Landlords favour the 'softly, softly' approach

These are the legal rights conferred by the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement typically used between landlords and tenants.

More than half (56%) of landlords said that they had used the ‘softly, softly’ approach, successfully persuading an unwanted tenant to leave without recourse to the courts.

The NLA’s chairman, David Salusbury, comments: “There’s a variety of reasons why landlords may want tenants to leave. Non payment of rent, not looking after the property, causing a nuisance to neighbours, to name but a few. If they possibly can, landlords will avoid the expense and hassle of evicting tenants through the courts.”

Indeed, the legal process to remove tenants tends to be long, onerous and expensive. Landlords report that it takes an average of just over 6 months to secure an eviction. 47% said it took between 3 and 6 months, 21% between 6 and 9 months. A small but significant minority of 8% reported that on average it took more than a year to get troublesome tenants out of the property.

Inevitably, the length of time taken to evict tenants has repercussions on the cost. A fifth of landlords report that it costs more than £1,000 to evict a tenant using the courts, and one in twelve landlords expends more than £2,000 in the process. While over half of landlords get away with spending less than £500, the average cost still turns out to be in excess of £800 (£828 to be precise).

David Salusbury continues: “A landlord can easily swallow up a whole month’s rent or more in the cost of evicting unsatisfactory tenants, not to mention the expense of putting right any damage they may have done and, almost certainly, unpaid rent.”

In fact, the NLA survey shows that over 60% of tenants evicted with the aid of the court leave 4 or more months’ rent unpaid and that, on average 5.1 months of rent is owed. That means that typical tenants who are evicted from a rented property owe in excess of £4,000, based on average monthly rents of around £850.

“Indeed, a good 50% of the enquiries received by the NLA Advice Line concern landlords seeking guidance on how to deal with unsatisfactory tenants.”

The Advice Line is consistently hailed by members as one of the most important benefits provided by the NLA, with 87% of them consistently describing it as ‘vital’ or ‘important’.

“These findings regarding the time and expense of sorting out ‘problem tenancies’ highlight the need in the industry for an impartial, straightforward way of resolving disputes between landlord and tenant, which would include issues regarding possession. This would benefit tenants as well as landlords.

“Landlords report that court clerks are often inefficient in providing the right documentation, while disputes over rented properties are often given low priority by our over-stretched legal system. A streamlined procedure would also help tenants who may have a legitimate complaint against the landlord, for example for wrongly withholding part or all of the tenant’s deposit, to seek redress.”

David Salusbury concludes: “One option that might help both parties is to further extend the competence of the residential property tribunals to resolve such disputes. By effectively taking this out of the mainstream legal systems, we could achieve a quicker, more cost effective way of sorting out problems, including evictions.

“There must be a better way than the present system.”