Help! My tenant hasn’t paid for rent, what do i do?
When a tenant has caused a breach in his/her tenancy agreement, i.e. failure to pay rent, the landlord has the right to exercise their rights to may forfeit the tenancy (or in legal terms, breach of contract) and to re-enter the premises accordingly to evict these tenants. But how do we do this safely?
Do note that, tenants may counter-sue the landlords for trespassing (That’s a brand new headache, eh?) So to protect yourselves from facing such situation, you would need to take strategic steps to protect yourself by any means necessary.
So what should I do?
There are 2 ways basically,
- The landlord can obtain possession of the premises by the permission of the tenant (aka peaceable re-entry), or
- By going through legal procedures to file an application to the court.
Landlords should always refer to your Tenancy Agreement to ensure that there is a right of re-entry clause or default-of-tenant clause being placed into the said agreement.
To re-enter the premises, the landlord is required to to make a formal demand (IMPORTANT* Do this by Email /Written notice sent to the premises + Paper Notice pasted onto the front door + Take a photograph of this) for the tenant to take note and to leave the premises. This is done so that they cannot proclaim, “Oh I didn’t noticed the email, it was in my junk mail”.
Also another important note: For residential units, its not advisable to re-enter and change out the locks just immediately, because of 2 things:
- It’s trespassing if you enter the property without their permission (What if things get stolen? Or they proclaim their personal property is missing?)
- If you do not enter the premises, you would not know if there are any occupants inside the unit (and pretending not to be around when you knock the door of course!) and you decide to just lock up the gates? Imagine this; what happens if an accident happens i.e. fire, and they can’t escape?
For commercial and industrial units however, the landlord may choose to re-enter and change out the locks, but it is highly advisable that you go to the premises with another eye witness (preferably the police) and to take appropriate video documentations just in case the tenant tries to counter sue you landlords for their missing merchandises/office properties.
How about other stress-free alternatives?
The next better way instead of taking matters into your own hands, is to go through the usual practice; through engaging the services of a solicitor to issue a writ of summons for possession, and begin proper legal proceedings to re-possess your property.
To do this, the landlord should make sure that he has expressly stipulated a right of re-entry in the tenancy agreement. The landlord must serve a notice, under S18 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act, to specify the breach complained of, the compensation sought, and the remedy to be undertaken by the tenant within the notice (This said notice will be done by your lawyer, of course. phew!)
What if the tenant refuses to go to court? The Writ of Summons will technically “blacklist” them with a record, so they cannot apply for bank loans/credit cards, etc. Basically it will be a red flag for them wherever they go, until they rectify this situation. (YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN”T HIDE!)
Do note this thing though, that your tenant has the right to apply to the court for relief against the forfeiture of his lease. As forfeiture is an extremely harsh remedy, the courts will usually provide the tenant a reasonable amount of time of an additional 4 weeks for them to pay back the full rent amount owed.
“No please, Propertywiki! I want my tenant out once and for all! I’m sick of this stress as all i want is a tenant who can pay my rent on time, and not give me these constant worries every few months!”
Okay! One final solution for you landlords, is to exercise the rights of distress under the Distress Act. The right to distress is a remedy for the arrears of rent, whereby the landlord must also apply for a writ of distress, and possibilities to claim up to 12 months’ arrears in rent preceding the distress application.
It is really important that landlords should act on the matter ASAP and not take your own sweet time in claiming the arrears of rent owed. After your formal notices + writ of summons, the next steps would be a notice of seizure of goods + writ of distress must be sent to the defaulting tenant.
If the tenant does not reply within 5 days, the landlord may exercise the right to sell off the goods. Since there are no comprehensive law that covers landlord-tenant relations, a lot depends on the tenancy agreement. (So for those who rent their properties illegally without tenancy agreements, beware!)
So my dear readers, do note that there are no one set of legal procedures to evict tenants. As a matter of precaution, always review the terms of a tenancy agreement with your property specialists/law firms before entering into one! Do refer to our PropertyWiki services if you need the safest, hassle-free recommendation to your needs!