rent arrears, will I get anything back?

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    rent arrears, will I get anything back?

    Dear forum

    As a new landlord, I took on a tenant who showed good employment refs but from October 2019 stopped paying rent and owes ten months rent arrears. They vacated the property in July 2020 leaving behind filth and damage. The tenant has refused to pay the arrears and said they are receiving benefits.

    Will I be able to getting any rent arrears back from this ex-tenant given the reliance upon benefits? Or only if they get a job or win the lottery? The position seems hopeless. I have read many forum posts here about this and the law is definitely in favour of the ex-tenant.

    rather than pursuing the ex-tenant and getting nothing, is my money better spent doing up the property and re-letting?

    can a landlord actually get anything back from a tenant who is reliant on benefits these days?
    cheers

    #2
    Regardless of whether or not you think you will get anything back, you should pursue the tenant anyway.

    They will get a CCJ, which will lie on their record for 6 years, making it difficult to get loans, credit cards, mobile phone contracts, etc. It will also serve as a warning to other potential landlords. It might make life difficult enough for them to decide to settle the issue with you. The "I'm on benefits" statement might be a lie.

    Bad tenants should not be getting away with it. If all potential tenants knew they would almost certainly be pursued for debts and damage, it would make this kind of thing a little less common.

    Comment


      #3
      + 1 to Beswick's comments.

      I've had some success in getting money from ex-tenant debtors. IMHO worth the effort, if only to ensure CCJ (or equivalent in other jurisdictions).

      And, should you ever get only £5, should you happen to see them in the street you can hail them with a cheery wave & say (LOUD voice..) "Thanks for the money". Bet it ruins their day.

      (I'd take the same view should debtor be agent, landlord, tenant, MP etc etc etc...)
      I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

      Comment


        #4
        Agree with both of the above, given they are clearly not to be trusted (aka the arrears) then they could be telling '' fibs '', and even if they are on benefits they could get a job in the future and you then have something to go after.

        Comment


          #5
          +3 to the above comments.
          I would sue without a second thought. Please read up on moneyclaims online (MCOL) - very straightforward. I am supportive of appropriate action against rogue tenants, rogue letting agents and of course, rogue landlords - we have too many rogues in each of the category which is making the whole industry unsustainable.

          Comment


            #6
            I was shown a benefit award letter before she left. She genuinely does receive benefits, although I don't recall which ones. I would like to sue but I'm worried she will put in a defence and it will get messy at Court. She has threatened me saying she'll say I sexually harassed her which is completely untrue.

            What I would like to achieve is to get all the rent arrears back as I don't believe tenants should live rent-free. These currently stand at £11,902.34 plus interest.

            Given she is genuinely claiming benefits, I guess it's going to be a tiny amount per week if I get a judgment?

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Londonhowling View Post
              She has threatened me saying she'll say I sexually harassed her which is completely untrue.

              These currently stand at £11,902.34 plus interest.
              Ok, these two items alone would place her in the category of '' scum ''', i would persue her with everything i had, no one would treat me like that.

              Comment


                #8
                I suspect you would be throwing good money after bad. The way to minimise default is to be very select who you let into your property. It is more important than the amount of rent reserved by the agreement.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Londonhowling View Post
                  What I would like to achieve is to get all the rent arrears back as I don't believe tenants should live rent-free. These currently stand at £11,902.34 plus interest.

                  Given she is genuinely claiming benefits, I guess it's going to be a tiny amount per week if I get a judgment?
                  there has been some discussion about that here - but it is either a tiny amount or nothing.

                  You would probably want to claim less than £10k to keep in in the small claims track, but that's still over £500 in court fees, if it needs a hearing, that you will probably never see again. It's a lot to pay just for the satisfaction of the tenant having a CCJ.

                  If she gets a job then it should be possible to get something - but some people would rather leave a job than pay their debts.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Londonhowling,

                    Her defence will not stand a chance as long as your paperwork is in order. Make sure you send a letter of claim and follow the pre-action protocol for debt claims. I would sue for the whole money; you never know that she might get rich one day and you could get your money back.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      The issue is that, basically, you can't recover money that someone doesn't have.
                      So your choice is to write it off and move on (you were unlucky and probably won't be again) or to take action (at a cost) which helps society a s a whole (by flagging the debt on the tenat's credit history) and disadvantages the tenant (because they'll struggle to find anywhere else to rent / get a new mobile phone etc).

                      What I would do, personally, depends on my view of the tenant - anyone can lose their job or have some kind of personal crisis which means that they get into financial trouble.
                      But someone who just decides not to pay rent and spend the money on something else is different, and I'd always pursue the debt.

                      There isn't really a defence to not paying rent that's due.
                      A defence of sexual harassment might be embarrassing, but unless some kind of complaint was made at the time (or there's some kind of evidence) it's not a viable defence.
                      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Thank you for all the responses. I contacted a local solicitor earlier this week who said they would take the case on but wanted £5,000 up front in fees. They didn't comment about my ability to recover arrears against someone on benefits though.

                        I still don't understand the legislation around benefits claimants and not being able to meaningfully collect debts at a rate which is sustainable.

                        I have also tried to contact the Department for Work and Pensions but they were unhelpful and would not tell me anything.

                        I am not interested in a CCJ against the tenant to make her life harder in the future, I simply want what is lawfully mine back, ie the rent. It's a large amount.

                        I've seen programmes on TV with bailiffs who do enter people's homes (after being invited in, of course) and the person there is on benefits and they do agree to repayment plans, often £50 per month.

                        I am guessing though that most CABs will advise a tenant who owes money not to open the door.

                        What is the maximum I can possible get back from this tenant, who is on benefits, but owes me many months rent arrears? Is it just the £3.71 per week which I keep reading on other forums? But the legislation posted by others seems to say this is only if the tenant is your current tenant, not applicable now she has vacated. I really don't understand and thought it was more stream-lined than this....

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Considering they left in July 2020 (last year!) I'd be thankful they had gone. With the Covid situation there are so many landlords who are stuck with non payers whom they can't get rid of at all.
                          You say you were a 'new landlord' so treat this as a sharp lesson to only accept tenants in sustainable jobs with a good work history and not on benefits. Only let on a 6 month AST which in normal times makes it slightly easier to remove tenants if things are going wrong.
                          Clear up the mess and re-let. The horse has bolted.



                          Freedom at the point of zero............

                          Comment


                            #14
                            The basic position is that benefits are set to a level that allows someone to live, but without anything "spare".
                            So there's nothing left over for paying off any debt that a benefits recipient has - they'd have to do without essentials to repay it.

                            You might think that they should do without things in order to pay off their debt.

                            The counter argument is, broadly, that most debt isn't a loss to the person it's owed to, it's lost income or opportunity for income.
                            If the debt is rent (as opposed to repairs for example) what your tenant owes a landlord usually contains a significant element of profit.

                            So there's a balance between the landlord being entitled to what he's owed, and the state's duty to get involved in (indirectly) compensating the landlord, who is an investor in a business with an element of implicit risk.

                            That aside, the real life answer is that you'll be lucky to get anything at all from someone who's entire income is benefits.

                            The value of a ccj is not only that it makes things difficult for someone who has arranged their finances in a way that has seriously disadvantaged you, but it also sits on the tenant's record and their circumstances might change and they might elect to settle the debt to clear the ccj.
                            When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                            Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Interlaken View Post
                              .............treat this as a sharp lesson to only accept tenants in sustainable jobs with a good work history and not on benefits.

                              Clear up the mess and re-let. The horse has bolted.
                              I would do the above,still go for the CCJ, but the money owed has gone, if they never get a job (likely indeed given the debt), then what hope really is there.

                              Set your standards higher in the future and go for the very best tenant you can get, i do not let to those with '' issues '' or a '' story '' and although i understand it's frowned upon at present.... those on benefits.

                              Comment

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