Should I do the right thing?

Should I do the right thing?

9:14 AM, 1st June 2022, About 3 months ago 11

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I have a long term tenant who’s been renting from me for donkey’s years. Rent paid on time without fail. He pays weekly as suits him best. He lives alone, and keeps himself to himself. Mid 50’s.

He stopped paying in April. Very strange. I call him, then email no response. I eventually get him on the phone. He’s been unwell and in and out of the hospital. Due out shortly. Confirms he can pay over the phone the arrears via the banking app. Nothing materialises. Try calling again and emailing (I live hours away so can’t just drop by) no response.

Then his mate calls me (he occasionally stops with him and the tenant asked me a while ago if a mate can stay on occasion – no problem I said though never met him in person). Mate says he’s is back in the hospital and has no idea when he’s coming out. I find out the tenant’s mother’s number and give her a call just to see if she knows anything else. She says he’s having tests for possible cancer but he hasn’t told her much as not to worry her. I ask her about his mate. Apparently, the tenant has known him for a few years and she has met him herself once. Seems a nice guy.

Question – I still can’t get hold of the tenant myself. I have no idea where he actually is or when he is due out of the hospital. His mate by all accounts is staying in the flat. Rent arrears are mounting. I would consider a payment of the rent from the mate on the tenant’s behalf while he is incapacitated, but he would have to sign and confirm in writing this is the case and that there is no contract made with him of any sort as a result)

But….Should I explain to the mate that in the absence of the tenant, and that I have no obligation to him, he needs to leave the flat until the tenant actually returns? I feel I owe a duty of care to protect the tenant’s home and possessions – I have no idea who this mate is in reality.

I am considering going down to the property, then when I am there asking the mate to leave and changing the locks. Worried if I tell him too far in advance worse case he could change the locks on me (?). I have a lockbox literally 2 flats away so I can store the new key here so the tenant can access it when he gets home, so I am not denying entry whatsoever to him – just looking after his best interests actually and securing the property.

I could get the mum to sign something if I explain this to her if necessary I expect but don’t really want to drag her into this as she is 80 odd years old.

Any other ideas?
DSR



Comments

MargaretM

11:56 AM, 1st June 2022, About 3 months ago

I would try to talk to the hospital social worker about this. He must still be getting his income whilst an in-patient and if not he can claim benefits. If he is already on benefits you can ask for his rent to be paid direct plus an amount for the arrears.
Changing the locks sounds dramatic and I think is likely to be illegal. The friend has been allowed to stay so you are in a difficult position now with him.

Nikki Palmer

12:43 PM, 1st June 2022, About 3 months ago

I am going to be fairly blunt with this and that's not because I don't have compassion for people who are suffering, it's just a case of knowing the boundaries.
Your tenant's mate and his Mum are not your concern - your tenant is and your rent is.
It is not for you to be worried about who is staying in the property, that is the tenant's concern and he is the one who signed the contract with you to pay the rent and make sure the property is looked after. If his mate isn't looking after the property then that is down to the tenant to rectify.
Getting to the bottom of why your tenant isn't paying should be your focus - does he receive income support of any kind or is it that he has just been put on sick pay by his employer?
I think without knowing why the friend is staying there, changing the locks will cause more problems

Frank W View Profile

12:52 PM, 1st June 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Nikki Palmer at 01/06/2022 - 12:43
I totally agree.

Robert M View Profile

13:27 PM, 1st June 2022, About 3 months ago

You cannot just go in and change the locks, that is unlawful. Your tenant is still your tenant, and if he has allowed his friend to stay then the tenant is responsible for the friend's access to the property and his behaviour when there.

Is the tenant in receipt of welfare benefits, or was he in employment? Some benefits may stop when someone is in hospital long-term. Entitlement to Housing Benefit may also stop after a while, and it is vital that you get written confirmation from the tenant that it is a temporary absence and he has an intention to return.

I would also advise that you consider what the situation may be if the tenant does not return, e.g. if they go into residential care, or if they pass away, and you may wish to seek some proper legal advice on this.

It may also be advisable to go have a chat with the "friend" and find out as much as possible about him and his situation, as this will assist you if you end up needing to evict him, or indeed if you wish to offer him a tenancy.

DSR

14:41 PM, 1st June 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Robert Mellors at 01/06/2022 - 13:27
thanks for all your comments. To add more info.

Tenant has a full time job and as I understand it may well be on stat sick pay (but he is yet to confirm this). When I did chat to him I weeks ago when he first mentioned he was not well, that if he is going to struggle with paying the rent then he needs to apply for benefits and I emailed and texted him the links and numbers for UC and CAB (in case he wanted help filling the forms in), plus details of the local job shop to go into if he prefered.
I have heard nothing back so I know he has not got a claim as the first thing he would be asking is a copy of the TA and letter from me to say he is a tenant (the DWP done keep a TA on record over 12 months)

Am thinking another angle might be to ask his mate to pay all or some of the arrears on his mates behalf? Making it PLAIN and clear that any monies he forwards is on the tenants behalf (so I dont get into a contractual issue with him)

Michael Johnson - Amzac Estates View Profile

14:44 PM, 1st June 2022, About 3 months ago

There isn't a right or wrong in this case. Issue a section 8 notice assuming the arrears are more than 2 months. Sitting around contemplating your navel isn't going to solve the issue.
Sounds like you are already crossing boundaries of the relationship between tenant and landlord, its a business contract and nothing else.

chris

15:16 PM, 1st June 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Amzac Estates at 01/06/2022 - 14:44
Totally agree Issue a section 8 notice even if he is working councils can pay discretionary benefit if needed but no one will do anything until the status que is changed sorry if i sound hart less but I'm a landlord not a social worker been there done that and still got the knife marks to prove it

andrew townshend

11:32 AM, 2nd June 2022, About 3 months ago

Personally I would issue both a sec8 and a sec 21 now, also a money claim online for the unpaid rent, that should prompt a reply swiftly

Tim Rogers

17:25 PM, 2nd June 2022, About 3 months ago

There is another route, at least at the beginning, you could go and visit him in hospital and discuss everything. Maybe have the social worker present.

You can then draw your own conclusions and act accordingly, having demonstrably done all that you could to be fair etc....

It come down to how far your willing to go to support this guy and how much you trust he'll sort everything out, always assuming he lives long enough.

Kate Mellor View Profile

20:07 PM, 2nd June 2022, About 3 months ago

I hate to say it but the more understanding you are as a landlord the further back you go in the debtors queue when a tenant has any financial issues. If you issue notice, suddenly you move to the top of the list.

Just happened to us with a long term tenant, didn’t pay rent for three months despite constant reassurances of payments coming. Served notice and suddenly rent started appearing.

You have given a decent amount of leeway to this man based on his previous history, but at some point you have to take a business approach.

You’re being kept in the dark and for all you know being lead up the garden path. I’ve had this before with a tenant towards the end of their tenancy. They cried about the health issues and hospital stays. Turns out they stopped paying because they were saving up enough rent in advance to tempt another landlord into renting to them. Five years later they’ve just pulled the same stunt on their last landlord.

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