Evicting tenants can be a stressful and often complicated process but unfortunately, sometimes necessary. Judges will expect landlords to meticulously follow the proper procedure, have the perfect paperwork and don’t often stand for any mistakes you might make. One thing you don’t want to do is lose your claim, as you could be hit with your tenants expensive legal costs! Potentially depriving someone of their home is nothing to be taken lightly, so it’s really important to stay on the right side of the law.
There are a few reasons why you may be looking to end the tenancy. Perhaps you need the property back as your main home, you might need to carry out repairs, or maybe tenants are behind on their rent and the tenancy just isn’t working out. Whatever the reason, it’s vital to do things the correct way.
The written notice
For assured shorthold tenancies, you can either serve a section 21 notice or a section 8 notice. With a section 21 notice, you have a 2 month notice period and you don’t need to provide a reason for eviction. However, this cannot be done in the first six months of the tenancy and you cannot force your tenant to leave once their 2 month notice period is up. They can stay in the property until they are evicted by the bailiffs, however they must continue to pay rent. If you find yourself in this situation, you will need to go to court to seek a possession order.
For fixed term tenancies, tenants are protected from random evictions, so the possession date must not be earlier than the end of the fixed term. If you were looking to evict a tenant before the fixed-term expires due to bad behaviour or late rent, you have to provide legal grounds to support your claim and would be looking at serving a section 8 notice.
You can give a section 8 notice at any time during a fixed term or assured shorthold tenancy, but you must have the legal grounds to do so. If your tenant has rent arrears of two months or more, is involved in criminal or antisocial behaviour or breaks other terms of your tenancy agreement like damaging the property then section 8 may be applicable to your situation. It also has a notice period of as little as two weeks, so is significantly quicker than section 21.
The quicker solution
If you have already served a section 21 notice, you have the option of an accelerated possession procedure. This is a good process to turn to if your tenants have not left the property by the specified date. It’s a much quicker way to gain possession but you will need to pay a fee before the action can commence. It’s often an attractive option as you won’t have to go to court, unless for whatever reason the tenant raises a reasonable objection. The court will post the papers out to the tenant, along with a form of reply in case they’d like to object. If successful, you will get an order for possession and the tenant will have to pay the court fee which usually takes between 6-10 weeks, all being well.
It’s all in the delivery
You must be able to prove to the courts that you served the notice to your tenant. The tenant could argue that they never received it which could dismiss the possession claim pretty quickly.
If you deliver the documents in person, you will need to get some evidence of this. We suggest having your tenant sign the papers upon receipt, or alternatively be sure to take any photos and videos. Another good tip is to serve two notices by First Class post from different post offices, ensuring that you get a proof of postage for each. If your tenant says they never received them, it will have much less chance of standing up to a judge as they are unlikely to believe that two documents sent from different post offices were lost on the way to the same property.
You may have no problem with knocking on your tenants door and serving them their eviction notice, but if you are worried or they do not answer, then you may find it easier to take a witness with you and post the notice through their letterbox before 5pm. The court will then deem the notice to have been served on the following day.
If you’d rather not go to the property at all, you can have a professional notice server do the job for you, for a modest fee. A professional notice server acts for the legal profession and will be able to confirm when the notice has been received.
It is so important to follow the proper procedure when evicting a tenant. Even taking it upon yourself to ask them to leave can be considered harassment. Landlords can be prosecuted under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 if they interfere with the peace and comfort of tenants. If for whatever reason your behaviour causes tenants to leave the property, the eviction could be considered unlawful and could lead to a hefty fine or worse, imprisonment!
So whatever you do, don’t turn up unannounced and bang on the door, don’t turn off their utilities, change the locks, or remove their belongings. Do not make any threats or try and physically remove the tenant. No matter how frustrated you feel with your tenant, you must never take the law into your own hands as nine times out of ten, it will not end up in your favour.
The process of eviction is a detailed and often complicated one, so do your research, speak to a solicitor and be sure to get it right!