As the UK’s leading representative body for landlords, it is important that we confront the issues that are important to our members. Our latest campaign seeks to raise awareness of the potential risks involved for landlords when running a letting business.
Rent Risk Resolve aims to highlight four of the biggest risks facing landlords and help you to minimise the impact on your lettings business:
- Rent arrears
- Rising interest rates
- Local landlord licensing and regulation
- The introduction of rent controls
As part of the campaign, we’ve created new guides to highlight the importance of taking a best practice approach to help ensure happy, healthy tenancies for everyone involved. Adopting best practice at every stage of the letting cycle will reduce the likelihood of issues occurring.
Our campaign kicks off with a look at rent arrears. Rent arrears are a real concern for many landlords across the UK. Our research shows a third of landlords (32 per cent) say they have experienced rent arrears in the last 12 months.
On average a typical landlord with rent arrears has two tenants in arrears, and faces £1,649 of outstanding rent, so the potential impact can be devastating on both the business and personal life. It can seriously impact your ability to pay the mortgage and if left unchecked can spiral out of control causing a great deal of stress. Remember, only a court may end a tenancy agreement on the basis of non-payment of rent and even then, vacant possession is only guaranteed following two months of accrued debt and the grant of a warrant for possession.
So what can you do? Prevention is the first step to coping with rent arrears. It is very difficult to predict whether a tenant will get into arrears, but there are a number of common-sense steps that can reduce the risk of encountering arrears or at least make it easier to spot the danger signs early on.
The best way to mitigate the risk of rent arrears is to factor the potential cost into your planning as early as possible. A good rule of thumb is to plan for 10 out of 12 month rent to allow for a sufficient margin for the majority of unexpected costs or moderate non-payment.
Doing a thorough tenant check can mean the difference between being stuck in a nightmare situation where your investment is costing you money and a successful happy tenancy for everyone.
There are also a wide variety of landlord insurance products on the market, to help reduce your financial exposure to non-payment of rent. Another option may be to consider insisting upon a guarantor; i.e. a third party who agrees to cover any non-payment on behalf of your tenant. It is also essential to ensure that you are sufficiently covered at the end of the initial fixed term, as some guarantor agreements can be ambiguous about continued liability.
A strong working relationship is important at every stage of the landlord tenant relationship, but is absolutely essential if problems are beginning to surface.
Monitor receipt carefully, and as soon as a rent payment is late, speak with your tenant. Depending on the reason for the late or non-payment, it may be possible or advisable to negotiate a repayment plan, which brings the arrears back under control. If the problem looks likely to become long-term you may wish to discuss whether your tenant wishes to continue with the tenancy.
If the worst has happened then you will be reliant on the courts to grant possession and potentially make a financial award to help you recoup some of your losses. It is important to ensure that you observe proper process at all times and avoid mistakes when it comes to court action.
You must be very careful not to pressurise tenants into agreeing to end a tenancy, as this could be perceived as harassment and or illegal eviction, both of which carry criminal sanctions.
For a more in-depth look at the issue of rent arrears download: A landlord’s guide to rent arrears. It enables landlords to spot potential arrears early and provides strategies to put in place to mitigate the impact. To find out more about the campaign, or to download the free guide, visit www.landlords.org.uk/rentriskresolve