One of the worst nightmares for a landlord is finding themselves with a tenant who isn’t paying their rent. Even after doing all of the necessary checks and deciding that you can trust someone with your property, you can find that your tenant falls behind on rent.
Getting them to pay can be difficult, and sometimes the result is that you have to go through a costly and time-consuming eviction process. If an ex-tenant has left without settling their debt, leaving you high and dry, you need to know the correct steps to deal with it. Getting them to pay up can be tough, but there are options you can explore.
Negotiate with Your Tenant
Neither you or your ex-tenant really want to have to go through legal proceedings. It’s time-consuming for you and them, and it can be expensive to carry out to. Before you do anything else, you can start off by trying to talk to your tenant. This strategy is likely to work better when they are still your tenant, as they will be more amenable to making an agreement with you if the alternative is being evicted. However, some particularly agreeable ex-tenants might be willing to work with you even after having moved out because they want to honour their debt. Using a mediation service might help to make this possible.
If they’re not nice enough to pay up voluntarily, it’s often necessary to have some kind of consequence of not paying. If you haven’t yet started any legal processes, it’s the ideal leverage to use to encourage them to pay.
How to Find an Ex-tenant
Some landlords aren’t even able to speak to their ex-tenant because they don’t know where they are. Once they have moved out, whether they did so voluntarily or were eventually evicted, keeping track of them isn’t easy. You need to know where your ex-tenant is before you can take any action to get your money back. If you’re not sure where to start, you can use a tracing service like Findukpeople.com. A tenant tracing service will help you find who you’re looking for so that you have an address and other contact information. With minimal information, such as name and past address, it’s possible to find the ex-tenant you’re looking for. You should have more than enough information to help you find your ex-tenant.
Getting a County Court Judgment
If you want to take legal action to get your money, the first thing you need to do is get a county court judgment (CCJ). Without one, you can’t take any of the other enforcement steps that could help you get the money you’re owed. Just the CCJ on its own might help to encourage your tenant to pay. With a CCJ on your financial record, it’s difficult to access credit, such as mortgages and bank loans or even credit cards. Paying off the debt will remove the CCJ from your ex-tenant’s credit report so that they are not restricted in the financial products they can access.
The first step is to take someone to small claims court. You can make your claim online or fill out a paper form and send it to the County Court Money Claims Centre. You need to pay a fee, which is cheaper online and also depends on the amount of your claim. The cheapest amount is £25, while the highest is £10,000 (for claims over £200,000). You can also claim interest on the money you’re owed.
If your ex-tenant disagrees that you owe them money, a court hearing might be the next step to prove your claim. If they don’t respond to your claim or they don’t pay you, despite admitting they owe you money, the court can order them to pay. If you made your claim online, you can also request a judgment online. If not, you can use a paper form, either N225 or N227, depending on whether you claimed a fixed amount or not.
County Court Bailiffs/High Court Sheriffs
If you have been granted a CCJ, you can take steps to enforce the judgement. If you want to ask the court to collect your money, you will need to pay further fees. Before sending bailiffs to collect payment, you might want to ask your debtor to attend court and provide proof of why they are unable to pay. If you feel that they are legitimately unable to pay the money, you could decide that it’s not worth pursuing any further. After all, you can’t get money from someone who doesn’t have any.
If you think your ex-tenant is able to pay, you can send bailiffs to collect your payment. You will need to fill in an online or paper form to do this, depending on how you filed your original claim. You can apply to the county court if you’re owed under £5,000 or High Court if you’re owed at least £600. If applying to the High Court, legal advice might be necessary first. The bailiff will first ask for payment within seven days, then will visit the debtor’s home if payment hasn’t been made. If they aren’t given payment, they can see if the debtor has anything they can sell to make up the amount of the claim.
Attachment of Earnings Order
Another way to get your ex-tenant to pay up once you have asked the court to collect your money for you is to get what you’re owned from their earnings. If they have a job, the court can take the payment they owe from their salary. The court sends an order to the debtor’s employer, after you fill in yet another form. Mentioning this to your debtor could be a good way to get them to pay before you need to carry it out. Few people want their employer knowing that they owe money and aren’t paying up.
Third Party Payment Order
You can also consider a third party payment order. This process allows the court to freeze money in someone’s bank or building society account, or held by another organisation. The court then decides whether the money in the account can be used to pay you. To do this, the account must be owned by the debtor only, unless both people on a joint account owe the money. To fill out the form for a third party payment order, you should have the bank details of your tenant.
A charging order offers another possibility. However, it is one that is unlikely to be useful for many landlords. A charging order is when the court charges the debtor’s land or property. Most tenants won’t have any property, unless perhaps they went on to buy a home or business after leaving your property. If you can take out a charging order, it means that when the person sells their land or property, you will be paid from the profit of the sale.
A county court judgment might not be your first step in trying to collect your debt. If you want to avoid the fees, you can try some other things first. Having some kind of leverage to get your debtor to pay up can make them more likely to pay. Using a mediator might be helpful if your ex-tenant wants to pay but might need to work out a payment plan to make it possible. Remember that a CCJ can be enforced up to six years after it has been obtained, so even after getting one, it might be worth waiting to see if your debtor’s financial circumstances have changed.
If you need free advice on how findukpeople can locate and trace an ex tenant call our tracing team on 01273 252539