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Evicting A Tenant: Everything You Need To Know

Almost all residential tenancies are now assured shorthold tenancies, as defined by the Housing Act, although there is a slew of other Statutes that impact the market. Unfortunately, landlord-tenant disagreements are common; sometimes requiring a landlord to serve a notice seeking possession formally terminate the tenancy b way of the county court.

They may be personal reasons for not be able to allow a tenancy agreement to continue beyond the fixed term or there may be reasons associated with the tenant’s conduct which accelerate the need for the relationship to and.  Either way a tenant must firstly be served with a notice seeking possession which asks for the tenant to remedy the breach and/or surrender the property.  As you can appreciate, many tenants may be unwilling or unable to respond constructively.  If a tenant refuses to leave a property, then you need to evict them by following a strict, legislatively defined procedure which can have adverse implications if not followed properly. 

Failure to respect and adhere to a tenant’s rights can lead to monetary penalties or worse; criminal sanction and incarceration. This blog will guide you on everything you need to know about evicting a tenant.

Person handing documents to a renter

Legal Reasons for Eviction

A landlord can, among others, legally evict a tenant for the following reasons:

Not Paying The Rent On Time

When a tenant signs the rental agreement, they acknowledge paying a set sum at an agreed frequency. If they don’t make the agreed payments in full and on time, the process by which they are legally evicted from the property can be started.  It is a quite an involved process which, in the first instance, requires a section 8 notice to be served on the tenant.  Once the time frame set out in the notice elapses, and should the tenant have failed to pay the arrears or surrender the property, then formal enforcement or eviction proceedings may move forward by filing a request through the county court under whose jurisdiction the property falls.  

If a tenant is in short term financial difficulty and can demonstrate that the tenancy can be brought back on track then they should engage with the landlord to seek an agreement, or extension, which will allow them time to source the funds and avoid the need for eviction proceedings. Most landlords should try to engage with their tenants in a constructive way especially if their tenant is being communicative and transparent.    Many can get themselves back on track if given an opportunity.  It should be received well if a tenant communicates properly and openly so that things can be mutually agreed and plan of action implemented.  

Ultimately, should the time frame elapse whereby the tenant’s assurances have failed to materialise, or they refuse to engage – which speaks poorly of their view of the tenancy relationship – then enforcement should move forward.

Considerable Property Damage

Fair wear and tear is a clearly defined term in a tenancy relationship but intentional, or even  unintentional, damage does need to be rectified to prove to a landlord that the tenant respects their property. Damage inflicted upon a property is a ground for possession and which can pave the way for lawfully evicting a tenant.

Gavel placed on a table in court

Criminal Behavior

Do you suspect your tenant is acting in anti-social way or conducting criminal activity in and around the property? Are they involved in activity which could land you in trouble as their landlord? If the answer is yes, then you may be able to lawfully evict them. There are grounds for possession which relate specifically to Illegal activity in and around the property, as well as anti-social behaviour.   These are grounds set out under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (as amended).

An eviction may be possible on these specific grounds if evidence that these activities are taking place is robust and readily available.  To this end, the local authority and police may be in a position to provide statements that will bolster a claim brought on these grounds for possession.

Subletting In Violation of the Terms of the Agreement

Even though the tenant is covering the cost for the entire property, it is quite often a specific covenant of the agreement that the property is used for their sole use and not sublet to a third party.

Unless the tenancy agreement permits subletting, the person who signed the agreement is only allowed to live in the property with their immediate family.  A landlord has the right to bring their concerns to the tenant’s attention and proceed with an eviction should the tenant refuse to remove the third parties from the property after receiving a section 8 notice.

A person signing a document

Not Adhering To Local Health and Safety Regulations

A tenant should be conscious of their neighbours’ right to enjoy their own homes in peace and quiet and not be subjected to anti-social behaviour from the tenant or their guests.  They should also consider how they manage their waste in and around the property to ensure the area remains free from pests etc. This too is a basis for eviction if a tenant refuses to respect their neighbours and the immediate surrounding environment.

If your tenant is not abiding by any of these basic hygiene and ethical standards, you must alert them to your concerns in the first instance and then should consider evicting them.  Again, the local authority may already be involved but it can be helpful for you and your neighbours to engage with them as they have departments which deal specifically with these local concerns.  Local Authority served notices of improvement or enforcement can prove invaluable should you need to evict your tenant for these reasons.   A court will respond to a notice which dems your tenant a public nuisance.

Types of Eviction Notices

Section 8 Notice

If a tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy agreement, there may be a way for them to remedy the situation depending on the nature of the breach. You must bring any concerns about their behavior or particular breaches of the agreement to their attention in the first instance. The tenant must b offered a minimum mandatory period to address the issues before any enforcement activity is permitted.  If you are serious about enforcement then it’s probably best to notify the tenant formally with the use of an eviction notice, such as a section 8 notice, as the courts will not permit a tenancy to be terminated if you’ve not brought your concerns to  the tenant’s attention or only done so in a casual way.

A section 8 notice is the right way to notify your tenant of your intention to terminate the tenancy should they fail to remedy your concerns and/or improve their conduct. It’s also known as seeking possession notice under the 1988 Housing Act. A written notice is sent to the tenant, explicitly stating the grounds for serving the notice on them, and the time frame they have to remedy the situation before enforcement will be progressed.

The most common reason for a possession notice is non-payment of rent and the accumulation of excessive rent arrears, although there are many grounds for possession a court will entertain in addition.  If a tenant fails to address the issues raised in the notice or surrenders the tenancy, the landlord can file a claim for possession with the county court. This will lead to the tenant’s eviction.

Section 21 Notice

Section 21 of the Housing Act, sometimes known as a ‘nofault eviction’ notice, is a piece of legislation which allows a landlord to terminate a tenancy but without the need for setting out the reasons why.   As no breach of the tenancy is listed as the reason why the tenancy is being terminated, the time frame offered to the tenant, before enforcement can progress, is considerably longer than that offered under Section 8 of the Housing Act.   

Only when the fixed-term period has ended can a section 21 notice be enforced although there is provision to allow for service of a section 21 notice within the fixed term as long as it is not within the first four months.   

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the time frame was a minimum of two months, but with the implication of the Coronavirus Act 2020, the time duration was increased to as much as six months. From 1st October 2021, the time frame has returned to pre-pandemic levels although the government reserves the right to introduce emergency powers at short notice should hospital admissions rise at an alarming rate.

A tenant and landlord in court during an eviction battle

Filing a Claim for Possession and Securing an Enforceable Order

If the tenant refuses to remedy their conduct or surrender the property after receiving a section 8 notice or a section 21 notice, and the time frame to enforcement has passed, then it’s time to consider formal enforcement proceedings in the county court – commonly referred to as the possession procedure or eviction proceedings. 

To secure an enforceable judgment, a formal request for possession must be filed with the county court, along with the corresponding court fee – which is currently £355.  It’s crucial to bear in mind that the landlord’s costs can accelerate from here if they seek legal counsel to represent them.

Depending on how the case goes, there may be further court fees to pay. When enforcing a section 21 notice or a section 8 notice, there are two types of possession procedure available:

Standard Possession Order

To file a Standard Possession Order, fill out form N5 (claim for possession) and form N119 and submit them to your local county court (particulars of claim). These two forms provide information on the tenancy and the reasons for pursuing possession.  The standard possession procedure will require the parties to formally stand before a Judge. It is associated not just with a possession order but also the request to enter a money judgment against the tenant for rent arrears.

It is a procedure that will eventually lead to the scheduling of a hearing which can be avoided if you only want possession and wish to enforce under section 21.

A landlord holding keys to his property

Accelerated Possession Order

The accelerated possession order is available when the applicant isn’t claiming rent arrears or making other monetary claims other than the recovery of legal fees etc. It’s solely associated with cases where the ground for possession is in breach of section 21.

Because a judge can assess the case without the requirement for the parties to stand before them, the time frame for this procedure is proving to be far shorter than the standard possession procedure – albeit that’s not always the case. Because listing times are limited for obvious reasons, a hearing can take longer to schedule than a judge examining the material on-paper in their office thereby avoiding the formalities of a fully scheduled hearing.

If a matter was initially filed using the accelerated procedure, a judge can still elect to list a hearing, bringing the time frames for both methods closer together, or perhaps making the accelerate procedure more drawn out and longer than what would have been the case had the standard procedure been adopted in the first instance. To progress a claim for possession via the accelerated procedure, the applicant must fill out and submit Form N5B.

If the grounds for possession have been established, a judge will often issue a 14-day possession order during either procedure. Should the tenant or the defendant request additional time on the grounds of exceptional hardship and provide evidence of their unique circumstances, the court may vary from this rule and grant a maximum of 6 weeks before allowing the landlord to instruct a bailiff to conclude the possession procedure.  Sadly, many tenants are unable to leave the property due to their personal circumstances, the prevailing economic environment or because they have been advised to remain in the property by the local authority until a bailiff appointment has been booked.

person signing a tenancy agreement

Issuing a Warrant for Possession

The tenant is supposed to remove their personal possessions and relinquish the premises by the court-set deadline. If the tenant does not quit by this date, the landlord will have to undergo a further procedure to obtain vacant possession.

A landlord cannot evict a tenant themselves in person. The order for possession merely allows for a landlord to utilise the services of a court approved bailiff to attend the property and remove the tenant. A Warrant for Possession can be instructed by filling out form N325 (Request for Warrant of Possession of Land). As with most stages that involves the court, there is a court fee to pay.  Currently it is £130.

Contacting a Bailiff

If the tenant is still present at the time of the warrant appointment, the county court bailiff will ask them to leave or remove them if the need arises.

A bailiff is a legal officer of the court whose job is to make sure that court orders are lawfully executed. Therefore, a bailiff is required to carry out the eviction. No other party may undertake this task unless they are authorised to do so.  A representative of the landlord must meet with the bailiff and provide access to the premises.

The bailiff will be unable to lawfully conclude the appointment if access is denied. As a result, the appointment might get postponed and adding further delay to the eviction time frame. It is therefore helpful to have a locksmith on hand to ensure access can be given to the bailiff.

The process requires more time, but it’s the last step in the possession procedure. It is not common for tenants to leave a property before a bailiff is instructed but if a tenant does force a landlord down this path then the sum entered against them in adverse costs and rent arrears is likely to increase.

A tenant should think carefully about exercising their right to stay in the property after a court order has been entered and a bailiff instructed as it may affect their ability to collect all of their personal possession on the date of the appointment although there is formal provision for them to collect their personal possession within a reasonable time frame after the bailiff appointment date.  Sadly, many agencies will advise them to remain in the property and wait for a bailiff.  As such, landlords should mentally prepare themselves for the worst case scenario.

To conclude the Warrant appointment, a bailiff can use reasonable force and, in rare situations, request police assistance.

How Long Does The Process Take?

Because the time frame varies from case to case and is highly influenced by the court’s backlog, it is difficult to offer a precise timeline for the entire process. A case that is more intricate or defended may take far longer than one in which the tenant has buried their head in the sand and refused to cooperate.   A minimum of 2-3 months should be given for the possession procedure and a further 6-8 weeks as a minimum for a bailiff appointment.  These are achievable time frames but the reality could well be much longer.

Furthermore, where the grounds for possession are rent arrears, the availability of court dates is unquestionably a significant factor in determining how long the court process will take.  Some courts are taking between 6 to 9 months to offer initial direction hearing listings.  Hence, why it’s helpful to ensure the claim filed is robust as securing a judgment at the initial hearing has clear advantages.  Unfortunately, this cannot always be guaranteed especially if a tenant is minded, or alleges reasons with which to defend the grounds for possession.

a landlord filing a complaint against their tenant

Landlord Assist can help you out if you’re looking for guidance when dealing with a defaulting tenant. 

Our team of property specialists and experts in landlord and tenant law can help you through the procedure of tenant eviction UK and other tenancy disputes. Our rent arrears expert UK can help you recover rent arrears and handle your case from start to finish.  We will always try to explore avenues which secure an outcome much earlier than what any court procedure can offer.

From drafting action letters, serving section 8 notices to instructing bailiffs; we can work through your predicament to secure your desired outcome and ensure your peace of mind.

Get in touch with us today to learn how our eviction services can benefit you.

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