For any residential landlord looking to clear a property it is essential to legally evict a tenant. If this is not done within the confines of the law then landlords can face serious penalties, including criminal sanctions. The process of legally evicting a tenant does not have to be complex – as long as the right steps are followed it can be relatively swift and straightforward.
7 Effective steps to legally evict a tenant
1. Identify the correct notice procedure
The first step to legally evict a tenant is to ensure that you serve the right notice at the right time. There are two options available:
– A Section 21 notice. There are specific circumstances in which this notice can be used, for example, at the end of a fixed term tenancy or where a break clause has been triggered. Landlords are not required to give a reason for terminating the tenancy.
– A Section 8 notice. Using this type of notice to legally evict a tenant requires grounds for eviction, such as unpaid rent. Tenants can challenge a Section 8 notice so it is necessary to have evidence to support the ground for eviction been relied upon.
2. Serve the notice at the right time
– A Section 21 notice should give the tenant at least two months to vacate the property and should be served in the prescribed form, including specifying a date for possession. This type of notice cannot be served during the first four months of a tenancy and can only be used to terminate the tenancy after the first six months of the tenancy.
– A Section 8 notice should cite one of the grounds set out in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988, such as rent arrears, nuisance or breach of contract. This type of notice is no guarantee of eviction, especially if the court agrees with the tenant in terms of whether there are grounds to evict. Between two weeks and two months’ notice will be required, depending on the ground(s) that are being used as the basis for eviction.
3. A possession order is essential when evicting a tenant
If a tenant refuses to leave after they have been served with either a Section 21 or Section 8 notice and the time limit in that notice has expired, the next step for a landlord to take is to obtain a possession order by issuing court proceedings If using the Section 21 notice procedure you may be entitled to use the ‘accelerated procedure’ which tends to be the quickest way to evict a tenant as there is not normally a court hearing.
If this is the route that you would like to use then a number of conditions must have been fulfilled, including providing tenants with a copy of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), the Government’s How to Rent Guide and a gas safety certificate. Protecting the tenant’s deposit is also necessary. If you do not fulfil these conditions this would invalidate a Section 21 notice and you would not be able to use this faster route. It is a criminal offence to evict a tenant if you do not have a possession order.
4. Choosing the appropriate court procedure
There are two ways in which you can obtain possession through court proceedings. As mentioned above, one is the ‘accelerated’ procedure. The other is the standard procedure, where you would have to go to court and attend a hearing.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, it may be more appropriate to issue proceedings through the standard procedure. We can provide guidance in this respect to help you choose the most appropriate court procedure.
5. Applying for a warrant for possession
If you have successfully obtained a possession order and a tenant still does not vacate the property then the next step is to apply for a warrant for possession. This warrant will enable the Court appointed bailiffs to legally remove the tenant from the property.
6. Landlords should avoid potential harassment at all costs
If legal eviction processes are not followed then tenants may have a claim for harassment against a landlord. This would include the obvious such as changing the locks but it can even be something as simple as a landlord asking a tenant to leave where the proper procedure has not been followed. Harassment is a crime and landlords who do it – even unintentionally – can face criminal sanctions. It may also provide an opportunity for a tenant to claim damages for the way that an eviction has been conducted.
7. If you’re not sure about the law, take advice
Legally evicting a tenant is a step-by-step process that requires landlords to closely adhere to what the law says and there are many technical hurdles which can easily trip up the unprepared landlord. If you’re not clear on your obligations or legal responsibilities, then it’s essential to seek advice before taking action.
If you are about to go through the process of evicting a tenant we can provide support and guidance at every stage.