Stage 1 – talk to your lodger
If you are unhappy about something, have a word with your lodger about it. For example if he is not complying with your house rules (discussed on day 14), or is starting to pay rent late.
Bear in mind that it may be that your lodger is unhappy about something that *you* are doing, and this is the reason for his behaviour. We all have irritating habits – your lodger may find your love of opera played loudly as annoying as you find his failure to wipe the kitchen surfaces down after use. If you are both reasonable people you should be able to sort something out.
Getting it out into the open so you both know what the problem is, will generally be better than letting things fester.
However you should try not to get into an argument or say anything you might later regret. If you don’t think this is possible, it might be best just to write. Although if your relationship with your lodger has deteriorated to the extent where you cannot have a proper conversation with them, you may want them to leave anyway.
If the problem is about late payment of rent, there may be a reason for this – perhaps your lodger has had to take a cut in salary for example and is finding things difficult. It is better that you know this sooner rather than later. For example, with good lodger who you would be sorry to lose, you might consider giving a temporary rent reduction.
Stage 2 – write a letter or note
If talking about the problem has not done any good, the next thing to do is to put it in writing. This may also be a good idea if your lodger is out a lot, and it is difficult to find a time to speak to him.
You may also find it easier to put your complaint in writing anyway, particularly if you get flustered and are easily intimidated by your lodger, or if you feel that he does not take any notice of what you say.
Your first letter need not be very formal. Just set out clearly and without using any language that might antagonise, the things that have been concerning you. Don’t be too accusatory, or say anything that you will later regret. Make sure you keep a copy, and that the copy is dated.
Stage 3 – write a second, more formal, letter
If your chat and first note doesn’t seem to have worked, you might want to try another letter. Or perhaps your lodger improved after your talk but has since slipped back into his old ways.
Make the second letter a bit more formal. You should also warn him that if things do not improve you will be asking him to leave (assuming that this is in fact what you are thinking of doing).
Note that you do not *have* to do a second letter, and if you have already decided that you want your lodger to leave you can skip this stage and go straight to giving formal notice to leave. (Or if you are not going to ask him to leave, and think that he just needs a further reminder, you could do another informal letter, as discussed above)
The threat of being asked to leave may bring your lodger to his senses and hopefully you won’t have any more problems. However if he takes no notice and just carries on, then you should consider seriously asking him to go. This is after all your home. If your lodger is behaving badly or not paying rent, you should not be expected to put up with this.
The first stage of getting a lodger to leave, is giving him a formal written notice
Stage 4 – give formal notice to leave
[Note: Today’s tips are about problem situations. However, in most cases where landlords ask lodgers to leave, it is for something non-controversial which both parties understand (such as the landlord needing to use the room for something else). However, even here you should (just for the record) give your lodger a formal (although pleasantly worded) letter asking him to leave.]
Giving formal notice is the first stage, legally, in recovering possession of a property.
Where there is a written agreement, note that unless your lodger is in serious breach of his lodger agreement, or the agreement allows for early termination, you will not be entitled to ask him to leave during the fixed term covered by his lodger agreement.
The standard notice period (for lodgers) is ‘not less than 28 days’, ending at the end of a rental period. So, if their agreement is monthly and runs from the 12th of the month to the 11th, the notice should ask them to leave on the next 11th day in the month after 28 days. If they have a weekly agreement which runs from Saturday to Friday, the notice period should end on the first Friday after 28 days. You should be able to tell from your lodger agreement (discussed on day 15) what the relevant days are.
If you are asking your lodger to leave because of relatively minor matters such as personality clashes or because they never clean the bathroom, you should give them the full 28 days so they cannot criticise you.
You should also read your lodger agreement carefully (if you have one) and follow any procedure set out there. For example, it may state that you should give a longer notice period. If your lodger is not seriously in breach of the agreement, you should do this.
However for more serious problems such as aggressive or violent behaviour, stealing, or if you find your lodger has been using your property for criminal activities such as using or dealing in prohibited drugs (which will put him in breach of his lodger agreement), a shorter notice period may be appropriate.
Note – For very serious incidents, it may also be a good idea to tell the police when incidents occur. This will be helpful if you then need their help later if you have to evict your lodger (discussed on Day 20) as there will then be a documented history of (for example) violence, and they will be more likely to co-operate with you.
For cases of rent arrears, if you are using a professionally drafted agreement (as discussed on Day 15) , this will often say that the lodger’s license to occupy your property will end automatically if he is in arrears of rent of two months. However, you will still need to give him a formal letter asking him to vacate.
There is a printed form of ‘Notice to Quit’, which can be used (the wording should have an option for licenses), but generally, a letter saying that you are giving them 28 days (or whatever other period is appropriate) notice to leave, will be sufficient. The notice to quit letter should just be about asking them to leave, and perhaps giving the reasons for this. If you want to discuss something else, put it in a separate letter.
Note that the section 21 and section 8 notices used for assured shorthold tenants should *not* be used (for more information about these, and evicting tenants, see my Landlord Law web-site).
Tomorrow we will look at what you should do if your lodger refuses to go.