Diary of a Landlord
I came across this DIARY OF A LANDLORD in today’s industry press, and thought it highlighted a very real situation that some landlords may find themselves in.
Boydens offer a fully comprehensive rent and legal guarantee that would have covered this landlord not just for her rent but also for her legal costs too, all for about 60p a day.
No landlord should have their greatest asset at risk, as such if you would like to receive a quote for this service, then please get in touch with me on [email protected]
Director of Sales & Lettings
Diary of a Landlord: Evicting my non-paying tenant
Written by Jeni Browne
BTL landlord and MFB Sales Director Jeni Browne spent just over a year trying to evict her non-paying tenant from her buy to let property. In her latest blog, she reflects on the process and discusses the importance of Section 21 for landlords.
There are lots of ‘worst nightmare’ scenarios as a landlord, and having a non-paying tenant is certainly one of them. This is my journey of dealing with, and ultimately evicting, mine.
It all started mid-2021. My tenants' rent would be a few days late, then a week late, two weeks late, and then eventually, after a year of this inconsistency, they stopped paying in June 2022.
At first, there was some erratic communication and plenty of excuses – a locked online bank account, funds had been transferred but must have got lost, the cat was sick… I have to be honest; I was pretty naïve. They were a young family, so I was reluctant to evict them; I figured they would get themselves up straight, and the payments would get back on track. Sadly, by the Autumn, the situation had not changed.
Here's a dated account of the steps it took to get my property back to give you an idea of how long it can take, as well as the total costs.
On the advice of the letting agent, I served a Section 21 notice to my tenants. This gave them two months to vacate the property, which would mean them leaving on the 24th of November.
The tenants (who had still not paid any rent or been in touch) suddenly emailed the agent saying they were waiting for housing from the Council, and would not be vacating. The advice from the agent at this point was that I would have to apply for a court eviction order.
I contacted a few legal firms to understand the process and costs of the eviction order, and eventually, I settled on a company called Landlord Action. The reason I chose them is because of the sheer number of evictions they deal with. Working on nearly 2,000 cases every year, I felt they would have the whole thing down and, to be honest, getting the tenants out as quickly as possible was my priority.
Once I had engaged the solicitors, I had to send them a raft of paperwork:
• The AST
• Proof of the Section 21 being served
• The EPC gas safety certificate
• The deposit certificate
• Proof that the ‘How to rent guide’ was issued, and on what date
• A statement of the rent arrears
• Proof I owned the property by way of a land registry search
• Proof of ID and address
At this stage, I had incurred £1,662 in legal costs alone to get the process started.
I supplied all documents to the solicitors including my formal instruction.
The solicitors acknowledged my instruction, and I was given my dedicated solicitor.
The solicitor let me know that the Section 21 notice served by the letting agent had been dated wrong and so would be invalid in court, meaning we would need to start again! As you can imagine, this was extremely frustrating as the process had already been slow up to this point and meant going even longer without receiving any rent payments.
The solicitor and I agreed that taking a belt and braces approach was the way to go, so on the 20th of December, the tenants were served a fresh Section 21 and Section 8 notice.
The Section 8 would expire on the 17th of January, after which I could begin legal proceedings. The Section 21 would expire in February owing to the two-month notice period. So yet another month of waiting.
20th January 2023
I finally got my court date for the Section 8 hearing, the 7th March, so the end was in sight! Or so I thought…
I received a letter from the Insolvency Service telling me that my tenants had entered into ‘Breathing Space’ and I was not able to pursue them for any money owed to me for a further two months.
As the Section 8 notice is related to rent arrears (thus pursuing debt) and the court date was scheduled during the breathing space period, I was advised that I had to postpone my Section 8 hearing. However, as my Section 21 notice was not impacted by breathing space, this would remain unaffected. Back to waiting.
The Section 21 notice period ended and the tenant (unsurprisingly) didn’t vacate, so I instructed the solicitors to issue proceedings, adding another £991 to my total costs. Sadly, my solicitor was busy, so this didn’t actually happen until the 10th of March.
I was advised that the court had confirmed they had not yet served my claim on the tenant, and my new Section 8 hearing date had not yet come through. More waiting.
I finally received confirmation that my Section 8 hearing date was booked in for… August the 8th.
A major breakthrough – the court issued a possession order for the tenants to vacate on or before 9th May.
To no one’s surprise, the tenants still didn’t vacate! My next step was to apply for a county court bailiff, another £300.
I received confirmation that the bailiff would be attending the property on the 12th June. I was advised that I had to be present and that a locksmith would also need to be there to change the locks.
The big day - on arrival at the property, it was clear that the tenants had vacated! Sadly, the bailiff never showed up.
The Section 8 hearing went ahead, and the tenants didn’t turn up. The court found in my favour and issued them a judgement for £15,750 (this does not include the circa £2,500 I spent on my solicitor). The tenants did not pay this within the 14-day deadline.
1st September 2023 – One year on
After having to clean, fix and redecorate the property, I was delighted to welcome new tenants and look to put this sorry mess behind me.
To say this was a really stressful experience would be a huge understatement. I still cannot quite believe that a tenant can stay in a property for over a year, not paying rent, and the legal system allows for this. I would like to say that my experience is rare, but when landlords are dealing with problem tenants, I am afraid this is not the case.
In total, after the legal fees and adding the total lost in rent, this whole saga cost me over £17,000.
As we all know, this is not reflective of most tenants. This situation sheds a poor light on the vast majority who are really good people who both respect their landlord and the legal agreement to which they entered.
I do feel like I'm a fair landlord, and had there been better communication from my tenants, perhaps more could have been done to prevent the situation from playing out how it did. As landlords, I do believe we have a responsibility to look after our tenants, especially those most vulnerable. That being said, I'm also aware that I'm lucky to have been able to afford the legal support and still pay my mortgage whilst not receiving any rent - not every landlord will be in the same position.
To remove Section 21, when the court system is clearly unable to cope as it is, would be unforgivable. I am so relieved that it has been acknowledged that the courts need reform before this can happen, but we still await further details on what these reforms will be and how they will benefit landlords.
Its only now that I feel ready to pursue the tenants for the rent which I am owed, so this will be my challenge for the new year. I shall keep you updated!