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Approach the Court: Things to Do When the Tenant Refuses To Vacate

Many landlords reveal that one of their biggest fears is that their tenant may refuse to surrender the property when it’s time to leave or they have broken the terms of the agreement.  As examples, anti-social behaviour and overdue rent are reasons why a tenancy needs to end, but landlords currently have the option to end the tenancy without giving a reason.  These can lead a landlord to start the process by which the tenancy is formally terminated in the county court, and the tenant is ultimately evicted from the property if they are unwilling to surrender the tenancy voluntarily.

While evicting a tenant is a stressful process in itself, the situation gets worse when a tenant refuses to leave. But don’t worry; our residential eviction experts are here to help! Here’s what you need to do if your tenant refuses to leave.

Try To Engage With the Tenant

Before taking legal action, ensure you have served the right notice seeking possession and offered the mandatory time frame.  If your tenant has not left by the date offered then it is useful to know your tenant’s reason for not leaving as there may be an opportunity to avoid legal proceedings.  For example, the tenant may have secured alternative accommodation but needs a short window of time to move their personal possessions.   It’s therefore in your interest to keep an open dialogue with the tenant.  If you’re able to resolve the issue without getting into a potentially long and costly legal procedure, then you should explore this.  Keep the time frame for dialogue reasonable to limit the exposure from not moving forward immediately.  

Try to agree an arrangement between you although it is advised that you source any correspondence from your tenant which supports their situation to give you the comfort that prompt and immediate enforcement is not absolutely necessary.

While resolving the matter without the need for enforcement is always recommended, it’s not always possible.  For example, many tenants will be unable to find alternative accommodation in the private rental sector and will therefore be looking for assistance from the local authority.  Sadly, a voluntary surrender is unlikely to be forthcoming in these circumstances and termination by way of the county court, and eviction through the use of bailiffs needed. 

If you need to terminate the tenancy by way of the county court then you should understand the requirements as they are stringent and a landlord is rarely, if ever, offered any latitude from the court procedure.  Mistakes are punished by delays and, at worst, can result in a case being struck out.

You should consider seeking advice from eviction specialists who understand the legislative requirements and have experience in the process.  Many a landlord has undertaken the process themselves thinking that it is straight forward.  It is not, and they wished they had sought assistance at an early stage – to avoid many of the common pitfalls – when several months down the line they discovered that they failed to follow the procedure to the letter and convince a Judge that they were entitled to terminate the tenancy. 

If a case is struck out then you are effectively forced back to square one and need to start all over.  In certain circumstances, this could even mean the re-service of the notice seeking possession and, again, waiting for the mandatory time frame to expire before starting another round of court proceedings.  If a tenant isn’t paying their rent during this time then you can quickly appreciate the level of exposure from getting it wrong.   It makes financial sense to engage the services of a specialist to take the case forward unless you are absolutely confident of your ability, from start to finish, to achieve the desired outcome.

Eviction Notices You Can Consider When You Feel It’s Time to End the Tenancy Relationship.

There are three primary notices you can serve on a tenant, two of which accord with the Housing Act, when you feel it’s time to end the tenancy relationship:-

1.      Section 8 Notice

Rent arrears experts suggest using this notice when the tenant breaches the terms of the tenancy agreement by failing to pay the rent on time and in full. It is typically the pre-cursor to formal legal proceedings which brings your concerns to the tenant’s attention in the hope they appreciate the gravity of the situation and enter into constructive dialogue and a payment plan, as a minimum.   The notice sets out a host of grounds for possession, in addition to those which relate to rent arrears, so it’s in your interest to identify whether this notice can be relied upon given the circumstances in which you find yourself.

2.      Section 21 notice

A section 21 notice is a non-fault notice to quit which should always be served when you want to end the tenancy.  The reason being is that in the event the tenant does not surrender the tenancy on or before the required date then you have the means by which you can progress to the next stage of enforcement.  A Judge will not consider a request to terminate the tenancy, without the tenant having breached the terms of the tenancy, if you have not served a compliant section 21 notice. The compliance of the notice relies on a multitude of factors including; the information on the form itself, the manner in which it was served, and fulfilling your obligations to serve specific documentation on the tenant during the tenancy.

3.      A Notice to Quit

This notice is less common these days as it relates to residential tenancies which fall outside the Housing Act.

If you’re in any doubt as to whether you need to serve a Section 21 notice, a Section 8 notice or a Notice to Quit, when looking to start the process by which the tenancy is terminated, then it is strongly advocated that you do your research or speak to a specialist.

Landlord Assist, a leading eviction company in the UK, has a team of Residential Eviction Expert that can help you navigate through the complex and stringent tenant eviction process.

Get in touch with us at 08707 662288 or email us at to learn more about our tenant eviction services.

Consult our Landlord and Tenant team to find out how we can help you.