Rent is officially late if it is still unpaid as early as one day after the due date. There should still be what’s called a ‘grace period’ before you get heavy-handed, though.
After the rent is late for a few months on the go, you should consider trying to have a chat with your tenants. Why is their rent usually late? Have their circumstances suddenly changed, and they’re too worried or embarrassed to tell you?
If your tenant has changed jobs and their wages now come in a little later, think about changing the rent due date. If necessary, ask your mortgage lender if they’ll push your repayment date back too – they know that you need the rent to pay the mortgage off, after all. Being accommodating with your tenant is often preferable to trying to (expensively) get rid of them.
When it becomes a real problem
Of course, we aren’t just talking about a few late payments. Sometimes the rent is always late, and by several days or even a week or two. Sometimes the tenants are next to impossible to reach, and don’t make any effort to contact you. Sometimes, plainly, it’s just not worth the hassle.
You need to be firm but fair when dealing with your tenant – you can’t just change the locks or harass them for the money. Don’t make threats that you can’t or won’t live up to. Your tenancy agreement should clearly outline the penalties for persistent late payments.
If you choose to issue a Section 8, it will be citing ground 11 (the tenant regularly fails to pay the rent). The rent doesn’t have to be in arrears when the notice is served, but ground 11 is ‘discretionary’. That means that the court might not rule in your favour and grant possession, even if you present a lot of evidence to the fact that the rent is frequently late.
Section 8 is the route to take if you’re seeking a court order to get the outstanding money. If getting the property back is your main concern, issuing a no-fault Section 21 might be a better idea.
Before sending your tenant packing, however, consider: “Can I re-let the property quickly? Can I afford a void period if not? Is my tenant a good tenant, apart from the late rent?” Sometimes a little aggravation is better, and cheaper, than the alternative – a nightmare tenant, or no tenant at all.
Measures to take
You could insist that your tenant commit to a direct debit or standing order. A reasonable tenant who has fallen behind on payments because they aren’t all that great at managing their finances might be willing to do this on request. For new tenancies, you should outline it as a requirement in your tenancy agreement.
Thorough tenant checking is always, always recommended. It’s isn’t watertight, but it’s a much safer bet than not vetting at all.