Legal Q&A: My assured shorthold tenant is in arrears with the payment of the monthly rent; what can I do?

 
Simon Painter
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A s a landlord, you can bring the tenancy to an end using what is known as a Section 8 notice, which gives the tenant two weeks to pay the arrears of rent. Check the terms of the tenancy agreement to ensure that the Section 8 notice is correctly served as there are usually provisions dealing with service of notices.

If the tenant has not paid by the end of the two-week notice period, in order to regain possession, you have to issue court proceedings.

The hearing date for possession is usually no more than eight weeks from the date the court proceedings are issued. During the court hearing, you will have to satisfy the court that the Section 8 notice is valid, has been properly served and that the arrears are still due.

If at least two months’ rent was due at the date of the notice and at the date of the hearing, the court must grant a possession order, but if the arrears are less than two months, then the court has discretion whether or not to grant possession.

Read more: Should I extend an 87-year lease?

The court cannot postpone a possession order for more than 14 days or up to six weeks in the case of exceptional hardship. If the tenant has not moved out by the date set in the court order, apply for a warrant of possession and enforce the order using the court-appointed enforcement agents.

This can take several weeks in the County Court and, in some circumstances, it is possible to transfer enforcement up to the High Court with the court’s permission, whose enforcement officers are usually quicker at regaining possession, but they are more expensive.

In addition to a possession order, the landlord will usually seek to obtain a money judgment, particularly if there is a deposit. If so, get an order from the court for the deposit to be used to pay off any arrears; under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, the deposit will only be released with the consent of the tenant or an order of the court.

Another option for a landlord might be to serve what is known as a Section 21 notice, where you do not have to prove rent arrears to obtain possession from the court. A Section 21 notice must give a minimum of two months’ notice to bring the tenancy to an end after its expiry.

You still need a court order for possession, but the procedure is quicker. It’s worth checking the tenancy agreement to see if there is a break clause to end the tenancy early.

Bircham Dyson Bell is a multi-disciplinary UK law firm advising private companies, public sector bodies, not-for-profit organisations. Visit bdb-law.co.uk to find out more

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