My tenant ran off without a trace owing me thousands. How can I get the money back?

Updated: Feb 15

As our regular readers may know, our CEO is a big fan of the Telegraph (for our US readers think New York Times), so the headline to this blog piece (which appeared in the Daily Telegraph) is a recurring theme which affects landlords of all shapes and sizes with rental property.

In fact as a Business Solutions group we would say a landlord and tenant problem of unpaid rent hits our desks nearly every day of the week.

The problem of unpaid rent for landlords falls into two camps which are

  • the tenants who stay in the property and don’t pay their rent

  • the tenants who do a “moonlight flit” from their rental property, leaving the unpaid rent in their wake

For tenants who stay in their property without paying their rent there is no doubt the law has a clear process for a landlord to follow under the various Landlord and Tenant Acts. An eviction notice is the ultimate outcome for this type of situation but it still doesn’t mean the rent is going to be paid. So be prepared to go all the way to get a judgment for the outstanding rent and a possession order to evict a tenant. This can be costly but there are no shortcuts. Of course, if you oust your non-paying tenant, you can replace that tenant with a tenant who ticks more of the boxes in being a “good tenant”. It may be cold-comfort, but you can also net off your unpaid rent against your security deposit. It is not an ideal situation but at least you have moved forward.

For tenants who leave a property owing rent, then you can take steps to recover the money from the tenant by issuing a county court claim against them for the value of the rent. Your plan should be to enter judgment against a non-paying tenant and then track them to their new property and enforce payment.

Of course this is not always ideal. We are really talking about rogue tenants who deliberately go out of their way to avoid paying their rent even though they can. We are not talking about tenants who are in severe financial difficulty.

What can Shergroup do to help?

Our action plan for recovering rent from rogue tenants is as follows:

  1. Use our Investigation Solution to find the person. Usually they leave a “footprint” in their credit file – and this leads us to their current or last address which enables court proceedings to be issued and enforcement action to follow.

  2. If we are able to find someone using our trace report, then it means you can send a Letter Before Action (a necessary step in the legal process to collect a debt) – we can do this for you through our sister company, Shergroup Legal

  3. Once a claim has been issued, and there is no Defence or Counterclaim to hold up the process, you can enter judgment against your rogue tenant

  4. The impact of a CCJ on a person’s credit file is considerable, as it will stay on their credit file for 6 years unless it is paid within one month of the judgment being entered

  5. If the impact o