Woodstock Legal Services have recently represented a Landlord in rather long and protracted possession proceedings. Not only were the tenants extremely difficult, but throughout the pandemic they had accumulated tenant arrears in excess of £35,000!
The Landlord was frustrated at the process and fed up with the significant arrears. The Landlord was unable to get any response from the tenants so instructed Woodstock to deal with his case.
In the midst of the pandemic, the first issue for the Landlord was the longer notice period for the Section 8 notice, which was followed by long delays from the courts due to the backlog created during the pandemic.
Attempting to Settle the Matter
There was a ray of hope from one tenant who wrote to the court and then to us in an attempt to try to settle the matter and vacate the property. This tenant vacated and offered £5,000 to settle the matter. Although the amount offered was a lot less than the amount owed, the Landlord was relieved to be getting his property back. He intended to just continue to the hearing and request a money judgment for the balance owed.
On notification of the property being vacated, the Landlord proceeded to change the locks. However, within 24 hours of changing the locks, the other tenant contacted Woodstock to say he needed access to the property, and should the Landlord not provide this he would bring a claim for unlawful eviction!
Woodstock advised the Landlord to allow access and that we could continue to the hearing and look to obtain possession and a money judgment. It was not worth taking the risk of having to defend an unlawful eviction claim.
Finally, on the day of the hearing, the tenant in arrears attended and argued that he would defend the claim. The court adjourned the matter to give the tenant a chance to file and serve a particularised defence. This was another delaying tactic on the part of this tenant. No defence was received, so Woodstock requested that the matter be listed again.
At the possession hearing Woodstock were able to secure:
– A money judgment for the full arrears
– A daily rate for rent until the eviction went ahead
– Possession in 14 days
– An order that the deposit be released back to the Landlord in full
– The Landlord’s full legal costs
This was a fantastic result following a rather long wait for the Landlord.
Despite the outcome being in the Landlord’s favour, much can still be learned from this case.
1.Referencing: Referencing tenants and in particular checking their ability to afford the monthly rent separately is crucial. Many Landlords rely on the rent to pay the mortgage. Hence, the cost of tenants not paying the rent is just as significant. The takeaway for agents and Landlords who manage their own properties, good tenants are a necessity, but financially stable tenants are just as important!
2.Settlement: Woodstock are proactive in assessing opportunity to settle claims throughout. In cases such as this where arrears are significant, they look to avoid costs incurred in the litigation process where they can.
3.Unlawful eviction: Landlords should always seek advice from a legally qualified professional to ensure they are able to take possession of their property lawfully. Without risk of a claim against them.
The next step for the Landlord is to explore the options for enforcement of the money judgment to recover the sums due if the tenant fails to pay the sums to the Landlord as ordered by the court. The baton will be passed to Woodstock’s fantastic debt recovery team who will look at all avenues available and consider the best method to get the money back in their client’s pockets.
This may seem like a daunting task, but the Landlord has 6 years to enforce the debt and there are several options available to recover the money over that period of time.
For advice on issues such as tenant arrears and possession proceedings, please don’t hesitiate to contack Woodstock Legal Services.
By Sharfaa Kerkache, Trainee Solicitor at Woodstock Legal Services