A recent query on terminating a tenancy on the grounds of rent arrears gave me pause for thought. No-one can doubt my understanding towards landlords who are patient and sympathetic when arrears accrue – perhaps more sympathetic than they should be, accepting excuses far more readily than I would. The landlord I spoke to seemed to have taken all my advice about being aware of arrears a little too much to heart and was over-anxious about his rent.
The tenant was accepted and had been open that he would require housing benefit; however, he had paid 2 months’ rent in advance when his tenancy started on 1st September. The rent was paid for September and October and the next rent, due on 1st November, had not been paid. I do not know what the tenancy agreement said so do not know whether it said the rent was payable 2 months in advance so therefore was already 2 months in rent arrears or whether it was payable monthly, but evicting on a rent arrears ground under the circumstances outlined would be difficult. Even worse, it plays into the hands of those who feel that landlords are money-grabbing and uncaring.
Of course, landlords should be aware of when rent is due and take steps when arrears start to accrue, but accepting a housing benefit/Universal Credit dependent tenant and not understanding that this will almost inevitably cause delays. It would also be very difficult to maintain rent payments in advance and jumping on them when the rent payment is a couple of days late does take it to extremes. By all means, write a short but pleasant letter so they know that you are on top of the situation. That should prompt the tenant to contact housing benefits/DWP to find out exactly what is happening with the claim.
The situation with this tenant could be worthy of the landlord’s anxiety, but it is really too early to tell. He could also be the model tenant, who had acted responsibly to get 2 months’ rent in advance at the start of the tenancy. A little patience could build a really strong landlord and tenant relationship.