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Rent arrears

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Despite your best efforts, there may be times that your tenant falls into rent arrears. This possibility can never be entirely eliminated and there is always a risk that your tenant will lose control of their finances. When considering methods of payment it is best to insist that your tenant pays by standing order so that the amount is directly debited from their bank accounts. This ensures that the money arrives regularly and allows you to effectively monitor whether the rent has been received. Arrangements where the tenant pays by cheque entail an anxious wait around the due date and permit the tenant to delay payment and make excuses.

Monitor your bank account regularly to make sure that payment has been made. It is best to do this via internet banking rather than relying on statements so that you are always aware of missed payments. Remember to keep full and accurate rent records in a form a court would be able to understand as the burden of proving rent arrears is on the landlord.

Rent arrears

If the tenant falls into rent arrears and hasn't paid, you must act immediately, otherwise the situation will get out of control. In addition, you need to ensure that you don't create an impression that you are willing to overlook the fact that the tenant hasn't paid, for instance by contacting the tenant to discuss other matters related to the tenancy without mentioning the rent arrears. First establish why the rent has not been paid. There may be a legitimate reason for the missed payment such as the tenant switching accounts or forgetting to post the cheque.

You should make contact with the tenant by sending a letter demanding that the rent be paid.

Most tenants will respond when reminded and remedy the situation. If the letter is ignored the problem may be a serious one and you will have to take further measures. It is wise to mediate with the tenant to try and establish why the rent has not been paid. It may be that the tenant has lost his job or is having debt problems. In this situation it may be possible to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement with payment timescales and back payments that the tenant is better able to meet. It is best to set this course of action out in writing so that the terms are clear. Do not include the security deposit as a rent payment since this is the only security in the situation. You should also advise your tenant to contact the following help agencies: the local authority Social Services Department or their local Housing Executive office in Northern Ireland regarding Housing benefit payments, the Housing Advice Centre, Shelter and the Citizens' Advice Bureau. Above all, try to retain good relations with the tenant if at all possible.

If the tenant isn't receptive to mediation or cooperation, it may be that entering into possession proceedings in England and Wales, or seeking an order for possession in Northern Ireland and Scotland, is the best option; although it often takes a considerable period of time to obtain an order for the possession of the property.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, if the tenant still refuses to leave the property, you will have to enforce the order for possession to get possession of the property. This may be the best way to control your losses and regain control of your property. Do not attempt to harass the tenant in any way; should you do so, there are heavy fines you could incur and the penalties for harassment are severe.