A very nice, trusting landlady put a scenario to me.
She was introduced to the tenant by an acquaintance. He had nowhere to go; had made no provision for taking a private rented property, so had no deposit, no references from a previous landlord nor a Guarantor. These were all reasons for the landlady to put kindness to one side and allow logic and business sense to come in, but – she was a nice lady.
The tenant moved in, paid his rent for a couple of months then, disaster! He lost his job, but he was entitled to housing benefit. Yes, he was – but it didn’t get to the landlady. 8 weeks in rent arrears, she asked housing benefit to pay her direct, which they did – until the tenant started work again. He paid for another few months with tiny payments off the arrears, but then the payments stopped. After reminders, he advised he was out of work again. Back on housing benefit, payments went to him until another 8 weeks arrears had accumulated. The landlady had to request again that payments be made direct to her. All continued well – until he gained a third job. But this time, the payments reduced to a dribble.
In June, the landlady was getting desperate. There had been no rent for some months, no income to allow her to service her properties properly, something had to be done. She served him a s.8 notice, but wrote him a courteous letter, pointed out that if the rent was not paid regularly and something done to reduce the outstanding arrears, she would have no alternative but to act on the notice and seek possession through the courts. She contacted the person who had introduced him to her – he was no longer speaking to him and was not prepared to discuss the matter with him. However, the letter and notice galvanised the tenant into action. He was prepared to sign an agreement to pay the arrears. The landlady was very happy, she didn’t want to have to evict.
It did not last long. The first payment was made, then nothing. Texts were responded to with “I’ll pay you by the end of the month” – but no payment was made. His most recent contacts were “I’m leaving at the end of October”, then “I’m leaving at the end of November”. She wanted to know, should she believe him? I’ve never met the tenant, but going from his history, my answer was “no – he’s playing you along – evict”. Eviction is expensive and no landlord can be blamed for trying to avoid it, but there are times when there is no choice. This tenant is in debt. He is also trying to stay as long as possible. Is it likely that he has accumulated a deposit for a new place? I think not. Is he likely to find an equally kind landlady a second time? I sincerely hope not.
When there are substantial rent arrears, don’t make the mistake of holding off eviction because he has told you what you want to hear. Actions speak far louder than words – and the actions where there are rent arrears need to be payments.
By Sharon Betton