Evicting a Tenant

Advice on legally evicting a tenant

Evicting a tenant can be an unfortunate but necessary step if a tenancy becomes untenable. Whilst the process is complicated, if you follow the correct procedures you can establish lawful grounds for eviction. First, it’s worth noting that the eviction process differs in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but if you’re a landlord in England or Wales for a typical assured shorthold tenancy, here are the key considerations regarding how to evict a tenant.

What are reasonable grounds for eviction?

There are 17 legitimate grounds for possession covered by the Housing Act 1988, which include the tenant not paying rent, or causing a nuisance to the neighbours, or damaging the building or its contents. You can serve a Section 8 or Section 21 notice – or both – if you’re planning to evict a tenant. A section 8 possession order will require you to state your grounds for eviction, but this is not the case with a Section 21 notice provided you have followed the correct legal procedures. It’s worth noting that neither process can guarantee that your tenant will leave, so it may be advisable to get legal advice on how to evict a tenant.

What is a Section 8 eviction notice?

You can issue a Section 8 notice if your tenant has breached the terms of their tenancy. In your written notice you should stipulate the grounds for eviction, which can include damage to the property, nuisance to neighbours and repeated failure to pay the rent. Your Section 8 notice should include the date by which the tenant must vacate the property and pay any outstanding rent. It’s possible that the tenant will voluntarily end the dispute upon receiving the Section 8 notice, in which case you can avoid taking legal action.

What is a Section 21 eviction notice?

You can serve a Section 21 notice to inform your tenant that you wish to recover possession of the property when the fixed-term tenancy ends. This is also applicable during a ‘periodic’ tenancy with no fixed end date. If you’re planning to evict a tenant with a Section 21 notice, you don’t need to provide any grounds for eviction so long as your notice is valid. You can also serve a Section 21 notice if there is a relevant break-clause in the contract, which allows you to recover possession of the property.

If you wish to progress your legal action through the courts, you'll need to follow the strict procedures, such as giving the correct date to vacate, issuing the notice at the right time – not within the first four months of the tenancy – and behaving in a reasonable manner to avoid any claims of harassment.

How long does it take to evict a tenant?

If you’re issuing a Section 8 notice, your tenants must be told between 2 weeks and 2 months before the date you wish to recover possession. The notice period depends on which terms of the tenancy agreement have been breached; for example, 2 months’ notice is needed if your mortgage lender has served notice to foreclose, whereas only 2 weeks is necessary for tenancy breaches like damage, nuisance and neglect.

If you issue a Section 21 order you must give your tenants at least 2 months’ notice to vacate the property. In the event your tenant refuses a possession order and you’re forced to instruct the County Court Bailiff to evict, this can add four to six weeks on top of the process.

What if my tenant refuses to leave?

Evicting a tenant can become a longer process if they refuse to leave, or they ignore your written notice. If you visit the property in person to issue the notice, bring a witness in case the tenant refuses to open the door. You may wish to instruct your letting agent to conduct visits on your behalf in case the tenant is more receptive to a third party.

If your tenant still refuses to leave despite your legitimate grounds for eviction, you can either make a standard possession claim or an accelerated possession order. If you wish to recover possession of your property and simultaneously claim back unpaid rent, you can make the standard possession claim if you issued either a Section 8 or Section 21 notice.

If you’re not claiming any unpaid rent, you can implement an accelerated possession order if you served a Section 21 notice. Whichever route you take, if your tenant fails to leave the property after the expiry of your possession order, you have sufficient grounds for eviction and can instruct the County Court Bailiff to evict your tenant.

Should I get legal advice on evicting a tenant?

If you’re still not sure how to evict a tenant, it’s worth getting legal advice so you know which eviction notice to serve, and how to complete the paperwork. There's no guarantee that your possession order will be granted, so you'll want to follow the correct legal procedures to give you the best possible chance of evicting a tenant.

Some of the common pitfalls include the failure to register a Tenancy Deposit Scheme, which will mean you’re unable to issue a Section 21 order as you'll have failed to protect your tenant’s deposit. In this scenario, you may also be liable to pay up to three times the deposit’s value if your tenant raises a claim against you.

Evicting a tenant is a complex process; in fact, it’s even possible to issue a Section 8 and Section 21 notice simultaneously and pursue one or both cases. As such, you should seek out the best legal advice on how to evict a tenant to ensure you have protected yourself against every eventuality.

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