The second blog in our series of ‘Dispelling the horror stories of property letting’ relates to the nightmare situation of tenants not moving out of your property at the end of the tenancy.
First things first – Buy well! – Before we dive into how you can deal with a tenant who outstays their welcome, it’s worth making the point about how you invest your money. Buying in the right location can reduce the chances of a tenant who will not vacate. Generally speaking, good properties in good areas attract good tenants. If you buy well, the property will achieve a rent that will attract a professional tenant and by carrying out the necessary tenant screening (including checking that their monthly salary covers at least 2.5x the monthly rent) you’ll screen out tenants who would otherwise overstretch their budgets.
Private Rented Tenancies (PRT) – Under a PRT, for a landlord to serve notice on a tenant, the landlord must satisfy 1 of 18 specific grounds to bring the tenancy to an end. 8 of these grounds are mandatory (the First Tier Tribunal will definitely grant repossession to the landlord) and 10 of them are discretionary (the FTT can use its discretion, based on evidence submitted and the context surrounding the case, to decide whether to award repossession or not). Some examples of grounds for repossession are;
- landlord intends to sell the property (mandatory),
- landlord intends to refurbish (mandatory),
- HMO license has been revoked (discretionary)
- rent arrears (could be mandatory or discretionary depending on situation).
Notice papers are served to the tenant quoting the relevant ground. If the tenant does not leave after the tenancy termination date then the landlord would apply to the FTT to award repossession of the property to the landlord and FTT either grants repossession or not.
Let’s imagine the common case where a landlord serves notice on the tenant to vacate because they want to sell the property. In this example, the tenant has been in the property for 2 years so the landlord serves 84 days’ notice on the appropriate ground (selling the property is a mandatory ground). After the 84 days notice period the tenant does not leave the property. The landlord would then apply to the FTT by completing a straightforward application form for vacant possession of the property. As part of the application, the landlord will submit evidence of selling (a quotation and valuation from an estate agent) and the tenancy and notice paperwork that they have issued. A hearing date will be issued by the FTT and at this appointment the FTT will review all the documents submitted, listen to the case of the landlord and the tenant and then grant repossession to the landlord if everything is in order.
Get your paperwork right – I can’t understate how important it is to make sure your tenancy paperwork and notice paperwork are correct. Everything needs to be spot-on to ensure a swift resolution. If any mistake is made relating to dates or names in any of the tenancy paperwork it could derail proceedings and drag the situation out (tenant advice bodies will look for holes in paperwork to avoid rehousing a tenant).
Sheriff Officer eviction – In the unlikely event that a tenant doesn’t leave after the landlord has had repossession granted by the FTT then the final step is for the order to be passed Sheriff officers who will carry out the forced eviction of the tenant. This is a very rare occurrence despite what Channel 5’s reality shows would have you think.
In summary – The new PRT has cleared up the mechanisms to terminate a lease which is a big step forward for tenancies in Scotland. My 3 key points to avoid being left with a tenant who refuses to leave; 1. Buy a good property in a good area 2. Make sure you take time up front to screen tenants and 3. Make sure all tenancy and notice paperwork is spot on so that things can be dealt with smoothly if tenants don’t move out at the end of the tenancy.