25th Nov 2017
Q: My tenant’s six month tenancy ends in two weeks, and they owe me six weeks’ rent. They have also damaged the property. I want them to be evicted as soon as possible, but how do I get my money back?
A: As there is damage to the property, it makes sense that you claim for possession of the property immediately. But if you want to recover the outstanding debt, then you need to show that you’re acting reasonably and calmly (try not to threaten them). I would recommend speaking to the tenant fully about their circumstances, and trying to help them resolve the situation (e.g. by helping with a benefit claim or repayment plans). Do act swiftly to make sure that your tenant realises that you’re serious.
Send a formal reminder letter weekly. Send him/her a schedule of the rent arrears, outlining what is due. This will act as good evidence, in case you end up in court.
Afterwards, you can then use the following eviction procedures:
- Section 8 eviction procedure, which includes a money claim for rent arrears
- Section 21 standard procedure (where you need to attend court)
- Section 21 accelerated possession procedure (where you don’t need to attend court, if your paperwork is correct)
Using the Section 8 notice may be the quickest course of action. By serving the Section 8 notice, you’re giving the tenant 14 days’ notice, and after this ends, you can apply to the County Court for a possession order, as well as a CCJ (debt judgment). The downside of using a Section 8 is that unless the arrears are of two months or more, the possession order is granted on the judge’s discretion. There is also the possibility of a late part-payment, and the tenant can counterclaim for the property’s alleged disrepair.
With the Section 21 notice, you should serve this immediately, so it acts as a safety net in case the tenants don’t leave at the end of the tenancy. Although it will take longer to obtain the possession order, you’re guaranteed to get it if you follow the correct procedure. With the standard procedure you can also add a money claim, but you may need to wait a month or two longer for a court hearing date than if you used the accelerated possession procedure. This shouldn’t be a problem, as you won’t be able to assess the extent of the money claim until the tenant has left the property.
So, the best course of action (based on the surface information provided here) seems to be as follows:
- Serve a Section 21 notice immediately, making sure that the service is correct and that you have evidence of serving the notice properly.
- If the tenant shows no sign of leaving at the end of the tenancy, apply to the court for a possession order using the accelerated possession procedure as soon as the notice period finishes.
- Once the tenant has been evicted, assess the damage caused, and calculate your money claim.
- Pursue the money claim from (1) any deposit protected in a tenancy deposit scheme; and (2) by using the Small Claims Court (for amounts up to £5,000).
When making a claim using the Small Claims Court, do make sure that you have evidence of the following:
- Rent schedule
- Bank statements showing missed payments
- Inventory showing the extent of the damage, plus quotations and invoices for repairs
Please do be aware that each situation is different, and therefore I would need to have all the information to hand, before giving any advice on eviction strategy. If you need more information, please do get in touch.