seek possession on specific grounds. These are set out in schedule two and include rent arrears and anti-social behaviour.
Tap the sources of advice
It’s well worth joining a landlords’ association to tap into the advice of others in the business, and to have a say in lobbying on laws applying to letting. Theer is more information at the websites of the National Landlords Association, which points out that there are now over 50 Acts of Parliament and more than 70 sets of regulations governing the private-rented sector, and the Residential Landlords’ Association .
There’s much other advice available, even a UK edition of Renting Out Your Property For Dummies from the popular American guides.
Here are just a few nuggets of advice for landlords from the Department for Communities and Local Government:
- Ask prospective tenants for a reference from a former landlord if possible to reduce your risks.
- Use a written tenancy agreement as this will help ensure your tenant knows what they are responsible for, such as who pays utility bills, how long the tenancy is for and arrangements for paying the rent.
- Agree an inventory with your tenant at the start of the tenancy. This will make things easier if there is a dispute over the return of the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
- Provide contact details to your tenant so that they can get in touch if there are any problems.
Be clear who will pay council tax
Council tax is one area where the tenancy agreement should make clear who is responsible for paying the bill.
The National Landlords Association has a useful guide to council tax written by operations director Richard Price. He says that for most residential lettings the tax liability falls to the tenant. Houses in multiple occupation (HMO), for which landlords are liable, are an exception. Note that when a tenancy ends, liability reverts to the landlord until a new tenant is found.
The communities department also has advice on what not to do when things go wrong.
- Leave problems to fester – speak to your tenant at an early stage and if relationships break down contact your local authority who may be able to mediate for you.
- Try and remove your tenant by changing the lock or throwing out their possessions. This is illegal and you could be prosecuted
Housing and homelessness charity Shelter also has pages of advice on landlord and tenant responsibilities in England. It’s worth bearing in mind that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland often have different rules and regulations.
SJ Collections has considerable expertise in the issues of concern to landlords, including working with the legal profession to remove squatters or tenants who won’t pay their rent.