Landlord and Tenant – The Possession Obsession

 Recent figures from the Ministry of Justice show that between January and March 2014 Landlords in England and Wales commenced more than 47,000 claims in the County Court seeking possession of tenanted residential property. 

Associations representing landlords nationwide are also suggesting that Landlord and Tenant disputes in general – for example; disputes arising out of property damage and disrepair, and attempts to recover rent arrears – are on the increase. 

Unfortunately many of the claims that reach court fail entirely as a result of poor planning on the part of the Landlord at the commencement of a tenancy, or substandard drafting of the required legal notices and documentation.  

It is more important than ever that Landlords take every opportunity to protect themselves so that , they can be confident that their paperwork won’t let them down, if it becomes necessary to commence proceedings to obtain possession, recover rent arrears, or claim damages for disrepair. 

So what steps should a Landlord be taking and when and why? 

At the beginning of a tenancy 

  • Prepare a thorough inventory and schedule of condition before the tenancy agreement is signed. Take pictures if at all possible. These items serve as the best form of evidence of the condition and contents of a property at the time a tenant moves in and they form a benchmark against which to assess future damage or loss. 

  • Make sure the Tenant’s deposit is properly protected. It is a statutory requirement that Tenant deposits are held by a Government backed scheme. Any Landlord who fails to register the deposit appropriately risks the Court ruling that a sum of up to three times the initial deposit should be paid by the Landlord to the Tenant. 

When ending a tenancy or claiming for rent arrears (or both simultaneously)  

A failure to do any of the following things may result in a Court case being delayed or failing altogether: 

  • Ensure that you serve the correct form of Notice upon the Tenant if you want to bring the Tenancy to an end; the form of Notice will depend on a) the type of tenancy involved and b) the grounds available to you to terminate the tenancy. 

  • Ensure that you get your dates right; if you do not give the Tenant sufficient notice to terminate the Notice may be declared invalid. 

  • Ensure that you serve Notice upon the Tenant in the correct manner; if a Court determines that a Notice has not been properly served the Landlord’s claim may be struck out. 

  • Check your rent arrears calculations carefully; if you cannot prove to the Court that the sums you are claiming are accurate and properly due, your claim may fail. 

Whilst this list is not exhaustive it gives some indication of how easy it is to get things wrong to such an extent that your claim may be doomed to failure before it has even begun. 

Landlords should consider taking advice from legal professionals before entering into a tenancy agreement and at an early stage when looking to terminate a tenancy to maximise the prospects of success and minimise their financial exposure. 

We have experience of dealing with a wide range of issues that face landlords and can help by providing a simple and cost-effective service. Our specialist Disputes and Litigation Department, headed by Rebecca Mabelle and Catherine Canham, has a proven track record of providing high quality legal advice to ensure a positive outcome and we can offer, in some cases, a fixed fee service for drafting Notices to Terminate and preparing Possession Proceedings. Please give us a call on 01752 292278 to find our more about what we can do to help you.

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