The accidental landlord:evicting a tenant doesn't make me a monster, does it?

London tenants are the UK's most likely to be evicted - but it's so tough to do that it is usually a last resort, says the accidental landlord.

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The good news is that the number of landlords being forced to take legal action to evict their tenants is falling. However, it is worrying that those of us who let properties in London are the ones most likely to have to do this.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that landlords in England and Wales made 11 per cent fewer possession claims last year compared with 2015, and the number of tenants evicted by bailiffs was also down, by six per cent.

However, the figures also show that possession claims are highly concentrated in the capital. In fact, of the 20 boroughs with the highest number of possessions per household, 17 are in London.

Barking and Dagenham has the highest rate of possessions, while Newham has the highest rate of evictions by bailiffs. Also, it's sobering to see that even though the legal process has speeded up a little, it still takes an average of 37 weeks to get a stubborn tenant out.

That's a heck of a long time, especially if the tenant has stopped paying the rent, which is the most common reason for eviction. In the last quarter, there were more than 30,920 claims by landlords for possession and 24,674 tenants were ordered by the courts to leave, yet almost a third of these didn't budge until the bailiffs arrived.

You'd think from propaganda in the media from some homelessness charities and tenant campaign groups that landlords are heartless monsters who chuck out their tenants on a whim, but this simply isn't true.

It might be the case that some landlords evict their tenants because they want to sell, which could be one reason for the high rate of possessions in London given the recent house price inflation in the capital, but repossessing a rental property through the courts is such a long, stressful, expensive process that no one in their right mind would do so unless they absolutely had to. Having been forced to evict someone for rent arrears, I know how horrible it is.

Fortunately, my tenant left before I applied for a possession order, but it was still a stressful few weeks waiting for her to go.

During this time you can't sleep and you can't think about anything else, there are so many doubts and fears buzzing round your head. How will you pay the mortgage? What will happen to the tenant if and when they leave — will they be okay? Are you doing the right thing? Will they trash your property? Are they a bad person, or are you? Often tenants won't leave because they genuinely don't have anywhere else to go, and sometimes they're advised by the local council to sit tight until bailiffs are appointed to evict them. Occasionally they are vulnerable, some might have drink or drug dependencies. Knowing you are potentially adding to their problems by making them homeless is hideous.

It's a nail-biting game of Snakes and Ladders, too. As with all legal processes, there are forms to fill in. Make a simple mistake, a name spelt incorrectly or an incorrect date, and back down the snake you slide, back to the start of the whole frustrating, draining process.

Of course, you can cut the risk of being forced to evict your tenant by thoroughly vetting them in the first place. I didn't, and I came to wish I had. However, there are no guarantees you won't end up with a problem tenant who takes months to shift, which is just one of the risks of being a landlord. Especially in London, it seems.

Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock 

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