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Housing act – Reducing a tenant’s rights when non-payment of rent occurs early in tenancy

Comment 1st July 2010

Where a tenancy is less than three months old, a landlord should be able to take proceedings against a tenant for non-payment of rent and eviction within 2 weeks of a payment falling due.

Why does this matter?

I rented my previous home out for the first time last year. The tenants paid the deposit and one months rent in advance. They then refused to pay any more rent, yet there was no good reason for this (e.g. the house was in perfect condition). Just before the Housing Act entitled me to take appropriate action against them, they moved out in the middle of the night and cannot now be located. Since they have left, numerous unpaid bills have arrived for them (including the utility bills incurred whilst they lived in my property). Further, there have been visits from people trying to locate them in connection with other debts dating back more than two years. One visitor claimed to be “an Officer of the Court” and he stated that he had tracked them to 15 different properties in a relatively short period of time – they had moved on from each just before he got there.

Hence, it would seem that these people are using the leniency of the Housing Act to live rent-free for significant periods of time. In doing so they are also defrauding utility providers, not paying Council Tax and, thereby, stealing from every law-abiding citizen whose bills are marked-up to accommodate the loss of payments from such people. Their frequent movements prevent any debtors from taking legal action against them and, hence, they are able to apply for tenancies, loans and other forms of credit with an apparently sound credit record.

The knock on effects of the frequent house moves, and associated changes of schooling, are very disruptive for their children (and I witnessed the insecurity caused – their children displayed some very disturbed behaviour).

I do understand the need to protect good tenants who fall on hard times through no fault of their own (e.g. unemployment or ill health). Hence, I feel that it would be a good idea for a tenant to accrue the present rights after three months of a tenancy has expired satisfactorily. The two weeks grace on payment also allows time for, such as, banking errors to be corrected.

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