How to evict tenants legally and fairly
Eviction is an absolute last resort; no landlord wants to turf people out of their home. But sometimes circumstances mean a landlord has little or no choice.
Evictions are rare, perhaps far more so than the popular image of evil landlords ruthlessly kicking out tenants. According to government figures, 90% of tenancies are ended by the tenant. Of the tenancies ended by the landlord, the majority are terminated because of rent arrears.
Legislation around eviction is changing and it is important for landlords to understand how this could affect them. If you do not follow correct procedures you may be guilty of harassing or illegally evicting your tenants. Seek legal advice where necessary. Having legal expense and rent guarantee cover on your landlord insurance will help with the financial burden should you face an eviction situation
Here’s an overview of what you need to know about evicting tenants fairly and legally in England and Wales.
Why evict tenants?
There are many reasons for having to ask your tenants to leave. Perhaps you are an accidental landlord who is now looking to move into or sell the property you inherited. Personal circumstances, such as relationship break ups or money worries, could also necessitate you wanting to leave the buy-to-let market.
Other times, it may be that the tenants have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement, for example they are in rent arrears, have damaged the property or there have been complaints of continued anti-social behaviour.
How you ask tenants to leave
As the law stands at the moment, if you’re looking to notify your tenant that you’d like them to leave your property you can serve either a Section 21 or Section 8 notice under the Housing Act 1988.
A Section 21 notice is a way of taking back possession of your property at the end of a fixed term tenancy agreement or to trigger a break clause. With a Section 21 you do not need to give any reason to claim repossession but you must give your tenants no less than two months notice and it must be in writing using a 6a form Section 21 notice.
Be accepting and understanding if a tenant is unhappy with the decision. Do not react in a way that could cause the tenant to take you to court on harassment charges.
If the notice is correctly served – and it’s absolutely vital to get dates and the notice period right – a landlord gets possession of the property by default once the two months are up.
- You can not service a Section 21 notice in the first four months of a tenancy
- The notice is only valid for six months
- If the tenant makes a complaint about the condition of the property to the local authority and it is deemed legitimate, a Section 21 notice issued after a local housing authority notice is served will be void
- A form 6a can’t be served if a landlord fails to carry out repairs or solve a problem in the property raised by the tenant (this is also known as a retaliatory eviction) or if the property isn’t adequately equipped with smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms on each storey.
- A Section 21 is only valid if a tenant is provided with a Gas Safety Certificate, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and the ‘How to Rent‘ guide at the start of their tenancy
But Section 21 is set to be scrapped as part of sweeping government reforms to the buy-to-let sector. If the Section 21 is banned after the consultation period, landlords will have to rely on Section 8.
A Section 8 is served if a tenant has breached the tenancy agreement – the most common reasons are not paying rent, damaging property or being a nuisance. If the tenant disputes the eviction notice, you could end up in court where you will need to layout your reason for wanting to terminate the agreement and provide evidence for these reasons.
If your tenant owes you rent and claims Universal Credit or Housing Benefit you may be able to have rent paid directly to you instead of evicting them.
In order to serve a Section 8 you must:
- Fill in a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy’
- Give details on the exact terms in the agreement that have been breached
- Give your tenants between two weeks and two months notice
- Apply to the court for a possession order if your tenants have not left the property by a specified date
Try and seek a solution with your tenants before serving a Section 8. Going to court is time consuming, costly and stressful for all parties, and a judge may not rule in your favour.
What if the tenant refuses to leave?
If you have served your tenants with a Section 21 and/or a Section 8 notice and they have not left by the specified date you can apply for a possession order.
If you served a Section 21, there is a tenancy agreement in writing and you’re not seeking to claim any unpaid rent, you can apply for an accelerated possession order. This can be quicker and usually avoids a court hearing, although a court fee does need to be paid before proceedings can take place.
Proceedings can take between six and 10 weeks providing they are not held up by incorrectly filled out paperwork or the tenants raise a legitimate objection.
Should you wish to claim rent arrears and get your property back, and have served a Section 8 or 21 notice, you can use a standard possession claim.
Once the possession claim has been served and the tenant still refuses to vacate the property you will need to apply for a warrant for possession which means the Country Court Bailiff can evict your tenants. The warrant will cost you £121 as of August 2019. You can also apply for a writ of possession for £61 which will take your claim to the High Court and could secure you a faster eviction.
Read the government’s guide here (https://www.gov.uk/evicting-tenants) for more information on how to evict tenants legally.
Discount Landlord offers a range of Rent Guarantee and Legal Expenses Insurance products that cover against unwanted legal fees and the cost of tenant disputes and eviction. Call us on 0800 294 4522 to find out more!