A guide to landlord rights

After all the effort of finding a tenant, running the necessary checks and then having them move in, it’s a shame if things don’t go to plan. Sometimes, though, the person or people living in your property can turn out to be a complete nightmare – refusing to or unable to pay their rent, or causing damage and generally letting the place become a mess.

Luckily, landlords have a number of rights that you need to be aware of. Assuming you’ve done everything correctly – and have a detailed tenancy agreement in place – then there are steps you can take to resolve the situation. Here are the legal rights you can rely on as a landlord:

The right to be paid rent on time

Your written tenancy agreement will detail how much rent is to be paid and the dates on which it is due. It is always best to have the tenant(s) pay via direct debit, as then payments become easier to keep track of.

If your tenant suddenly misses a payment or starts to fall behind, the first step is to speak with them. There may well be a good reason, such as temporary financial difficultly or a job loss.

Try to understand the problem and agree on a solution, and put in writing any proposed repayment plan, so that this can be referred to later. If a tenant is really struggling financially, they might be eligible for housing benefit – or even if they don’t qualify, they may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to help them pay their rent. Visit gov.uk for details.

Legal action should be the last resort. For one thing, it can be time-consuming and expensive. It may be necessary, though, if there is a communication breakdown or a flat refusal to pay up.

The action would involve taking your tenant to the ‘small claims court’, which actually involves the County Court, which will then issue a money judgement.

Assuming this is in your favour, there’s a number of ways to enforce it, including having the money deducted from the tenant’s wages, with their employer paying you back directly.

Most tenants will pay immediately if they receive a judgement, although if it’s not resolved after 14 days then it will be added to their records and will show up on future reference checks.

The right to raise the rent

Landlord law states that you can decide to charge more for your property, but the details will depend on the nature of the tenancy agreement. For example, you may have to wait for a fixed term to end. If it’s a periodic or rolling tenancy, then you have the right to increase the rent once per year.

However, you can’t just hike rent charges to whatever you like. The new amount must be justifiable and comparable to similar properties in the area. You must also give notice that an increase will take place – enough to enable you to serve an eviction notice (see below) should the new amount not be agreed to.

The right to repossess your property

One of your most powerful rights as landlord is the ability to claim your property back – this may be subject to a notice period, but it can be called upon if, for example, you have a problem tenant. Your tenancy agreement should specify the notice period that the tenant can expect to receive.

You don’t need to give a specific reason to serve notice, either – but you should do so in writing, outlining the date by which the tenant must vacate your property.

If they are still living there when the eviction date arrives, you can apply to the courts for a possession order – if this fails to get them to move out, then you can apply for an eviction order from the County Court, which will then arrange for bailiffs to be sent.

The right to know who is living at the property

If a tenant moves another person into the property, even as a guest (meaning they aren’t paying rent) then you have a right to know about them. The tenant should ask your permission and give you details of that person for referencing. One of the big legal issues for landlords is the fear of housing somebody they shouldn’t, such as illegal immigrants. By being aware of who is at the property over the long term, you will hopefully avoid this dilemma.

The right to ‘reasonable access’

UK landlord rights state that you can still access your property during a tenancy, but you can’t just turn up whenever you want.

You’re entitled to ‘reasonable access’, which means giving 24 hours’ notice to the tenant – whether it’s to make repairs or just to have a look round. Similarly, if you want to have work done on the property and are sending tradespeople, the same amount of notice is required, otherwise you could be accused of harassment.

Be sure to take photos of the property before the tenant first moves in, so that if anything gets damaged and they refuse to pay for repairs, the pictures will help to support your argument.

If the damage is costly, you could start the eviction process and reclaim the amount from their deposit, which will be held in a tenancy deposit protection scheme. In this case, you’ll need to prove the tenant is at fault, and get quotes for cleaning or repairs to help you make your case.

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