How can I make my tenant pay up?

Our lawyer Katharine Marshall advises what can be done when a tenant falls behind in their rent
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Question: I own a flat in Chelsea and have been letting it out for quite a while now. Unfortunately, the present tenant has fallen four months in arrears with his rent. This hasn't happened before, so what exactly can I do about it?

Answer: There are various options open to you. I recommend that you start by speaking to your tenant. You must firmly request payment of the rent; you may wish to do this by letter as this will then be written evidence should the tenant fail to pay up.

If the tenant has a guarantor you could attempt to recover the outstanding rent from them, of course. However, to recover rent from the guarantor you will need to serve written notice on them.

If this firm but amicable approach fails then it is open to you to sue the tenant for the outstanding balance. If he owes you less than £5,000, then this will be a small claim at the county court, which is relatively straightforward.

Finally, you can always take back possession of the flat. You should check the terms of your lease as landlords are normally granted an express right to re-enter the premises on non-payment of rent. Usually to regain possession you need to apply to court for a possession order, though often the tenant leaves voluntarily.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Katharine Marshall please email, or write to: Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5EE.

We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here.

Katharine is a solicitor and director at Pitmans Solicitors (

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