If you do find that you need to recover rent arrears from a tenant, whether commercial or residential, the more you know about them, the more likely your action is to be successful.
With residential rent arrears you will need to obtain a CCJ (county court judgment) and then transfer it to the High Court for enforcement by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO).
With commercial rent, you can instruct a certificated enforcement agent to act on your behalf under CRAR (commercial rent arrears recovery).
Here are a number of steps you can take to make it easier to take action – or ideally prevent the need to do so in the first place.
Vet your tenant before they sign any agreement
It is always good practice to do reference checks on prospective tenants. There are several companies that provide background checks on tenants.
Always take photocopies of the tenant’s passport photo page and driving licence, and recent bank accounts. Take down their car details (make, model and registration) and where they park. This is all information that can help an HCEO track down an absconded tenant. A photograph will also help the enforcement agent ensure they are talking to the tenant, even if the tenant claims otherwise.
Take out guarantees
If you think there is a risk of the tenant not paying the rent, consider asking for guarantees. The guarantor – who also needs to be checked out beforehand – is agreeing to pay any sums owed by the tenant if they default.
In terms of enforcement, the enforcement agent will always first try to enforce against the tenant/defendant, but if this proves unsuccessful, they can then enforce against the goods of the guarantor.
When instructing an enforcement agent
If you do need to take enforcement action, give the enforcement agent as much information as you can about the tenant and your property.
When enforcing a CCJ for residential rent arrears under a writ of control, the enforcement agent can take control of goods belonging to the tenant to clear the debt. Any information you can provide on the following can help them do so:
- Details of the property, such as entrance points, entry phone systems for flats
- Vehicle details – make, model, colour, registration
- Contact details, especially landline and mobile numbers
- Social media details, such as a LinkedIn or Facebook profile
- Whether the debtor is known by any other name, for example their maiden name or a stage name
- Any habitual behavioural patterns, such as walking the dog at a set time, taking and collecting children from school
- Copies of all paperwork of any previous orders relating to the case, for example a stay of execution
- Details of any contact from the tenant regarding any insolvency proceedings
When acting under CRAR, the following information is also helpful
- Whether the company has recently changed its status, for example become incorporated or a limited liability partnership
- Opening/operating hours
- Contact and online details, such as a company website
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance