You may think that if your tenants – residential or commercial – take off in the middle of the night, never to be seen again, that all hope of rent arrears recovery is gone with them.
New streamlined procedures that make it easier for landlords to use a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) to evict residential tenants came into force on 23rd August 2020.
However, that is not necessarily the case. In modern Britain, it is very difficult to disappear without a trace. There are many data sources available - some accessible to all, others for specialist trace companies - that can prove invaluable in tracing all kinds of debtors, including absconded tenants.
So how can they be found?
The date of birth is perhaps the single most useful piece of data. This makes tracing people much easier. Even if they’re not currently on the electoral roll, we can search marriage records to find a current address for their spouse.
We can search jointly for couples, married or co-habiting, to find details for one or the other. We can also look for any association with the tenant and trading names, either a sole trader “trading as” or a limited company.
Phone numbers are very useful too – we can reverse look up landline numbers. While we cannot get account holder details for mobile phones, we can check whether the phone is currently registered on the mobile network in the UK – very helpful in disproving claims that the tenant has gone to live abroad!
What legal action can you take?
Naturally for commercial landlords, once your tenant has absconded, you will no longer be able to use the Common Law remedies of distress or forfeiture. However, you can undertake court proceedings, normally by applying for a County Court Judgment, which can then be enforced, if necessary by High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO).
Residential landlords will also need to apply for a CCJ against their former tenant. As long the CCJ is for £600 or more, it can be enforced by an HCEO.