The buy-to-let eviction mistakes even experienced landlords make
An eviction is probably the most stressful time for any buy-to-let investor. It seems that the law is on your tenant’s side. So what if they haven’t paid their rent on time? And that damage they’ve caused – what does that matter? Of course, these are both substantive grounds for eviction. But the courts have thrown out plenty of evictions with what should have been watertight reasons. It’s imperative that you follow the rules for the buy-to-let landlord to evict nightmare tenants.
In this article, we examine the seven most common mistakes made by buy-to-let landlords which cause the judge to kick them out of court. You’ll want to avoid these or risk an eviction order being denied.
1. Screwing up the tenancy agreement
There are two mistakes that buy-to-let landlords make when it comes to tenancy agreements: not having one, or having one that’s not worth the paper it’s written on.
Whatever you do, never let to a tenant on a ‘gentleman’s agreement’. A handshake means nothing in court. Without a written tenancy agreement, you have no leg to stand on when trying to prove your tenant hasn’t followed the rules you set them. It becomes a question of ‘he said, she said’, and guess what? Your tenant, the one you want to get out of your property, will say anything to stay.
Equally as bad is if you have a tenancy agreement that fails its purpose. There are incomplete clauses. Conditions are badly written, or out of line with current law. The opposing lawyer is going to have a field day!
Whatever you do, you must have a written tenancy agreement. It’s got to be up to date and must stipulate the responsibilities of both you and your tenant. It includes what happens if the tenant neglects those responsibilities. Always get your tenancy agreement written by a professional – amateur agreements end up being way more expensive.
2. Helping the tenant catch up with rent payments
Even the best tenant can fall on tough times. They may have been made redundant, for example. It’s tempting to want to help them out, and offer to accept partial payments. The problem is that if you do so, you could be delaying an eviction if it’s needed.
If you are tempted to make such an agreement, make sure you put it in writing. The agreement should stipulate what payments are to be made, and by what date, as well as the actions you will take if the agreement is broken.
It’s great to be a good landlord, and have a good relationship with your tenant. But don’t let that relationship get in the way of your business. Keep it professional, and keep all agreements in writing.
3. Switching off utilities
It’s tempting to put the squeeze on your tenants if they haven’t paid their rent. One of the actions that you might want to take is to switch off the electric, gas and water. Do this, and you’re going to be in big trouble. The tenant can take you to court for harassment under the Housing Act 2004 – and they’ll win their case against you. And then you’ll be classed as a criminal.
You must evict within the law. You can’t take any ‘strong arm’ action to remove the tenant from your property.
4. Losing your temper
This game your tenant is playing; it’s enough to make your blood boil, isn’t it? You’ve got time, effort, and a wedge of money invested in your buy-to-let property. How dare the tenant not pay their rent! How dare they think they can pull curtains down or let their pets soil the carpets!
You want to give them a piece of your mind. And you do. Then they use these words against you. Comments that you made in the heat of the moment. You may even have fired off an ill-thought-out email that you cobbled together while in a rage. ‘Oh dear!’ doesn’t cover the bother you’ve caused yourself.
A tenant can be as rude as they want. You make one verbal error, and the weight of the law will come down on you. You’ll find yourself hit with legal fees, fines, or worse. And your tenant is still in your property!
Know your temperament. If you ever lose your temper or react out of character when provoked, it’s best that you don’t deal with tenants. Get an investment property manager to take the stress.
5. Entering the property without permission
It may sound odd, but you cannot enter your property without the tenant’s permission. It’s their home. You’re invading their privacy and the place they live if you simply walk in. Even if they aren’t there at the time, and even if you think they’ve done a disappearing act.
Always give a written notice of entry (even if it’s for a routine property check). Keep it all above board and legal, so the tenant cannot make any claim against you in court.
6. Not following the eviction process
The eviction process can be long and is certainly frustrating. But don’t be tempted to cut corners. If you haven’t followed the eviction procedure to the letter, including presenting the right evidence, you’ll give your tenant more time in your property. And while they are there, knowing that you’re still going to evict them, they have no incentive to pay rent or treat your property with respect.
If you make sure you are on top of your clients, conduct regular property inspections, and track tenant money, you’ll have a big advantage. You’ll have an early warning when a tenant starts to go bad. Then you’ll be able to put the no-foul strategy to easily evict a tenant from hell into operation.
7. Using the tenant’s deposit as a stick to beat them with
Don’t even think about telling the tenant you’re going to keep their deposit. The rent is your money. The deposit is the tenant’s money. It must be held in a separate account, especially registered for that one purpose. There are, of course, circumstances under which part or all of it can be withheld. These include as compensation for damage or non-payment of rent. If you don’t make tenancy deposit deductions correctly, you could be taken to court, be forced to repay the deposit deductions, and be billed the legal bills.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to evict a tenant. However, if you do need to, make sure you don’t tumble into any of these seven pitfalls.
Contact Ezytrac today on +44 1522 503 717. Evictions aren’t something that we have to do every day of the week. But with over 1,000 properties under management, we have the legal muscle and experience to ensure evictions are as painless as possible when they are necessary.