Full Guide to the Legal Eviction of Tenants in the UK
Being a landlord comes with many benefits. But there are some downsides, too. The eviction of bad tenants is one of them. No one wants to be in that situation. And although it’s natural to be hopeful that you will not have to go through this process, it’s still a good idea to know what your legal rights and obligations are as landlord in the event you will need to evict a tenant in the UK. Use the guide our estate agents have prepared to learn how to navigate the legal provisions relating to Assured Shorthold Tenancy evictions and get the best outcome.
You may reach a point where you just want your tenants out and your property back. It may be that your tenants owe you a large amount in unpaid rent or they are behaving improperly and putting your property in danger. While that is more than understandable, you must be able to maintain your calm and follow the strict legal procedures available for such situations.
Otherwise, you may be found guilty of harassing or illegally evicting your tenants.
That is why you will need to follow the correct procedures to have your tenants leave your property. As a general rule, you should always check official sources such as www.gov.co.uk to stay up to date on the latest regulations. Also be mindful that procedures in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales may differ.
Type of Tenancy
To start the tenant eviction process, you will first need to determine the type of tenancy agreement you have concluded.
Most tenancies in the UK are assured shorthold tenancies.
There are two types of ASTs. One is the periodic tenancy. It runs week by week or month by month and has no fixed end date. The second type is the fixed-term tenancy. Its duration is set for a specific amount of time.
Once you have determined your type of AST, you can start the eviction process. According to the provisions of Housing Act 1988, tenant eviction can be achieved by one of two means: a Section 8 notice or a Section 21 notice.
The Eviction Process
The way you handle the eviction process will depend on your reasons for wanting to terminate the tenancy and gaining back possession of the property.
The most common reason for tenant evictions is rent arrears. The second most common is tenants are failing to properly maintain the property they rent. In both of these cases, the tenant is in breach of the terms of their shorthold tenancy agreement. When the tenant breaches the terms of the tenancy agreement, the landlord can start the eviction proceedings at any time. For instance, immediately after the tenant has failed to pay one month’s rent.
For tenancy agreement breaches, serving a Section 8 notice as per the Housing Act 1988 is the most common procedure. You can also choose to serve the tenant a Section 21 notice but only if the tenancy’s term is coming to an end. Or if the tenancy has no fixed end date.
The Section 8 Notice
Section 8 notices are used in situations where the tenant has breached the terms of their tenancy agreement. Either by failing to pay rent or by not properly maintaining or damaging the property. Another reason may be that they are causing a nuisance to their neighbours.
A Section 8 notice informs the tenant that you are seeking to retake possession of the property due to a breach of the tenancy agreement. To send your tenant such a notice, you must fill in a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy’. The form has a special field where you can specify the terms of the tenancy that have been broken.
The notice you give tenants based on a Section 8 ranges between two weeks and two months. This term depends on what provisions of the tenancy agreement have been broken.
After you serve the Section 8 notice, the tenant must vacate the property. If they do not, you will have to apply for a possession order in court. After you do this, you must appear before court and a judge will rule their decision on the matter. The judge may rule in the tenant’s favour if they have put right whatever tenancy agreement breach led to you serving the notice.
How to Serve a Section 8 Notice
First, you must fill in the Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy form. In the form, you must fill in the provisions of the tenancy agreement you claim the tenant has breached and a term for vacating the property. The term will depend on the type of breach. Different rules apply for different areas so check for updated local authority information.
The Section 21 Notice
A Section 21 notice informs the tenant that you are looking to regain possession of the property without requiring any reason. Section 21 notices are usually used in cases when the tenant has a fixed-term tenancy and the fixed term ends. Or when the tenancy has no fixed date.
If you want to send a Section 21 notice for tenancy agreement breaches, you can still do so. However, the tenancy must be approaching its fixed end date in this case.
In England, you won’t be able to use a Section 21 notice if the tenancy has started less than 4 months ago or if the fixed term has not ended. Other cases where you cannot use a Section 21 notice include:
- When the property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and is not licensed as such
- If the tenant’s deposit is not in a deposit protection scheme
- If the property has an improvement or an emergency works notice from the council sent in the last 6 months
- When you haven’t given your tenant copies of the property’s Energy Performance Certificate, the government’s ‘How to rent’ guide, a current gas safety certificate before they moved in.
How to Serve a Section 21 Notice
To serve a Section 21 notice, you must fill in form 6A – “Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy”. In it, you must specify the term you are allowing the tenant to vacate the property. The term cannot be shorter than two months.
Use the government website to download the proper form.
You will need to serve the notice to the tenant directly. If they do not answer the door, you can place the notice in their letterbox in front of a witness. Notices served this way by 5 p.m. are considered served the following day. You can also hire a professional notice server to serve the notice for you.
You should take into account that a Section 21 notice is valid for six months. In addition, if your tenant files a valid complaint about the condition of the property before you send a Section 21 notice, this may invalidate your claim.
Seeking a Possession Order
Once you serve the Section 8 or Section 21 notice, the tenants will need to move out. However, if they don’t, you can apply for a Standard Possession Order before court. This is your only option when claiming rent arrears.
You can also choose an Accelerated Possession Order in situations where you are claiming something other than unpaid rent. This latter procedure does not require any court hearing.
To obtain a possession order, you have to fill in a form. For this, you will need to go to the County Court of your area. Next, the court will send a copy of your claim to the tenant. They will have to respond within 14 days or more as decided by the judge.
The full procedure can take between 6 and 10 weeks to resolve. After the term granted to the tenant to reply to your claim expires, the judge will either decide to issue a possession order or hold a court hearing if there are any unclarified issues such as missing paperwork or objections from the tenant.
Applying for a Warrant for Possession
In the rare event that your tenant still refuses to vacate the property after you’ve obtained a possession order, your last option is applying for a Warrant for Possession. To do so, you will need to go back to court. In this case, a court bailiff carries out the possession order and vacates the tenants for you.
You can accelerate the process by asking for the case to be transferred from the County Court to the High Court if your claim exceeds £600.
To get up to date details on the eviction process, use the information available on the government website.
Properly drafted tenancy agreements and tenant screening procedures can keep landlords at bay from evictions or other unpleasant situations. To learn more about how you can safeguard yourself and your property, contact our experienced estate agents at 0207 055 0441.