Rent arrears and viewings

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  • Rent arrears and viewings

    I have tenants on a six month AST who gave notice for the end of this month. I wrote an acknowledgement reminding them of checkout procedure and when last rent was due. There is a protected deposit equal to a month's rent.

    The tenancy agreement says that I may conduct viewings by prior appointment with the existing tenants. Having subsequently conducted such a viewing, I have now discovered that the tenants had moved out earlier than I expected without telling me, leaving only some large items they appear not to need. They still have their keys of course and reserve all rights.

    Rent is payable in advance and had previously been paid on time but three days after giving their notice, the tenants missed the last month's payment, due a couple of weeks ago. I rang the lead tenant who said he had meant to ring me about it, but had forgotten. I asked for the rent to be brought up to date within a couple of days and reminded him that the tenancy agreement does not allow him to assume that the deposit can substitute for rent.

    There is also some deterioration in the property such as a door off its hinges and I am worried that the tenants have no intention of putting this right, nor of paying their rent. Even if I eventually win the argument with the DPS over the deposit, I may lose out. Also following my telephone request for the unpaid rent, the tenant no longer responds to my request for an appointment for a viewing, so I cannot let anyone see the house, which could result in my losing money because of a void period.

    I have been an "exceptionally" good landlord to these tenants and they have told me so in the past, but I am not prepared for them to start taking advantage of me now. I feel powerless. Is there anything else I can do straight away rather than waiting for worse news to come?

  • #2
    Obviously, damages or missing rent are issues to be dealt with via the deposit scheme &/or the county court - only you can decide if the amount is worth going to court for.

    With regard to the viewings, as the tenants have exclusive rights to the property whilst their tenancy exists, you can not enter the property without the tenants permission. If they don't answer the phone - they haven't given it. In general, this applies no matter what the tenancy agreement says. Allowing for this, it might be a good business decision to factor in the value of void periods when deciding the next rent.

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    • #3
      Thanks Snorkerz. I have just received a letter from the water company asking whether the property is occupied. It looks as if the tenant didn't set up an account or pay the water company (as the tenancy agreement requires). There's obviously a danger that the same problem will later become apparent for gas, electricity and council tax.

      The landlord's gas safety certificate is due for renewal in a couple of days. Since the tenants won't answer my calls, can I legally gain entry with a tradesman without permission from the tenant, on the grounds that it is a safety issue?

      The tenants have taken everything apart from a broken fridge and a couch. When the tenant's notice expires, if they don't return the keys, is this enough evidence for me to enter the property legally?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Direct View Post
        Thanks Snorkerz. I have just received a letter from the water company asking whether the property is occupied. It looks as if the tenant didn't set up an account or pay the water company (as the tenancy agreement requires). There's obviously a danger that the same problem will later become apparent for gas, electricity and council tax. As that responsibility lies solely with the tenant you won't have any liability

        The landlord's gas safety certificate is due for renewal in a couple of days. Since the tenants won't answer my calls, can I legally gain entry with a tradesman without permission from the tenant, on the grounds that it is a safety issue? Unfortunately not, and applies similarly to the advice given by Snorkerz.

        The tenants have taken everything apart from a broken fridge and a couch. When the tenant's notice expires, if they don't return the keys, is this enough evidence for me to enter the property legally? Not really as the tenancy doesn't end until T surrenders keys and advises you they have moved out, or you obtain a Possession Order through the court.
        Always difficult in these situations. Make sure you keep the rent owed, and the tenancy deposit as completely separate issues.
        The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

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        • #5
          tenants' dishonouring terms of agreement

          This is fairly typical and not far off par for the course. If you go for the better class properties where prospective tenants tend to have assets and a good name to protect there is some genuine effort made to stick to the terms of the agreement to avoid the cost and inconvenience of litigation which is impractical to pursue if your tenants are impecunious or even untraceable.

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          • #6
            As they've clearly vacated the property i'd go ahead with viewings, but just leave a voice message or provide written notice allowing 48 hours. Leave a message saying a viewing will take place at such a time and date, any problems please get in touch. There's not a huge amount they could do as the tenancy is nearing its end, and you need access to show prospective tenants.
            <a href="http://www.manchesterpropertygroup.co.uk/" target="_blank">Manchester letting agents</a>

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            • #7
              Thank jrsteeve for the practical advice. I worry about the legal position but I suppose, as you say, the tenants are unlikely to object to brief and respectful viewings being conducted if they are not present and have already substantially moved out.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Direct View Post
                Thank jrsteeve for the practical advice. I worry about the legal position but I suppose, as you say, the tenants are unlikely to object to brief and respectful viewings being conducted if they are not present and have already substantially moved out.
                Bear in mind that for harassment/illegal eviction to occur, you would have to enter with the intention of causing the occupier to give up possession - as this isn't the case, and the T appears to have moved out already, you have a good defence should the T choose to make any allegations.

                As for the T's right to quiet enjoyment, assuming the contract allows for viewings with appropriate notice given, announce your viewings in advance, in writing, and get proof of posting in the form of a free certificate of posting (which requires no signature on receipt). Keep the proofs/copies of letters sent. This will help cover your back, just in case.

                This isn't to say that you should assume you have possession. The only way to be 100% sure is to apply for a court order for possession.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Direct View Post
                  Thanks Snorkerz. I have just received a letter from the water company asking whether the property is occupied. It looks as if the tenant didn't set up an account or pay the water company (as the tenancy agreement requires). There's obviously a danger that the same problem will later become apparent for gas, electricity and council tax.
                  Not your problem. Give the utilities companies a copy of the tenancy agreement showing T liable.

                  The landlord's gas safety certificate is due for renewal in a couple of days. Since the tenants won't answer my calls, can I legally gain entry with a tradesman without permission from the tenant, on the grounds that it is a safety issue?
                  You are covered if you write to T three times (keep copy letters and certificates of posting). That is sufficient evidence to show you tried and failed to gain T's consent for entry. But as per previous post, if there is good evidence that T has left, I cannot see there would be any adverse consequences in entering to carry out the gas check.

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                  • #10
                    Read this post from another thread
                    http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums...75&postcount=3

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                    • #11
                      Thanks Westminster. I certainly value your comments and no longer feel quite so helpless. Preston made clear that evidence of intentions is important. The tenants have not given me a forwarding address and, presumably since I dared to ask them for the overdue rent, will no longer answer the phone, but I propose to send them 48 hours' notice of viewings by text.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Direct View Post
                        Thanks Westminster. I certainly value your comments and no longer feel quite so helpless. Preston made clear that evidence of intentions is important. The tenants have not given me a forwarding address and, presumably since I dared to ask them for the overdue rent, will no longer answer the phone, but I propose to send them 48 hours' notice of viewings by text.
                        By all means send texts to the tenants (and keep them in case you need them confirmed as evidence), but DO ALSO send written notice with proof of posting in the form of a free certificate of posting. Written evidence with proof of posting is a very good form of evidence, better than text messages.

                        Remember that what you are doing is gathering evidence to cover your back in case of any future allegations - otherwise, you'd just go round there without giving notice - so just make a little extra effort to cover yourself. It may well prove to be completely unnecessary, but you'll be glad you did it if T were to make any false allegations against you.

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                        • #13
                          Isn't email also a good form of evidence?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kittaycat View Post
                            Isn't email also a good form of evidence?
                            Yes, if you have a reply from the recipient but, if not, the recipient can claim they didn't receive it.

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