Cherry lets top tips for facing tenants in arrears



Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced today that the eviction ban has been extended again, it is now in place until the 31st May 2021.

Private landlords will need to continue to give tenants six months’ notice before they can repossess rental properties, except in the following circumstances:

  • Anti-social behaviour (four weeks’ notice)
  • False statements provided by the tenant (two to four weeks’ notice)
  • Over 6 months’ accumulated rent arrears (four weeks’ notice)
  • Breach of immigration rules under the ‘Right to Rent’ policy (three months’ notice)

Eviction Ban Extended Again

Back in August 2020, with the exception of series cases (ie. anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse and giving false statement, providing that the arrears exceeded 6 months of rent) a ban across England & Wales was put in place for eviction possessions of tenants from rental properties.

This meant that landlords were unable to even start possession proceedings on any tenant in rental arrears, although after 20 September landlords could start proceedings, albeit with a minimum of 6 months notice being given to the tenant. Courts stated that due to the huge backlog, at that time, they would prioritise cases based upon the most serious in nature - such as those involving criminal behaviour.

However, once the nation went back into lockdown at the end of 2020, the government extended the legislation to ensure that bailiffs could not serve eviction notices during lockdown, with the only exceptions being illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, death of a tenant or serious rent arrears greater than 6 months’ rent. This legislation was due to end on 21st February 2021 but, it was announced on 14th February, that it would continue for an additional 6 weeks to the end of March (at least)!
Read the Government announcement here:

What happens if your tenant is in arrears?

The most important tip is to keep talking! The moment that communication breaks down, you could find the situation getting a lot worse.  Legally, your tenants should continue to pay their rent and abide by all of the terms of their tenancy agreement. However, Government guidance does ask landlords to offer support and understanding to tenants at this difficult time. We fully understand that, in these unprecedented times, it is possible that tenants may find themselves in very different circumstances to that at the start of their tenancy. In fact, once the furlough scheme comes to an end at the end of April, the level of rental arrears in England could become even worse than where it stands at the moment: a sum in excess of 800,000 private tenants has been quoted after a recent survey by the National Residential Landlords Associates (NRLA) for the build up of arrears during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Whilst there is no straight forward solution, here are our 3 practical tips:

Top Tip 1 eviction ban extended cherry lets

In the first instance, you should keep lines of communication open with your tenants and try to negotiate a plan to solve the situation with alternative means.  This could be an application for Universal Credit or other Government assisted benefits - which may help to pay the rent if they are on furlough or out of work. You may find that your tenant has not considered this option, perhaps they have never needed help of this kind before, so it is certainly worth them investigating the process. Click here for support.

Top Tip 2 eviction ban extended cherry lets

Consider how your tenant performed prior to Coronavirus, had they always paid on time previously? If you feel that they ‘want to pay their rent’ but are in a bind due to the current situation, maybe you can work with them on a payment plan, or park accrued arrears until the National lockdown is over and a more normal way of life can be found? You are under no obligation to offer ‘free rent’ but, dependent upon your own circumstances, you may be able to offer a lower monthly rental for a period of time, or move the accrued arrears into a ‘loan agreement’ with a payment free period. Of course, it is not ideal if you are relying on the rental payment to settle any mortgage or expenses on the property, but while there is no chance of eviction, it would be better to negotiate a settlement than to have no rent coming in at all.

Top Tip 3 eviction ban extended cherry lets

We suggest that you ask your tenant to provide details of their outgoings, so that you can be assured they are not using money, which should be used to settle their rent, on paying for other services, such as cable or Sky TV or credit cards! Remember that many people do not have great money skills, and often prioritise the wrong payments. There are a number of budget planners online, try this one.

If you have not applied for a mortgage payment holiday, it is worthwhile contacting your mortgage company to see if they are still offering this scheme. Whilst this scheme was set to close at the end of October 2020, many banks and building societies agreed to continue to offer support to borrowers in need moving forward and many have extended their scheme due to the ongoing lockdown. If a payment holiday is not available, you could find that you are able to negotiate a reduced monthly repayment or a switch of mortgage type (although these, unlike payment holidays, will be reflected on your credit file).

If your tenant is not in arrears, and was referenced through Cherry Lets at the start of your tenancy, please contact us about our Rental Guarantee Insurance Protection, which you could be eligible for and which will then cover a proportion of any arrears going forward, plus legal costs for eviction purposes and, in some instances, cover whilst your property is vacant after eviction for a period of time. Contact us here.

Tenants in difficulty

If you are a tenant in difficulty with your rent, please contact your landlord or their managing agent as soon as possible. If you are one of our tenants, you should already be in regular contact with your property manager, but please do contact Sarah on 01869 337346 if your circumstances have changed. For tenants of let-only tenancies or those not renting through Cherry Lets, click here for more resources to assist you.