The Business Legal Services Blog

Unpaid rent: The dos and don’ts of dealing with mounting debt…

Unpaid rentUnpaid rent is probably the most common problem for landlords. This month, we look at the dos and don’ts of dealing with mounting debt…

It is vital that both landlords and tenants are aware of their rights and obligations to each other. The legal system protects both parties and does not permit either to take the law into their own hands, irrespective of circumstances.

Tenants must pay their rent and take proper care of the property. If it isn’t paid on time, you can instigate possession proceedings.

Problems paying rent  

If your tenant has problems paying the rent, try to find out what is going on as soon as possible. Please do not ignore the issue – it will not go away and if left, will only get worse.

My advice is to encourage professional help from a debt councillor who will look at the situation to establish the extent of the problem and help the tenant work out how best to pay off the money owed in affordable amounts.

If your tenant promises to clear the debt and sticks to the agreement, it is probably not worth taking further action. However, if the arrears continue to rise, you will have to start court proceedings. These costs are also added to the debt, meaning your tenant will have to foot the bill, if you are successful.

Harassment or unlawful eviction

If a tenant feels harassed by their landlord due to rent arrears, they can contact the local council’s private rent standards department or the police.

As well as being a criminal offence, harassment and illegal eviction can also be the subject of civil action. This means you could be sued for either an injunction to stop the harassment or compensation.

The rented property laws define harassment as “acts which are intended to interfere with the peace and comfort of the tenant,” or “the persistent withdrawal or withholding of services.” This might include the removal or restriction of hot water or electricity, or your failure to pay the bills, resulting in services being cut off.

Harassment can also cover entering a property without the tenant’s permission or knowledge, repeated visits without warning, offering them money to leave, threatening behaviour, forcing the tenant to sign an agreement reducing their rights and starting building works that are left unfinished or sending in contractors without notice at unsociable hours.

If the motive of any of these acts is to force the tenant to leave your rented property or to prevent them from exercising their legal rights, then you will be guilty of a criminal offence.

For more information contact one of our property litigation specialists by calling (0114) 218 4000 or email


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