When tenants fail to pay their rent, a landlord needs to resolve the situation quickly before it escalates. Missing one month’s rent can easily roll into two months following excuses from tenants. But landlords still have their own bills to pay, and shouldn’t have to deal with the stress that loss of rent brings.

Yes, you can evict your tenant for not paying rent. However, this process has to be approached carefully to remain within the law and honour your tenants’ rights. We’ll guide you through how to deal with tenants not paying rent, and how to tackle the eviction process.

Keep evidence of all rent payments 

You’re likely reading this guide because your tenants haven’t paid their rent for some time. Although it may be too late for this case, an important lesson is to keep evidence of all rent payments – even if things are going swimmingly – you never know what’s around the corner.

Record the dates when payments are due and paid, and send a dated receipt each month. Keep a secure digital copy for yourself, and backup the data to a hard drive regularly. When it comes to eviction proceedings, copies of all rent payments are required. So, get your paperwork in order from the outset.

Talk to your tenants 

You should be strict on your rental payments from the start. Even if a payment is overdue by one day, chase it up with your tenants. As most occupants set up a standing order, you should be alert to any late payments. The chances are, if the rent payment is one day overdue, it will quickly snowball to a week, then weeks.

Give your tenants a call and find out why they haven’t paid on time – their reason may be harmless. Perhaps they’ve had a problem with the bank or have a short-term issue that means that they don’t have the funds to pay. If you have a longstanding relationship with the tenant, and never experienced issues before, it may be worth cutting them some slack. Having an open conversation means that you can come to a simple solution.

You may find that your tenants admit that they can no longer afford the rent but are prepared to leave the property. In this case, it’s easier to accept the loss of one month’s rent and allow them to break their contract and move out. The sooner you talk to your tenants and discover these facts, the sooner you can advertise for new tenants, and re-gain a consistent source of income.

Send a letter to your tenants 

Not all tenants will be so willing to discuss their reasons for not paying their rent. If you’ve spoken to your tenants without success or struggled to contact them in the first place, the next step is to send them a formal letter.

In the letter, you should request that outstanding arrears be paid urgently, and explain that future rent must be paid on the agreed date in the tenancy agreement. Highlight to your tenants that failure to pay rent can lead to court action and eviction.

Remain professional and reasonable. No landlord wants to lose out on rent, but if your tone gets heated, tenants could claim that you harassed them. Deliver the letter yourself, so you have peace of mind that your message has reached your recipient.

After 14 days have passed since the payment due date, send another letter outlining that you intend to seek possession of your property if your tenants refuse to pay. If 21 days have gone by and you still haven’t been paid, send a further letter.

Write to the guarantor 

If you’re not having much luck with your tenants, the next step is to write to their guarantor. The guarantor should have signed the tenancy agreement where they agree to pay the rent if the tenant fails to.

You should write to the guarantor if the rent hasn’t been paid after 14 days. At the 21-day mark, you have the right to send a follow-up letter to the guarantor. It’s best to keep a paper trail of these communications, so send your letter via email or hand-deliver it if you can.

Contact your landlord insurance provider 

If you have already taken out a landlord insurance policy, now is your time to use it. The majority of landlord insurance will cover loss of rent if your tenant falls into rent arrears. Contact your landlord insurance provider to make a claim.

Begin the eviction process 

Time will pass by, and there will come a time when you can begin the eviction process. This is when the rent is a month overdue, and the next month’s rent is now due, making your tenant two months in arrears.

With assured shorthold tenancies, there are two ways to evict tenants under the Housing Act 1988 – a Section 8 notice or a Section 21 notice.

Serving a Section 8 notice 

When a tenant doesn’t pay their rent, they have breached the terms of the tenancy agreement. Therefore, you can serve a Section 8 notice at any point. Your tenant can dispute the notice, which is why gathering evidence of unpaid rent is crucial.

Serving a Section 21 notice 

You can serve a Section 21 notice to evict your tenants if the tenancy has no fixed end date (called a periodic tenancy), or to evict them after a fixed-term tenancy ends (if there’s a written contract).

There are a few exceptions to this notice, so make sure to do your research first. For example, you can’t use Section 21 during the first four months of a tenancy. Also, you can’t serve the notice if you haven’t met the guidelines yourself. You must have provided the tenants with a copy of relevant landlord certificates, including the energy performance certificate, gas safety certificate and the government’s ‘How to rent’ guide.

If you’re unsure whether to serve a Section 8 or Section 21 notice, seek legal advice.

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