If you are being evicted for rent arrears, you are not without protection or rights. The landlord must fulfil their legal responsibilities and follow the correct procedure. Your rights, as a tenant facing eviction, revolve mainly around your landlord’s responsibilities.
Coronavirus housing & tenant advice
Many tenants are now struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus outbreak. There are not, however, any measures in place allowing renters to take a payment break or ‘holiday’.
If you are worried about meeting your rent, you should raise this with your landlord and discuss options such as delaying the rent due date, or negotiating a rent reduction. The landlord may agree to give you a break, or if they have a mortgage, may be able to apply for a break in their mortgage.
Depending on your circumstances, you may also be entitled to receive benefits to help pay rent.
If your landlord is increasing your rent, they can only do this if they follow the correct procedure.
There are special rules in place relating to evictions during the coronavirus crisis. In most cases, landlords are not allowed to evict tenants during the pandemic. All housing court cases for evictions are on hold until at least 25 June 2020, bailiffs cannot evict tenants and landlords cannot get an eviction order.
If you are facing eviction at this time, even if the landlord has already served an eviction notice on you, stay in your home.
The remainder of this article deals with the legal position under normal circumstances outside of the coronavirus provisions.
Being evicted for rent arrears from a private rental property
Where your landlord seeks to evict you from a rented property because you have fallen into rent arrears, you should first look to negotiate a repayment plan with your landlord.
If this fails and it is not possible to arrange repayment of your rent arrears, the landlord must follow certain rules when proceeding with the eviction process.
What type of tenancy do you have?
The landlord’s responsibilities will vary depending on the kind of tenancy you have.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST)
Where your AST is periodic, running on from one month to another, for instance, the landlord must generally provide you with a written notice to quit, stating the date that you are to leave the property.
Where you have a fixed term AST, that is, your tenancy has a set time limit, for instance, for 6 months or a year, the landlord must give you notice should they wish to evict you during the fixed term.
Where you are at the end of a fixed term AST, and you are therefore aware of the date you should leave, the landlord may apply for a possession order. If you do not leave in accordance with the possession order, the landlord may apply for a possession warrant which would allow bailiffs to evict you.
Excluded tenancies or licenses
Generally, if you have this type of tenancy, you will be living in the same property as your landlord as a lodger.
In this scenario, the landlord has the right to evict you without applying to the courts as long as they give you what is deemed to be reasonable notice to quit. They are not obliged to provide that notice in writing. There are no exact definitions of reasonable in this context.
Once the period of notice is at an end, the landlord is within their rights to prevent your access into the property, although they are not allowed to keep your belongings and must return them to you.
Assured and regulated tenancies
Where your tenancy began prior to 27 February 1997 and your landlord does not live in the same property as you, it may well be an assured or regulated tenancy.
Your landlord must present you with a written notice. The notice period may range from 14 days to 2 months.
What is accelerated possession?
Accelerated possession is a form of eviction that takes less time than a normal eviction, because generally there is no court hearing involved.
It can only be used where the tenancy is on an assured shorthold or statutory period basis, there is a written tenancy agreement, at least 2 months’ written notice has been given, and the landlord has not requested that the tenant leave before a fixed term tenancy comes to an end.
The tenant must prove that the landlord has not followed the correct rules above if they wish to stop an accelerated possession.
The process for an accelerated possession is:
- The landlord makes an accelerated possession application to the courts.
- The courts send a copy of the application to the tenant.
- The tenant has 14 days to appeal.The judge considers whether a court hearing is required, if they feel further information is needed. Where the judge believes they have sufficient information, they will issue the possession order or deny it.
- Where the judge issues the possession order, the tenant has 2 to 4 weeks to move out of the property. This period may be extended to 42 days where the tenant can prove to the landlord that leaving the property earlier than 42 days will result in hardship.
- Should the tenant remain in the property beyond the 2 to 4 weeks or 42 days, the landlord has the right to use bailiffs to make the eviction.
Eviction court hearings
Before the court hearing takes place, you have the right to be fully informed of what will happen. This includes receiving a copy of any claim for possession forms (submitted by the landlord), a defence form (for you to use), and details of when and where the court hearing will take place.
If you decide to challenge the landlord’s eviction, complete the defence form and return it to the courts within 14 days. A failure to do this and any resulting delay may mean that you have to pay additional legal fees.
You may be eligible for free legal advice and representation in court in accordance with the Housing Possession Court Duty scheme. Your local council or court will be able to advise you on this.
It is always recommended that you attend the eviction court hearing.
The judge may:
- rule in favour of the tenant and deny the possession order
- delay the hearing until further information is provided, or the judge feels they can make a decision
- rule in favour of the landlord and grant the possession order
If the possession order is denied, perhaps because you have paid outstanding arrears, you may stay in the rented property. The landlord does, however, have the right to apply for a further possession order.
If the judge rules in favour of the landlord, this does not necessarily mean that you will be forced to leave the property. What happens next will depend on the type of possession order granted.
An outright possession order would require that you leave the property by the date stated in the order, generally 14 or 29 days after the hearing.
A suspended order for possession, however, may mean that it is possible for you to remain in the property if you pay back the rent arrears.
By contrast, a money order requires that you pay the amount stated in the order to the landlord. Failure to do so may result in further legal action including the involvement of bailiffs or the deduction of money from your bank account or earnings.
Where a possession order with a money judgement is granted, you may be liable for additional money to the arrears such as the landlord’s legal costs and any court fees.
How to make an appeal
If you wish to appeal against the judge’s decision, you must ask for permission to do so and demonstrate that mistakes were made in the original hearing.
Making an appeal will incur a court fee of up to £140, unless you are eligible for financial assistance.
Being evicted for rent arrears from a council or housing association property
Where you rent council or housing association accommodation and face eviction for rent arrears, you have the right to enter discussions with your landlord about the arrears and negotiate a repayment plan.
Should these discussions fail, you have a right to be notified of your landlord’s application to the courts to seek eviction. This will take the form of a written notice which must state that you are being evicted because of rent arrears. It is always recommended that you respond to a written notice and if the case goes to court, that you attend the court hearing.
You cannot be evicted from council or housing association accommodation without permission from the courts.
At the end of the court hearing, the decision will generally be one of the following:
- a possession order is issued to the council or housing association so that they may evict the tenant
- the application for eviction is denied and you are allowed to remain in the property
- a suspended or postponed possession order is issued with conditions on how you may avoid eviction, such as arranging a repayment plan to settle your rent arrears
Where a possession order is granted, it will inform you of the date when you must vacate the accommodation. If you refuse to leave, the council or housing association are within their rights to use bailiffs to carry out the eviction.
Harassment and illegal evictions
As a tenant, you have the right to not be harassed by your landlord and not be forced out of the property illegally. The landlord must use the correct procedures to seek and enforce an eviction.
Where you can prove that your rights have been violated, you have the right to take the landlord to court to claim damages.
If your landlord has been violent towards you, or threatened violence, contact the police.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.