If your tenant is in arrears of rent, it is important to deal with the matter promptly. Taking immediate action will hopefully stop the situation escalating any further.
The first step you should take is to send your tenant a letter pointing out that he/she is in arrears of rent and requesting that these arrears be paid. We recommend that all communication you have with your tenants, including demands for payment, should be in writing. This is for your own protection in the event you have to take the tenant to court.
In many cases, the tenant will pay the rent following your requests for payment. However, it is important that you start keeping detailed records in case the tenant does not pay.
Delivery of the initial letter
You should record the date when the letter was sent to the tenant, who the letter was given to and how it was sent (e.g. by hand, first-class post).
Conversations with the tenants
Although you should inform your tenant of the rent arrears in writing, you may also have spoken to the tenant about the arrears. If you have, you should make a record of it as soon as possible, along with any other conversations you have had. Your record should include the time, date and location, as well as the name of anyone involved in the conversation and a summary of what was said and/or agreed. This information may prove valuable in case you have to take your tenant to court.
Rent arrears and financial hardship
You should start to keep a record of the rent payments due and received from the tenants, including a running balance of any arrears.
If the arrears are causing you any financial hardship then you should also retain any records or documents that you have to prove this, such as letters from your mortgage provider regarding arrears of mortgage payments or threats to repossess.
In your letter to the tenant informing him/her of the rent arrears, you may want to offer assistance in making their payments by allowing him/her to repay the arrears in weekly or monthly instalments. If your tenant has fallen on hard times, e.g. made redundant or recently divorced, making such an arrangement may help them pay the rent and avoid the problem escalating. If you do have to take the matter to court, showing that you have offered assistance in such a way may also help your case.
If the rent arrears continue to accrue, or if the tenants fail to pay the rent arrears after you have sent at least one letter demanding that payment be made, then you should serve a 'Notice to Quit' together with a 'Notice of Intention to raise Proceedings under section 19 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988'. These notices must be served on your tenant before you can apply to the court for an order evicting them.
Under no circumstances should you attempt to evict the tenants yourself without a court order, for example, by changing the locks. Doing so is a criminal offence and you may be fined and/or sent to prison.