How to evict a rogue tenant? What you need to know!
The reality of letting your property is that unfortunately you never know who you are renting to and sometimes you are left in a position where you have no other choice but to evict the tenant living in your property. This can be a lengthy process and in this article we will guide you through the basics of avoiding letting to a potentially rogue tenant and will provide tips on how to get rid of your rogue tenant.
How to avoid letting a property to a rogue tenant?
There are some steps you can take to ensure you are letting to a reputable tenant who will look after your property. One of these is getting your tenants fully referenced by a referencing agency.
A tenant reference will confirm your tenant’s identity and ensure they are financially stable enough to afford the rent. This will further allow you to take out a Legal Expenses & Rent Guarantee Insurance policy, which will cover you in case things going wrong. As part of this reference various factors are taken into account and checked such as the possible tenant’s employment and income being confirmed, their credit score, any outstanding CCJs and optionally a reference will be obtained from their previous landlord.
When you rent out your property ensure you meet with the tenant as well, get to know the basics about them as this will give you piece of mind. Trust is important and should be established from the start for a successful tenancy.
What to do if your tenant turns out to be an unpleasant surprise?
There are many reasons why you might decide you no longer want your tenant to live at your buy to let property. One of the most common is your tenant stops paying rent and another could be that you visit your property to find it is in an unacceptable state and you no longer want them to live in the property.
Ideally, you will have a record of the payments made to you for rent. This can be in the form of a bank statement which shows money going into your account from your tenants on a regular basis. This means you can keep track of any payments missed and act accordingly and swiftly. Furthermore, you should have proof no payment has been made to you. If you have not done so, note down any telephone calls, print e-mails and make copies of any letters you send to your tenants. This is all evidence you will need to serve a court order as the court’s forms require an explanation of the steps the landlord took to recover the arrears.
Before taking any legal action make sure you have exhausted all the other options of getting your rent arrears. We have written about this previously in How to retrieve a missed rental payment?
Once you are sure you have done everything in your power to get your rent back you need to decide which Section of the Housing Act is applicable to the situation. One option is to serve your tenant with a Section 8 which operates under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. It is essentially a notice of possession given when a landlord intends to regain possession of their property with authority. This notice can be served at any time during a short term tenancy which is the most common tenancy type in the UK. It can only be served if a tenant has breached one or more of the 17 conditions mentioned under Section 8 of the Housing Act which include not paying rent and damaging the property. To issue a Section 8 notice, your tenant needs to be behind on rent by the following amounts:
- If rent is paid weekly or fortnightly, the tenant must owe at least eight weeks’ rent
- If rent is paid monthly, the tenant must owe at least two months’ rent
- If rent is paid quarterly (which is common in commercial properties), at least one month’s rent must be overdue by at least a quarter
- If rent is paid annually, at least one quarter’s rent must be at least one quarter overdue
Section 8 notices can only be issued on standard forms supplied by the courts. You need to obtain these from legal stationers or can download online here (Form 3). You will need at least three copies of the notice. There are a number of common mistakes which can make your notice invalid meaning your case will be thrown out of court and you will have to go through the process again. These mistakes include:
- Failure to use the most up-to-date form
- Failure to give the full and proper address of the property on the form
- Failure to list every tenant in cases of joint tenancy
- Failure to provide details of the claim; for example, a payment schedule showing which payments have been missed
- Failure to state the grounds exactly as they appear in the Housing Act.
You can serve a Section 8 notice to a tenant either in person or by post. If you intend to serve it by post, make sure that you choose a method that offers proof of postage. Serving in person is generally more efficient, as the tenant cannot claim not to have received the document. As long as you have a witness happy to testify in court in case anything goes wrong, you can put the document in the tenant’s letterbox. When you serve a Section 8 notice and your tenant is in rent arrears, has caused damage to the property or there are issues with anti-social behavior, you only need to give the tenants two weeks to move out.
If the tenant fails to move out by the date specified on the notice you can then apply online for a Standard Possession Order at a cost of £325 – you can also apply by post but the process will take longer. However if your tenant isn’t in rent arrears but they have broken the terms of their lease you must fill in a paper standard possession claim form and post it to your local court that deals with housing possession at a cost of £355. The court then decides whether to grant you a possession order and if it does it will order the tenant to leave usually within 14 days. However, your tenant has the right to challenge this order and the court might rule in their favour. Furthermore, even if your application is successful, if an eviction would cause the tenant excessive hardship the court can delay the possession for up to six weeks. If your tenant has ignored the possession order, you have to go back to court and apply for bailiffs to evict them. Make sure you follow the procedures carefully and that any paperwork is in order otherwise your eviction application may fail and you will have to apply all over again, incurring additional costs and hassle.
The other notice is a Section 21 notice which can only be served after the tenancy term has finished. You cannot serve this notice within the first four months of a tenancy if it started after October 2015, it cannot be used to end a tenancy during the fixed term and it must give tenants at least two months’ notice. However, Section 21 notices tend to be the first choice for many landlords as they are also called “no fault evictions” because the landlord does not need to give a reason for ending the tenancy and therefore does not need to provide any evidence to kick the tenant out. It tends to be the faster and easier alternative and although you’ve got the tenant out using a Section 21 notice, you still have the option of making separate court claims for rent arrears or damage to the property.
To serve the tenant with a Section 21 notice you can download the form here (Form 6A). Remember you need to give your tenant two months to move out of the property when you serve this notice. You can do this by post with proof of postage or in person.
If your tenant does not leave by the date specified on the Section 21 notice you must not forcefully kick them out, let yourself into the property without their consent, change the locks or do anything else that can be construed as harassment of the tenant as you will be breaking the law.
The appropriate step is to apply to court for “accelerated possession”. There isn’t usually a hearing but the cost is £355 and this is normally quicker than applying for the standard possession order due to no hearing. Your tenants will have 14 days to challenge the application for possession from the date they receive it from the court. A judge then decides whether to issue them with a possession order or to hold a court hearing, which sometimes happens if your paperwork is not in order or your tenant raises an issue which the court sees as important.
Again with this process, if your tenants are in a particularly difficult situation a judge might give them an extra six weeks to leave.
The most important thing you need to remember when you are considering evicting a tenant is to do everything by the book in order to ensure you are successful.
At Discount Landlord we provide a range of Rent & Legal Protection products to help you cover the costs of a defaulting tenant and legal costs of evicting a tenant with prices starting from just £45.00 per annum.