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Tenants: How to reduce your chances of eviction

Posted on 2015-01-12

Perhaps the eventuality most feared by tenants is eviction. Since 2010, the number of landlord possessions has increased, according to data released by the government.

Last year, 170,451 landlord possession claims were heard in County Courts around the country: a rise of 26% since 2010. The number of these claims leading to repossession was roughly 21%. In comparison, the number of mortgage possessions claims has declined by 29% over the same period. Here are some of the most common catalysts for tenant evictions, and advice on how to avoid an unpleasant end to your tenancy agreement.

Rent arrears

The most commonly cited reason for evicting tenants is failure by the tenant to pay their rent on time. This gives a landlord just cause under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 to begin repossession proceedings.

If you do fall behind with your rent, ignoring the problem will only make it worse. Take the time to contact your landlord and explain the situation; they’re human too, and may well be prepared to grant you some leeway - as long as you don’t make a habit of missing payments.

Even if you know that you’ll definitely miss a payment, you should still speak to your landlord immediately. Be proactive in these negotiations, perhaps suggesting a repayment plan that you know you can meet. If you can fix the debt, or at least prove that you’ll be able to in the future, you may find that you can remedy the situation before eviction proceedings are set in motion.

Antisocial behaviour

Another common catalyst for evictions is antisocial behaviour, or causing a noise nuisance. Contact with your landlord is likely to be limited, so chances are these problems have been reported by your neighbours.

There are a number of ways to approach this. Firstly, consider whether the complaint is justified. If it isn’t, try talking to your landlord and explaining this. Emphasise that you’re willing to participate in mediation, or sorting it out by talking to your neighbours

If you can show your landlord and, if it gets this far, the judge, that the problems no longer exist, you’re far less likely to find yourself at the mercy of an eviction notice.

Property damage

Another common reason for tenants to be evicted is that they fail to care for the property, or cause damage to it. At the end of the day, a landlord’s property is an investment and, if you damage it, you lessen its worth. Your landlord’s running a business, and such behavior on your part is bad for said business.

The easiest way to avoid being evicted on these grounds is simply to look after the property you live in. Of course, it’s not always this simple; some tenants may have health or mobility problems that complicate the matter.

If this is the case, it’s important that you let your landlord know; it may be that they can put you in touch with someone who can help to look after the property. If you’re not comfortable doing so, or no help is forthcoming from this front, then you could also contact your local council and request an assessment of your needs. Should your claim have merit, help will be provided to maintain your home.

If you’ve already caused damage to the property, your first port of call should be to either repair it or offer to pay for it. Ordinary wear and tear is not your responsibility, but anything else should be.

Be aware that alterations that have not been agreed upon could be seen as damage to the property: knocking through walls, changing the paint colour, adding shelving or installing new doors could all be seen in this light. These should always be approved by a landlord before you begin.

Knowing your rights

If your landlord has cause to initiate eviction proceedings, and no mediation can be achieved, then it’s important to know your rights. An eviction notice can only be served via a Section 8 or Section 21 notice, in accordance with the Housing Act 1988.

In order to proceed, your landlord must obtain a court order to repossess the property. Even then, you may only be evicted once a court bailiff serves you with a warrant of eviction. Should your landlord ever attempt to evict you without following this procedure, you’re entitled to remain at the property, and may even be able to take action against them.

If you’re struggling to understand this, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone; advisers are available to talk you through your rights, and will be able to educate you on ways in which your eviction can be delayed or stopped. Shelter offers a useful directory of organisations that can help you.

Should you abide by your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, your landlord should have no grounds to evict you. Despite the number of landlord possession claims increasing, eviction is still not a particularly common occurrence, provided you play by the rules. Problems only tend to arise when you violate your tenancy agreement, yet that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost; remember, there are ways to remedy misdeeds, and there are always organisations available to aid you in retaining your home or finding a new one.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

All information correct as of 12/01/2015.

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