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Tenant Arrears? Ask them what they can afford to pay, suggests industry figure

A property industry commentator has given a five point guide to landlords faced with rising arrears from tenants.

And one of them is for landlords to ask tenants what they can afford to pay in terms of rent.

Government figures released earlier this month showed county court bailiffs evicted 2,682 households in England and Wales in the first three months of this year as a result of landlords issuing section 21 eviction notices. 


This was the highest level since the start of 2017 despite the government first promising to end the practice in April 2019.

Commenting on the figures, Jonathan Rolande says: “The use of Section 21 … was up 19% in the first quarter of 2024. The use of bailiffs is now at a six-year high. 

“Many landlords and the court system are still catching up on the Covid backlog. Historic debts are now being addressed. Calling the ‘top of the market’, many landlords have issued 21’s to sell – it is now almost impossible to profit from a rental property if it has a high percentage mortgage.”

Rolande, a spokesperson for the National Association of Property Buyers, continues: “Landlords are opting to take the capital growth instead. Government dithering on the Section 21 ban has been the worst of all worlds – the ban has not materialised, but the threat is there, which has unnerved owners, many of whom have quit the sector.

“The cost of living crisis will have played its part too. Landlords are now forced to pay more to insure and maintain their properties. Tenants are more likely to default given that wages have not kept pace with inflation in the food and energy sectors.

“Interestingly, Section 21 is not usually used to evict a bad payer, that is the job of Section 8. 21’s are used to bring to an end a fixed term simply. The use of bailiffs in the case of a 21 indicates tenants have not vacated as arranged, many no doubt hanging on as long as possible when accommodation elsewhere is scarce or out of budget. 

“Such difficult situations serve nobody and it is another sad aspect of the housing crisis afflicting so many.”

Rolande offers this advice to landlords: 

1.       Forbearance is always the right place to start, especially if the tenant has usually been reliable – anyone’s circumstances can change for the worse so be patient.

2.       Ask the tenant what they can afford to pay.

3.       Remember that it is often better to help an existing tenant rather than evicting them and starting again with somebody new.

4.       Consider if the tenant could be in a vulnerable state and make additional allowances if so.

5.       Give them assistance if they need to claim benefits.  It is often a blip, evicting a tenant from their home should be a last resort, when all other options have failed.

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  • George Dawes

    Thank you captain obvious

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    Will Tesco ask me how much I can pay for my shopping 🛒 basket 😂😂.

    Ian Deaugustine

    This is exactly what I was about to say; same applies to Ailines and hotels, etc....


    My thoughts too. Mad man. I had funny parents, they used to tell me that if I couldn't afford it I couldn't have it. What a very old fashioned way of looking at life!

  • Ian Deaugustine

    Ask the tenant what they can afford to pay. The tenants should assess their affordability to pay rent before searching for properties on Rightmove. I would like to know the name and surname of this property industry commentator so that I can insult him publicly and directly.


    Jonathan Rolande.

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    The increased use of bailiffs is the big red flag. It demonstrates how many more tenants are forcing things through the court system. So the exit strategy on a BTL investment is much less certain and likely to be more costly. This is unlikely to be any better without S21, it will just become more costly.
    This, coupled with the fact that it seems to have become socially acceptable to not pay rent once notice has been given, means a double whammy of costs.
    I would not enter the BTL business now and have advised my children against it.


    Same here Emily. I will never buy another BTL (especially here in 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland) and wouldn't advise anyone to get onto this game. I can't wait to sell the lot and move on to pastures new.


    Councils urging tennnts to stay until they are evicted is probably pushing more S21s through the courts now too, as Councils try to delay the inevitable and tenants realise they can't afford the PRS anymore.

  • Sarah Fox-Moore

    Oh boy! Where do l start?
    1. Forbearance? Er no. If they can't, or more likely don't want to pay for what they are using, move out. I am not a giant corporation with a line of credit. The Tenant should budget like thecrest of us. 👉No payee no stayee👈
    2."So, after your 2 or 3 big foreign holidays, your brand new BMW, multiple new iphone contracts, Top end Sky package etc, how much would you like to pay?" 🤣
    4 And what about my "vulnerable state" when they stop paying!???????
    5. Oh dear Lord! I am not their mummy nor a Social Worker. [If l have rented to this type of individual l have screwed up big time!]
    ......l need a drink!

    Rob NorthWest-Landlord

    Nail on the head.
    Charity - they might help
    Landlord - In business.
    The only reason we put up with all the downsides is the rent.
    "How about me paying your council tax and energy bill's for a few months?" is not happening.

    Jonathan Rolande

    You should put this on your letting ads :-)

  • Richard LeFrak

    Section 21 is up 19% you balloon because of all the nonsense with the Councils, Gen Rent, Shelter, Government, CAB and landlords have had enough. No profit anymore and taxed to the eyeballs...! Talk about the bleeding obvious.

    Jonathan Rolande

    Obvious to you which is great, but not everyone reading will have your high level of expertise in the sector.

    Richard LeFrak

    Yes over 20 years, helped many who have been short. Also on kept rent low for existing tenants.

    Now more difficult as the climate is difficult and an outright kicking from all sides.

    Thanks for coming back at me as I think open debate is required to challenge the problems and get some common ground.

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    It's good advice.
    Sometimes people have a temporary blip but will make good if given a bit of time and understanding. Communication is important.

    One of my tenants is a seasonal worker in a holiday park, gets paid fortnightly and claims UC. It's an awful mix from a budgeting point of view. For the first two years my husband and I used to speculate every month on what the excuse would be for not paying the full rent on time. It was usually a trouser or dental emergency. Occasionally a winter coat would be thrown in for a bit of variety. The payment was always made up at some point. For the last two years he has been paying fortnightly on pay day for most of the year. Christmas is difficult due to the winter shutdown at the holiday park. Last year his mother died in November which completely derailed the rent payments. He racked up about 3 months arrears but has been making overpayments on the last few paydays and is now back on track.

    Longer ago another tenant lost his job due to depression and racked up £1800 of rent arrears. The occasional pep talk and Section 21 notice for him to wave at other creditors worked wonders and he managed to pay the whole lot before he moved out.

    In both cases I put it down to patience and communication that I got the full payment

    • A S
    • 30 May 2024 10:55 AM

    It's the human touch, Jo. Only you, as a small landlord, can communicate with empathy with your "customers". Fast forward a few years when Generation Rent's desired corporate landlords take over, how much empathy will they show?

    The tenant community is being led up a garden path and haven't got a clue/don't care what's going to hit them.


    I don't mind either if there is a temporary blip which people generally will put right when a bit more money comes in.

    However, I feel quite differently when the tenant has £100,000 in his current account and is not paying up. That happened recently to me with very rich Chinese international students who knew that they were leaving the country shortly - and consequently thought that they could get away with anything.

    It looks as though there could be rental reforms which will prohibit us from taking more than a month's rent upfront. There really does need to be consideration of what can happen when tenants are leaving the country. Landlords are entitled to fair protection in those circumstances if the tenants can well afford to pay the rent.

    Jonathan Rolande

    Thank you Jo, a really good point and your tenant sounds lucky to have had you. The wide gap between landlord and tenant as shown in many comments here is (in my opinion) part of the problem. Mind you, most debates today seem to be 'pick a side' and shout so not surprising really.


    Honestly Jo, these days a tenant like that would be gone, my life is busy enough without dealing with grown adults own issues. Time to put the big boy pants on for a lot out there 🫣 the world is about to get a whole lot worse.

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    Jonathan Rolande sure does love publicity. Is there anything he won't pontificate on?

    Why are the National Association of Property BUYERS getting involved with tenant arrears?

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    If a LL is sympathetic as Jo is, that is good for the tenant & it’s good to be able to help, but not everyone can & it certainly shouldn’t be expected. When the private LLs are driven out & the PRS is in the hands of big business I don’t think any tenant will get this type of personal help.

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    The times I've heard 'I'm a bit short this month mate I'll make it up next month', do they make it up the next month? do they hell

    Rob NorthWest-Landlord

    A thread of "Best excuses for not paying the rent" would be good.

    My fave is "Can't pay the rent this month, been buying Christmas presents"


    Rob I had that one last year, rent short because she was short of money for Christmass I''ll make it right in January which of course she didn't so a section 13 notice increasing the rent, expect she'll do the same thing this Christmass so I'll be doing the same again as well, maybe she'll get the hint and go


    I would have been back the next day with a Christmad present for her: a nice new home wrapped in a Section 21.

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    We'll market properties to rent sealed tender, that way those that can't afford the rent don't get their foot in the door

  • Fed Up Landlord

    My 5 point plan for dealing with tenant arrears:
    1. Properly reference your tenant;
    2. Take out Rent Insurance and Legal Expense cover on the strength of that reference;
    3. Whenever the rent is one day late, text, email, or call the tenant to ask when it
    will be paid;
    4. Follow your chase protocol with the RIG and Legal Provider to the letter;
    5. After the chase period place the matter in the hands of the insurer and wait for the rent to be paid by them, and eviction proceedings to commence.

    We are not charities, we are businesses, despite what HMRC may say, and your tenant is not your best mate. No room for sentiment.

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    Exactly. My tenants are aware that I take out RGI and I caution them that insurance companies always recover their money, one way or another.

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    More work load instead of doing your job and providing the accommodation.
    Another 5 things, we are overloaded with rules and requirements doing as much as possible. This is Sunday and here I am gets Tenancy Agreement ready, Gas Certificate, Electric certificate 5 Year one 6 pages, Emergency lighting Certificate 2 pages,Fire Detection alarm System Certificate 2 pages, How 2 Rent check list 14th addition 19 pages changed every time they drop their hat, Energy Performance Certificate 7 pages, HMO license, the Tenancy Agreement multiple pages, do they think we have nothing else to do,
    excuse me none of this used to apply so Its just a side kick to letting, just as well I’am not talking a Deposit or it would be another lot, It’s a mammoth of paperwork and copying that’s always assuming you have all those documents in place that have already cost you several hundreds of pounds.
    Hang on a minute I haven’t even begun to get References and see if the Tenants will be suitable yet the most important bit, call off the hounds. Why do I bother.

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    Also had a nightmare with the share codes, the share code made no reference to the person it’s for, ie , if you are only dealing with one person fine that person gives you the passport and share code but when it’s several and hands you a bundle sort that lot out trial & error to see which matches which if indeed genuine.

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    There’s more as Jimmy Cricket says.
    An imposter Tenant staying with a friend that’s just came into the Country a Doc’ in her own Country I am to understand,
    been to Council and her Embassy needs a Visa. They want landlords passport proof of where he lives, also Mortgage Statement of the let house as proof of ownership and right to let it.
    Impossible or Course she is not a Tenant if she was she would have a Tenancy Agreement and landlords would have done checks, Share Codes etc.


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