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As a landlord, you hope for problem-free tenants who pay their rent on time and respect your property. However, the reality is that you may be faced with circumstances that lead to you having to evict a tenant.

Tenants are protected by law in many ways, but landlords equally are afforded certain rights and protections which can give rise to lawful evictions. Critically, landlords have to ensure they follow the correct eviction process.

How to legally evict a tenant

Most tenancy-related issues can be resolved between the landlord and tenant amicably and without legal action. But where issues persist or escalate, eviction should be seen as a measure of last resort for the landlord.

When evicting a tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), the two main legal eviction routes are by serving a Section 21 notice or serving a Section 8 notice. Both these notices are contained within the amended version of the Housing Act 1988.

A Section 21 notice is used if you are evicting a tenant after the fixed term of the tenancy agreement has ended. However, if you are evicting a tenant because they broke the terms of an ongoing tenancy, then you should serve a Section 8 notice.

In certain circumstances, it is possible that you may be able to serve both a Section 21 and a Section 8 notice.

How to evict a tenant: Section 21 notice

Prior to evicting a tenant by serving a Section 21 notice, you should first try to resolve matters with them. For instance, if your tenant is behind on their rent payments, then you should try to arrange a payment plan for them.

In England, there are several restrictions that apply to evicting a tenant via a Section 21 notice. Evicting a tenant by serving a Section 21 notice will not be possible if any of these scenarios apply:

  • The tenancy began within the last four months
  • The fixed term of the tenancy agreement has not yet finished (unless a clause in the contract allows you to serve notice during the fixed term period)
  • The property meets the criteria of a HMO and does not have a corresponding council licence
  • The tenancy began after April 2007, and the tenant’s deposit was not placed in a deposit protection scheme
  • The tenancy commenced after October 2015, and you did not use form 6a or issue a letter
  • The council issued an improvement notice regarding the property within the last six months
  • The council served notice to complete emergency work on the home in the last six months
  • You have not returned unlawful deposits or fees that were charged to the tenant
  • You did not provide the tenant with a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before they started renting your property
  • You did not provide the tenant with a copy of the How to Rent guide from the government and an up-to-date gas safety certificate for the property prior to them moving in.

To serve a Section 21 notice as a method of evicting a tenant, you need to fill in Tenancy Form 6A. This is for landlords evicting a tenant and seeking possession of their property on a no-fault basis. In other words, you should serve a Section 21 notice and complete this form if you are not evicting the tenant due to something they have done.

If you are evicting a tenancy by serving a Section 21 notice, but more than six months passes since it was issued, you will need to serve another Section 21 notice.

If the tenant has made a valid complaint about their living conditions within the property and you did not adequately handle it, then your tenant is within their right to inform the local authority. Once they have been informed, a Section 21 notice would be considered invalid for evicting a tenant.

How to evict a tenant: Section 8 notice

Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 lists the possible grounds for serving a Section 8 notice.

Common reasons for serving a Section 8 notice as a method of evicting a tenant are:

  • The tenant’s behaviour amounted to causing a nuisance (in the eyes of the law)
  • The tenant was behind on rent payments
  • The tenant caused extensive damage to the property

Section 8 notices can only be served as a way of evicting a tenant for assured tenancies, assured shorthold tenancies, and assured agricultural occupancy.

If you are evicting a tenant because they are behind on rent, you should make sure you have already provided the tenant with a postal address where they can send correspondence to you if needed. The address must be located in England or Wales. This is a necessary step before rent is considered to be due.

To serve a Section 8 notice as a method of evicting a tenant, you must ensure you fill in Form 3. Within the form, you will have to make reference to which tenancy terms have been breached.

What if a tenant still refuses to leave after being served notice?

In cases where your tenant still refuses to leave your property by the date given in the Section 8 notice, you should apply to the court to obtain a possession order.

To do so, you must locate the nearest County Court to the property and complete the following forms: N5, and a N119, N120 or N121. The N5 form is a claim for possession form, while the N119, N120 or N121 form handles the details of the claim itself. You should fill in a N119 form if you are evicting a tenant from a rented residential property, whereas the N120 form is used for mortgaged residential property. An N121 form should be completed in cases of trespass.

It is important to bear in mind that there are certain circumstances that may prevent you from evicting a tenant using the online service. These include situations where trespass has occurred and/or your tenant broke the lease terms. In these situations, you will need to complete paper forms instead and send them to the appropriate local court via post.
The total cost of evicting a tenant via a standard possession order is £355. It costs the same whether you file online or fill out paper versions of the forms. If you are applying via post, then you should include a cheque, payable to ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service’, with your application.

If the possession order expires and your tenant is still living in your property, then you will need to instruct a bailiff at the County Court to evict them.

It is also important to remember that the process of evicting a tenant via a standard possession order can take several weeks.

Is there a quicker process for evicting a tenant than a standard possession order?

If your tenant did not fall into rent arrears but is still refusing to leave the property after you have served a Section 21 notice, then you may be able to obtain an accelerated possession order. Before evicting a tenant using a standard possession order, however, you will need to wait until after the date stated in the Section 21 notice has passed. In other words, if your tenant remains in the property after that date, then you may apply for the accelerated possession order.

You cannot make an accelerated possession order if you only served a Section 8 notice, or if you are seeking overdue rent payments.

As the name suggests, an accelerated possession order can be faster than seeking a standard possession order. There is usually no court hearing involved and the process costs £355.

Whether you are evicting a tenant via a standard possession order or an accelerated possession order, the court will send a copy of your completed forms to the tenant, who will then be given two weeks to respond. The judge may extend the amount of time your tenant can take to respond if your tenant is having significant difficulty.

Do possession orders always result in the eviction of the tenant?

It is important to bear in mind that an order for possession is not guaranteed to result in the eviction of a tenant. While it is an important method of evicting a tenant, and you may feel it is necessary, the judge may not grant the possession order. For example, if the judge finds that your tenant has adequately remedied the breach that you were using as grounds to previously serve a Section 8 notice, then the possession order you applied for may be denied.

Do private landlords need to have grounds for evicting a tenant?

If the tenancy has reached the end of a fixed term, then as a private landlord, there is no obligation to provide a reason for evicting a tenant. However, you must ensure you have served the correct notice. You can still apply for a possession order if they do not leave, provided you served the right notice.

Can you evict a tenant during the fixed term of the tenancy?

Whether you can evict a tenant within the fixed term of the tenancy will depend upon the reason you are seeking to evict them. You cannot evict a tenant during the fixed term without grounds for doing so.

If you are looking to evict them due to unpaid rent or antisocial behaviour, then you may be successful. The same can be said of evicting a tenant whose tenancy agreement has a break clause. In other words, a clause that permits you as the landlord to attempt to regain the property without waiting for the fixed term to finish.

In cases where the fixed term is still ongoing, however, if the tenant does not leave after serving notice, a possession order would require the tenant to have been living there a minimum of six months before it can take effect.

How much notice do you give before evicting a tenant?

In England, evicting a tenant via a Section 21 notice requires you to give the tenant a minimum of two months’ notice to vacate your property. It may be that your tenant has a contractual periodic tenancy, which means the fixed-term tenancy has finished but there is a clause in the contract that allows the tenancy to continue on a periodic basis. If this is the case, then you must give further notice that matches their rental period. For instance, if the tenant pays you their rent every four months, then you have to give four months’ notice.

You should also retain evidence of giving notice. For example, a completed N215 form tells the court that notice was served.

By contrast, the period of notice you are required to give when evicting a tenant via a Section 8 notice will vary based on the grounds for the eviction. The required notice period for evicting a tenant, however, is usually a minimum of anywhere between two weeks and two months.

How long does it take to lawfully evict a tenant?

How long evicting a tenant takes will vary depending on whether they leave the property within the timeframe specified in the notice you have given. For example, if you serve a Section 21 notice, which gives tenants two months’ notice, your tenant may vacate your property within this timeframe.

Section 8 notices can be quicker, depending on the grounds for eviction. This is because the notice you are required to give varies from two weeks to two months. So, if you can issue a Section 8 notice and the tenant leaves your property as requested, the process from when you serve notice to when your tenant moves out could take as little as two weeks.

In cases where the tenant refuses to leave the property within the given timeframe, you may need to seek a possession order, which can be a lengthy and costly process. It is advisable to use the accelerated possession order if you can, as it is quicker than a standard possession order. However, it can still take around two to three months to obtain the order. You will only be able to apply for an accelerated possession order if the tenancy agreement is an assured shorthold tenancy.

What are the costs of evicting a tenant?

When it comes to evicting a tenant, costs can vary depending on whether the tenant leaves before the specified date in the Section 8 or Section 21 notice. If they do, your costs should be kept to a minimum.

However, if you need to seek a standard or accelerated possession order, then you will need to pay the £355 sum for this.

If your claim for evicting your tenant reaches the courts and you are unsuccessful, you could be forced to pay your tenant’s legal fees too. This can be quite costly, especially if they qualified for legal aid.

Common eviction errors to avoid

When evicting a tenant, it is possible that you will get the process wrong. Depending on how much proof there is of illegal eviction, the local council may begin legal proceedings on the tenant’s behalf. Make sure you know the laws on how to evict a tenant and avoid the following:

  • Not providing the tenant with the correct notice period for vacating the property
  • Changing any locks
  • Evicting them without having a court order

Unlawful eviction is considered a crime and can result in your tenant seeking damages in court. If they obtain damages due to discrimination, then your tenant could stop the eviction from taking place and the court may offset the damages awarded against any rent owed. Discrimination in relation to eviction includes sexual harassment and not making necessary changes to accommodate the tenant’s disability.

Evicting a Tenant FAQs

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Legal disclaimer

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.

Author

How to Evict a Tenant Legally 1

Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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