How best to handle tenant who can't pay rent

Morning all,

My tenant in a small flat I own has told me this morning that he can’t pay this month’s rent and doesn’t know when he will ever be able to find work again.

He has my sympathies but I have a big mortgage on the flat and cannot give him any grace period. He hasn’t been great in the past re paying and I have had to chase him most months.

Rent is due today and I have told him I will have to give him two month’s notice if it’s not paid.

My question is, do I issue a Section 21, or a Section 8 or give him the notice by email?

How heavy and Legal do I need to be in the first instance ?

Many thanks.

If you have a good relationship with the tenant, then could he be open to agreeing a move out date asap? You can only pursue S8 if there’s at least 2 months of rent in arrears. In most cases, S21 is the preferred route. However the question of S8 vs S21 depends on whether the tenancy is fixed, or periodic, when it started, whether there is a guarantor, how much the rent arrears are, if you have given the tenant the required copies of EPC, Right to Rent doc, gas safety certificate, etc. It’s not straightforward, and there isn’t enough in your post for someone to accurately say which one would be best in your circumstances. I would seek legal advice in the first instance.

There’s a bit missing here. What did the tenant say about a) moving out b) finding a new place or c) staying. And why won’t they be able to find work again. Illness, injury or what.

I’d recommend you send the T to a local debt charity to have them draw up a budget. As a 3rd party they might help the T see what they need to do without you needing to press the legal button. Rent is seen as a priority debt which has to be paid. There is short term financial help from council’s to keep T’s in place but it will depend on the T’s position which you haven’t detailed.

Sorry for the late reply, been waiting for a tenant response who has decided not to get back to me.

As far as his work is concerned he says that the self-employed tiling business has dropped off and his main contractor is shutting down. He can’t see much work in the future and his rent is £1000 per month.

I’ve sent him 2 month’s notice by email and we’ll see what happens.

He hasn’t agreed to move out or pay the remaining rent. He’s not in contact at the moment.

He does have a guarantor who I will approach if I don’t hear anything back but I’m not holding my breath that the person will bail him out.

I don’t want to get too heavy with him because I don’t want my flat trashed, hence me asking about a Section 21 notice. But I do need him out to get some rent in.

that is what a guarrantor is for. Contact them

1 Like

He will be entitled to some help with rent. See how far adrift he will be from paying the full rent by checking the Local Housing Allowance for the postcode and property (property means rooms/number of qualifying occupants)

Wouldn’t get too worried about serving a s21. Anyone in receipt of an s21 can go along to their local council as “threatened homeless” and the council will (need to) go through a process of checking if they can help him. This may be a referral to a debt charity as mentioned above. It could mean helping apply for benefits including housing costs. It could also mean short term financial help in staying where he is. It depends on the council and local circumstances.

From your point of view, starting a process which can actually help the T, can also help you find new T’s if you have to.

Thanks very much.

What if he refuses to leave after the two month’s notice or doesn’t even agree to the notice period?
Is that when the Section 21 has to be served?

I’m worried he may just stay there and not pay any rent and refuse all communication.

An email requesting he leave is of no legal effect. You have to serve either a s21 notice or a s8. He can’t decline the notice if its properly served. However, neither notice ends the tenancy and you would then have to go to court for a possession order and then apply for bailiffs to enforce it. It will take many months I’m afraid and you may not get any rent for a while. If you are not 100% confident of how to evict, then I suggest you appoint a housing solicitor or an eviction company to do the job.

1 Like

@David122 sums it up. It can take up to 22 weeks to evict even if you follow the process correctly. How many months can you take without rent? A s21 is likely a better way forward than the s8 as councils will sometimes help financially to get the debt below the s8 level and you are back to the start again.

The s21 also unlocks access to council help. Council won’t help without seeing the s21 but may tell the T to wait until eviction. Most though move out before the full 22 weeks. So the sooner you or a professional send the paperwork, the sooner both you and the T will get progress.

I have now managed to contact the Guarantor.

He says that he was only liable for the first twelve months of the tenancy and is not in contact with the Tenant any more.

Is he correct does anyone know?

It depends on the wording of the guarantor agrerment he’s signed and whether you have renewed the tenancy and/or increased the rent.

Thanks. All done through Openrent so I’ll see what it says. We have put the rent up a year ago but didn’t think to renew the Guarantor’s bit.

The guarantor would be unlikely to renew the agreement once the tenant is in. Why would they. The agreement has to cover all the eventualities from the start.

I have no experience of the OR guarantor template, but there are others that purport to remain binding following rent increases, notably the National Residential Landlords Association, (sorry but Openrent dont allow me to use the acronym any more). However, even they admit that their model probably wouldnt survive a tenancy renewal.

1 Like

Thanks for the replies and sorry for my late one.

I have now agreed with the guarantor that he is no longer responsible for the tenant.

I have now issued the Tenant with a Section 21, sent online via Openrent and also posted First Class. He is overdue one month’s rent so far.

He has been aggressive and threatening with his text messages to me and is very cross. He says the hot water hasn’t been on for a week but has not told me about it.

At some point I have to find another Tenant.

My question now is, how can I show new tenants around the flat when I have a current tenant in an aggressive mood who won’t open the door?

Do I have to wait until he is evicted before I can start viewings?


It is best to wait for tenant to leave first, you dont know when the existing tenant will leave, it is unlikely he will voluntarily move out after 2 months.

He could be complaining about the hot water to make your section 21 invalid. You need to get fixed asap (assuming there is actually a problem) as if he complains to council and they issue an improvement notice your section 21 notice would become invalid.

you surely do not want viewings with a tenant like that in. You cannot say how long it will take to evict or what state the place will be in

Well he wasn’t was he?

Do I have to wait until he is evicted before I can start viewings?

There may be a clause in the tenancy agreement that indicates they should allow viewings so a) is there and b) how would you enforce that?

If they are in breach of that term, you’d need to go to court. But you are going there anyway.