What should landlords do when tenants do not pay their rent?

When tenants do not pay their rent, landlords in the UK face a challenging situation that needs to be handled with care and within the bounds of the law. Here’s a straightforward guide on what landlords should do when confronted with this issue.


Communication is Key

The first step is to communicate with the tenant. Often, there might be a valid reason why the tenant has not paid their rent, such as financial difficulties or personal issues. By opening a line of communication, you can understand their situation better and possibly arrange a payment plan. 

According to a survey by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), 70% of landlords who communicated with their tenants managed to resolve rent arrears without further legal action.


Review the Tenancy Agreement

Your tenancy agreement should outline the terms and conditions regarding rent payment and should be the first place to look as a landlord. Review it to ensure that both you and the tenant are aware of the obligations. This document will be crucial if the situation escalates to legal action.


Send a Formal Reminder

If the tenant still doesn’t pay after initial communication, send a formal reminder. This can be a letter or email outlining the overdue amount, the consequences of non-payment, and a deadline for payment. Make sure to keep a record of all correspondence for future reference.

If the rent remains unpaid, you can serve a Section 8 notice under the Housing Act 1988. This notice is used when a tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy, including non-payment of rent. You need to give at least two weeks’ notice, and the tenant must owe at least two months’ rent if the rent is paid monthly.


Seek a Possession Order

If the tenant does not leave after the Section 8 notice period, you can apply to the court for a possession order. This is a formal request to have the tenant removed from the property. According to the Ministry of Justice, in 2022, there were 28,000 possession claims made by private landlords in England and Wales.

Alternatively, you can serve a Section 21 notice if you want to regain possession of your property at the end of the fixed-term tenancy or during a periodic tenancy. This notice does not require the tenant to have breached the tenancy agreement.