Had Enough? When to Evict a Tenant

Had Enough? When to Evict a Tenant

Property management seems so easy on paper. You collect the rent, keep an eye on things, and occasionally send a contractor around to fix minor faults. There’s just one problem: tenants. Or, at least, some tenants.

Whilst most tenants are responsible and solvent citizens who treat your landlord’s property with respect, others are nightmare neighbours with a first-class honours degree in debt and disaster. The challenge, of course, is recognising when to finally evict them. 

When it comes to section 21 evictions, a landlord can take back possession of a property at the end of a tenancy without giving a reason. However, if you’re using section 8 then it’s a very delicate process indeed. You’ll need a good reason and solid evidence to evict a tenant; therefore it should always be a last resort.

Below we explain the main reasons for evicting a tenant, and discuss when to cut your losses, and when to cut them some slack.

Rent arrears

Falling behind on the rent is the most obvious reason to evict a tenant. After all, rent is the main revenue stream for both landlords and letting agents. So how much patience should you show?

Technically, you can evict a tenant if they’re eight weeks (or two months) behind on their rent. You can also try to evict a tenant if they consistently cough up late. The dilemma, obviously, is whether to go to court if they always pay up in the end.

Because it’s hard to know how much rope to give them, we recommend sending late rent notices whenever they miss a payment. If this gentle poke in the ribs doesn’t work, and the arrears continue to build, then at least you’ve got a record of tardy payment that you can use in court later on. 

Be mindful that many tenants only miss a rental payment due to temporary circumstances. It’s therefore a mistake to press the eject button at the first opportunity. Instead, suggest a payment plan to help them while they work through their problems. 

On the other hand, if they’re consistently late, can’t keep up with a payment plan and make a different excuse every month, then it’s probably time for them to move out and you to move on. 

Damage

Tenants have a responsibility to look after a property, handle daily maintenance, and tell the letting agent if major damage needs repairing. But what if the tenant has caused this damage? It’s sometimes hard to tell.

The key is distinguishing between normal wear and tear and something more sinister. Fixtures and fittings naturally deteriorate slowly over the years but wine stains on the carpet, cigarette burns, broken furniture, and soiled upholstery suggest a careless or neglectful tenant.

However, don’t assume the tenant’s a liability straight away. Accidents do happen. And what’s the harm if the tenant offers to pay for any damage they cause anyway? The trick is to figure out whether the tenant is likely to cause major damage (that’s too costly for them to pay for) in the end.  

Either way, make sure you record all damage to a property and monitor the situation closely. Then you’ll be able to identify patterns of behaviour. You’ll also have plenty of evidence if you do eventually decide to evict a tenant. 

Breach of contract

Tenancy agreements often forbid things like smoking, pets, and long-term guests. They also rule out anything illegal like fraud or dealing drugs. However, some ‘offences’ are more serious than others. Therefore, you’ll need to exercise your own judgement. 

When it comes to smoking and pets – issues that might effect the desirability of a property – the landlord might prefer a zero tolerance policy. However, sometimes it pays to try and solve the problem rather than kicking the tenant out. It’s never too late to give up the fags.

Guests, on the other hand, can be a grey area. Nobody wants extra tenants who don’t pay their way but can you really object to a significant other staying over at weekends? Criminal behaviour, on the other hand, usually leaves no wriggle room. Get rid of felonious folk and fraudsters quick smart. 

False or misleading information

Talking of fraud, those who provide fraudulent documents should be given the flick, too. So if it transpires that your tenant provided fake references or bogus bank statements during the tenant referencing process then it’s time to act. This is, after all, a basic issue of trust and integrity.

Referencing is there for a reason: to develop an accurate picture of an applicant’s suitability. Falsified documents undermine the whole process and no landlord should be exposed to tenants who lie about their past or financial means.    

Subletting is another key issue, especially considering the popularity of short-term lettings. Tenancy agreements prohibit it for a reason – to control who lives in the property – therefore it’s extremely misleading (not to mention dishonest) for a tenant to sublet a property without permission. They could be making a profit on the side. 

Nuisance and antisocial behaviour

It’s always important to keep the locals onside, especially if the landlord wants to move back in to the home one day. What’s more, neighbours can be a useful source of information, keep tabs on the tenant, and tell the letting agent if they spot damage on the outside of a property.

Consequently, it’s vital to crack down on disturbances: things like loud music, ear-piercing parties, TVs left on with the volume up, dogs barking, and even children screaming and shouting all qualify as anti-social. Noise from equipment or machinery (like engines) can be a problem, too. 

However, always speak to everyone concerned and issue warnings before you evict a tenant. Occasional noise is forgivable; if it’s a constant cacophony that’s the problem. Letting agents should consider other tenants in the building as well. If their wellbeing or privacy is being compromised then it could be time to step in. 

To evict or not to evict?

Deciding to evict a tenant is a big decision. It impacts lives and starts what can be a complex and time-consuming process. What’s more, with section 21 facing the axe, and protections for tenants likely to increase in the future, don’t expect things to get any easier.

However, certain breaches of contract, anti-social behaviour, damage, fraud - not to mention rent arrears - cannot be ignored forever. Therefore, letting agents and landlords will occasionally need to reach for the eviction trigger and fire. Don’t be a knee-jerk but don’t be afraid to bite the bullet, either. 

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