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As a private residential landlord you may look to recover rent arrears either from tenants that are still living in one of your properties, or from tenants whose tenancy has ended and who have moved on. The obvious advantage of dealing with someone who is a current tenant is that you know exactly where to find them in order to start the recovery process. The obvious disadvantage is that actions you take may inspire them to damage the property or be otherwise awkward. It's this reason (among others) that means I personally would avoid legal action for rent arrears until the tenant has gone, and would instead apply as much pressure as I legally could (within the law, obviously) whilst they still lived in the property. Besides which, in most situations achieving a result with persuasiveness is better than achieving it with force!
You can add an order for money owed for the rent arrears and reasonable costs to the initial application for the order for possession. Presuming the court grants you possession you can then use one of a couple of common enforcement methods to recover the monies owed.
- Attachment of earnings (your employers have to pay the debt out of your wages and can also charge you administration costs.
- Send an enforcement agent to seize and sell their property.
It's worth noting that if your tenant is on benefits then you have next to no chance of ever seeing your money, as only the government can take back money owed out of benefit payments. If you do get a CCJ against a tenant in this situation, although you won't get your money, you will have placed a mark against their credit record which will make it more difficult for them to rent another property in the future.