Nightmare tenants – we all get them. It’s what you do with them that counts
For the buy-to-let landlord, the good news is that nightmare tenants are few and far between (especially if you vet the tenant properly). Now the bad news – if you’ve never had a tenant from hell, then be warned that no matter how many precautions you take you will suffer with at least one during your time as a buy-to-let landlord.
I’m sure you know the type of nightmare tenant I mean. They vary in degrees of darkness, but include:
- the late payer, or, even worse, the non-payer
- the tenant who thinks causing property damage is a blood sport (believe me, sometimes I wish it had been)
- those who allow their children to use the walls as a canvas
- the constant arguer – whatever you say is wrong
As a property management company with more than 1100 homes on our books, we encounter nightmare tenants now and again. Fortunately not regularly, and certainly less than our fair share – but that’s because of the experience we have of getting the right tenant into the right property, I guess. Dealing with them become a nightmare, and for the buy-to-let landlord, it’s top priority to do everything by the book. Actually, it’s not so much a book as a trilogy.
In this three-part series, I’m going to begin by looking at a buy-to-let landlord’s obligations when they want to take possession of a property; then I’ll move onto how section 8 and 21 notices can be used, and I’ll wrap up by looking at ‘accelerated possession’ – the way to go (if possible) to get a property back onto the market quickly.
So you want your nightmare tenants to leave – what now?
If you need to take possession of your property, it isn’t simply a question of the legal process during the possession proceedings. If you haven’t done things correctly beforehand, then you might find you don’t have a leg to stand on.
Most tenancy agreements are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs). One of the advantages of this type of tenancy is that a buy-to-let landlord can remove a tenant from their property without giving a reason. In this day and age when most laws seem to be written for the protection of the tenant, this ability is a real advantage. But, to do this, you must:
- have protected the tenant’s deposit using a tenant’s deposit protection scheme
- give at least 2 months’ written notice (called a notice to quit, which must be completed using a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy’)
- make sure that the leaving date is at least 6 months after the start of the original tenancy period
Also, the tenancy must be a periodic tenancy. If it is fixed term tenancy, you can’t ask the tenant to leave until the end of the fixed term.
Special rules for tenancies that started in 2015
There are also a couple of special rules for any tenancy that began after 30th September 2015:
- if your tenant has made a complaint about the living conditions of the home, and this has resulted in the council serving a notice on you, you won’t be able to initiate a notice to quit, and
- you must have provided an energy performance certificate; a gas safety certificate; and the leaflet ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England.’
Special rules during the fixed term
As if the above wasn’t enough special rules and conditions, the minefield of legal necessities gets more crowded if you have the need to take possession during the fixed term. Even if you have a break clause in the tenancy agreement, you could still fall foul of the law if you try to take possession in the first six months of a tenancy.
During the first six months, you’ll need grounds to request that a tenant leaves. These include that the tenant is:
- in rent arrears
- using the house for illegal purposes (perhaps as a brothel or to sell drugs)
- breaking or has broken the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement
One final reason that is applied, and particularly relevant for let-to-rent property investors, is if the landlord wants to move back into the home.
Whatever the grounds for asking the tenant to leave, you’ll need to give between two weeks and two months’ notice. (This depends on what grounds you are using – give us a call on +44 1522 503 717 if you need to give a tenant notice, and we’ll run through these notice periods with you.)
You can’t bully the tenant to leave
Much as it might be tempting to twist a nightmare tenant’s arm up his back and frog-march him out of your property, don’t ever give in to the temptation. You can’t physically force the tenant to leave: you’ll have to use the power of the courts. Which leads me nicely to part two of this series – the powerful tools called Section 8 and Section 21.
Until next time,
Yours in effortless property management,