If there is a mortgage or secured loan on your property, you are under a legal obligation to pay this. You also have a responsibility to your tenants to keep these payments up to date. It is their home that you are risking by failing to pay.
Mortgage or secured loan problems
If you find you are having difficulties paying your mortgage and your lender starts possession proceedings against you, you should inform your tenants immediately. Your tenants have the right to appear as an "interested party" in any court hearings related to the mortgage on their home.
Your tenants' rights to remain in the property depend on whether you have obtained your mortgage lender's consent to rent out the property. You should never let a property without obtaining this consent. Where you have the lender's consent to let the property your tenants are "authorised tenants". If you do not have this consent they are seen as "unauthorised" and have very few rights to remain in the property once it is repossessed.
Once the lender decides to take court action, it will usually send a letter to the occupants of a rented home informing them that the property is subject to possession proceedings and informing them of the date of the hearing for possession and of their right to attend. Failing to inform your tenants of your arrears before they receive this letter could damage your relationship with them.
Your tenants will probably want to know whether they can stay on in the property and what will happen to their security deposit.
If there is a tenancy agreement in place, the lender will have to honour this agreement and your tenants will be free to stay in the property until the fixed term expires. If there is no agreed end date to the tenancy, the lender can begin eviction proceedings against your tenant as soon as they recover legal possession of the property.
Where the mortgage lender has not consented to the property being rented out to tenants, the lender has no obligation to allow the tenants to stay on in the property once it has been repossessed. The lender can view the tenants as unlawful occupants and will usually issue them with a Notice to Quit. The tenants will not usually have any grounds to challenge this notice and, if they refuse to leave at the end of the notice period, they may be removed from the property by officers of the Court Service. In some cases, where the lender has accepted rent payments from the tenants after regaining possession of the dwelling, it can be argued that the lender has recognised the tenancy and so must follow due process when evicting the tenants.
Regardless of the tenants' status, once the lender regains possession of the property, you must settle the issue of the deposit. At this stage you should return the deposit in full to the tenant unless the tenant is in arrears of rent. As you no longer have an interest in the property, it would be unreasonable to use the tenant's deposit for any damages caused by the tenant unless you have already paid to repair these.
The Rates Order sets out who is liable for rates on a rental property. Liability for rates depends on the value of the property and the frequency of rental payments.
If you are responsible for paying rates on the property, you should ensure these payments are kept up to date. If the tenant is responsible, you should ask the tenant to make payments directly to Land & Property Services (LPS). There have been a number of recent cases where landlords have failed to pass rates payments made by the tenant as part of their monthly rent on to LPS. This has resulted in LPS taking recovery action against the tenant, resulting in the tenant paying rates twice.
There is no risk to you as the property owner if a tenant who is legally liable for rates does not pay. Recovery action can only be taken against the person who is legally liable to pay.