Dear Barry

I’m sure you hear this a lot but I am a new landlord already struggling with recovering rent arrears from a tenant! I rent a four-bed house to four young women in the Stranmillis area. The tenancy agreement was signed at the beginning of August, and the first few months went without a hitch. I call in to collect rent each month, so I can have a quick check of the property to make sure everything is fine. Every month so far - four happy tenants with their rent! This month, three had rent but said the other girl was away with her boyfriend and not back until the weekend. I agreed a date to return, and the three were very apologetic, but this time she’d gone out and wasn’t answering her phone. She’s now a fortnight late with her rent and I just hate confrontations! What can I do to get my money without having a fight? Kind Regards, Mandy
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Hi Mandy,

I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a late payment and it is something that private landlords can struggle with. When you’re new to being a landlord and looking after everything yourself, it’s difficult to stay on top of things and you don’t have the in-built tenancy systems and procedures that an agency has in place.

The good news is, it’s easy to manage, recoup and even help prevent late rent payments.

Let me talk you through my process and hopefully you can take away some tips to try yourself. I’m sure they’ll help you get your rent without a fight.

Rent for our clients’ properties is always due on the 1st of the month, but we give tenants until the 7th, so any rent unpaid by the 8th is officially in arrears.

I begin by phoning the tenant, a voicemail left if no answer, and a text message and email to follow up and confirm with them that I have tried to get in touch.

Keep it friendly but do make sure everything’s recorded in writing. It’s important to document your efforts to retrieve the payment – just in case the unlikely scenario of legal action rears its head.

If there’s no joy by the 10th, I’ll notify all tenants that I am visiting the property – giving 24 to 48 hours’ notice - to rule out property issues as a reason for non-payment. If nobody’s home, I’ll leave a note, asking them to get in touch for a chat.

By now I’ve usually had a reply. Sometimes the tenant’s had financial difficulties and we agree an arrangement for them to pay at least part of what they owe. It’s not ideal, but some rent is better than no rent, and it’s good for your tenant to see that you are reasonable and approachable.

Often the other tenants will give the late payer the nudge they need to avoid you invading their privacy! As this doesn’t seem to be happening for you, and you’ve confirmed everything is OK at the house, next week you may have to contact her guarantor.

A polite letter explaining the situation, the steps I have taken and inviting them to give me a call usually does the trick but if not, I then have to write to the other tenants’ guarantors.

We make it very clear to guarantors at the time of signing the guarantor’s form that they are not just agreeing to guarantee the rent payment for one tenant, they are also signing for the whole property. From my experience with small claims procedures, housing rights and speaking to Trading Standards, this is a perfectly reasonable and legal requirement in a guarantor form.

So a polite letter goes to the guarantors informing them they each have to pay an equal portion of the outstanding rent by the end of the month. In your case, each of the three remaining guarantors would have to pay you 1/3 of the late rent amount.

 If the unlikely situation occurs where none of the guarantors get in touch, the cycle begins again the following month. We wait until the 8th and then let them know that unfortunately, we will have to instigate proceeding through the small claims court.

This means we take the whole tenancy into consideration, and from now to the end of the tenancy we contact the small claims court to inform of any unpaid rent, to come up with a total debt owed.

Going down the small claims route happens, but it is rare. Once the tenants know that one of them has not paid their rent, this is usually enough for them to encourage that person to make the payment.


If you want to know more about small claims, or have any other questions for Barry, please email with ‘Ask Barry’ in the subject line.