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Option Homes Ltd - News- Getting tenants to leave: there

Getting tenants to leave: there`s a right way… and an expensive way.

Date Added 02/11/2015

It`s not a perfect world. And sometimes you have to ask tenants to leave – perhaps they`ve got behind on their rent, or the landlord wants to sell or redevelop the property. Option Homes` Martin Grealis explains what can sometimes go wrong next – and how to ensure that landlords and tenants don`t get locked into an expensive legal cycle, fuelled by bad advice, that benefits neither party.

Sometimes you can build up a really excellent relationship with tenants in the properties you manage. It`s understandable. Often they will be in a property for quite a few years – paying their rent on time, keeping everything neat and well maintained, helping to earn us our fees along the way.

More than that, it really goes with the job spec: as a managing agent, you need to work and communicate well with tenants as well as landlords to ensure that you can deal with any issues that arise… fairly, sensibly and quickly.

That ability to negotiate, based on strong working relationships, can become essential when dealing with the sensitive issue of asking tenants to leave – either because they have fallen behind with their rent or because the landlord would like to sell the property.

When the tenant is `at fault`…

The first situation can require a mix of firm but sensitive handling. When tenants hit financial problems, perhaps because of a change in their personal or work circumstances beyond their control, you need to act in the best interests of your client, the landlord, but life`s too short to be difficult with people when there`s no need to be.

At least that`s our philosophy as an agency, and often we will try and come up with a workable solution that suits both sides if there`s one to be found.

But ultimately, if a solution cannot be found and a tenant is reluctant to leave, we will seek possession of the property through the courts. As part of our management service agreement, we also make sure that the landlord is not left out of pocket by covering any unpaid rent until vacant possession is achieved, as well as the cost of eviction.

And believe me, eviction is expensive: costs can easily be a long way north of £1500 – and far more again if a High Court Enforcement comes into play.

That said, we like to think that eviction really should be the last resort after we`ve explored all other avenues. It`s expensive, it can get messy and it certainly won`t help the tenant secure a future tenancy.

Non fault-based evictions

However, not everyone sees eviction as something to be avoided, and this is becoming a regular problem in instances where a landlord wants to regain their property through a `non-fault basis` – where the landlord wants to sell the property with vacant possession and would like the tenant to leave at the end of their tenancy.

Recently, and this is not the first time we have encountered this, we went to advise a tenant that we had now gone through all the correct notification procedures (which are actually quite lengthy as well as precise) that he really was at the very end of his time at the property and had to leave.

The tenant was in receipt of housing benefit, and this was where the complications had set in as he had gone to the local council for their advice.

`I was told by the council to stay put until they receive the letter from the court giving a date that the bailiffs will attend. That will buy us extra time to find somewhere,` he said.

`But that will cost you more money… the eviction fees will be taken out of your deposit, you won`t get a positive reference and you could end up with your possessions out on the street.`

The tenant here is waiting for the letter from the court bailiff giving them six to eight weeks` notice that they will evict the tenants from the property… and this is after the tenant has stayed in the property past the expiry of the section 21 notice which gave two months` notice, and past the court order which gave the tenants a further 14 days` notice following the commencement of the legal proceedings.

Where this approach (which, it has to be said, stems from advice given by council offices up and down the land) all falls apart is when a landlord – who has carried out all the correct procedures - runs out of patience and asks us to go to the High Court enforcement office.

That short circuits the six to eight weeks additional time that the tenant thinks he has available, and means they get the shock of their life when High Court enforcement officers turn up unannounced to evict them.

Sadly with the tenant in this case, the `advice` given by the council carried more weight than ours. The bailiffs arrived and did their job, and he ended up with a very large bill which could have paid for his next deposit. It certainly wasn`t the way we wanted it to go down, and neither did the landlord.

The facts are these: as long as the landlord or their agent goes down the correct legal route, the law and costs will be on their side. That said, eviction inevitably means hassle, and can end up costing landlords money through losing an opportunity to sell or delaying a re-let of a property.

Our approach is always to try and head problems off at the pass – engaging tenants in sensible conversations right from the off, occasionally negotiating an extra few weeks for handover, even doing our best to find a tenant another apartment through our extensive network.

Why councils offer this advice defats me, especially as we face a major shortage of housing in this country, exacerbated by having over 200,000 `empty homes`. Many people resist letting their empty property simply because they don`t want the potential hassle it can, occasionally, involve – despite the fact that they are missing out on a lot of potential rental income.

The reassurance I`d like to end with is that if you do go down the managed route, the experience, knowledge and people handling skills of agents like Option Homes will mean that circumvent many potential issues, and it`s not you that has to worry if problems do crop up.
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