Evicting tenants is a necessary but sometimes complicated process. There’s a wide range of reasons why you might want to evict a tenant, some of which fall within the normal operation of a tenancy, but some of which can be more stressful.
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However, the eviction process needn’t be complex, and by understanding the rules you can make sure that you stay on the right side of the law. So, here’s how to legally evict a tenant.
What is the eviction process?
To begin the eviction process, you first need to work out which of the two possession procedures you should use.
If the tenant owes you rent, you should use the ‘standard possession’ procedure. If you’re trying to evict a tenant for a reason other than unpaid rent, you may be able to use ‘accelerated possession’. We’ll learn more about accelerated possession later in the article.
It’s likely that your tenant is renting under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Under an AST, you need to follow a strict set of steps in order to regain possession.
First, if you are regaining possession at the end of the tenancy, you must serve a Section 21 notice to quit, sometimes referred to casually as a tenant eviction letter. You can find a template for this document at the Courts Service.
It is important to note that you must give the tenants at least two months’ notice if you are using a Section 21 notice. In addition, if the tenancy began after 1 October 2015, you must also complete Form 6a, designed for a no fault possession notice under an AST. You can download that here.
However, if the tenants have broken the terms of the agreement and you wish to regain possession during the term of the tenancy, you should use a Section 8 notice. You can download a template here. You must give details of which terms of the tenancy the tenants have broken, for example non-payment of rent. The Housing Act specifies 17 grounds on which you can regain possession through these means; you may wish to speak to a solicitor if you are unsure.
What if they won’t accept the notice?
It is not uncommon for tenants to refuse to accept the notice, for example by refusing to open the door. In these cases, you should go to the property with a witness and post it through the letterbox, before 5pm. The courts will then consider it delivered the next day.
However, often landlords wish to avoid confrontation with tenants. In these cases, you may wish to consider contracting with a professional server. Make sure you get a certificate of service from the agent to use in court.
What is a possession order?
Sometimes, however, the tenants refuse to leave on the specified date. In these cases, you should apply for a possession order. In some circumstances, you may be able to do this online here.
You can use the online possession claim service if the tenant owes you rent, or if they have broken the tenancy for other reasons, for example forfeiture. However, you cannot use the online service in cases where, for example, there has been a trespass on your property. In these circumstances, you need to complete and return the paper form.
If you use the online service, your application will cost £325, and you can track it using the government website. If you apply on paper, it costs £355.
What is accelerated possession?
Accelerated possession is a process that you may be able to use if your tenants have not left the property by the date specified on your Section 21 notice, and you are not claiming unpaid rent. You may also wish to use an accelerated possession even if you are claiming arrears, and then make a separate court claim for those.
The advantage of the accelerated possession process is that it is sometimes quicker than standard possession and, crucially, there is generally no court hearing, which can otherwise be stressful and disturbing for both landlord and tenant. You can download the forms for accelerated possession here.
After you have applied to the court, your tenants will receive a copy of the documents. They then have 14 days to respond. Following that, a judge will normally issue a possession order. However, if the tenants raise a reasonable challenge, or if you’ve made an error on the forms, a court hearing may still be scheduled.
What about excluded occupiers?
A tenant may be considered an excluded occupier if they live with you, sharing the kitchen, bathroom, or other common spaces.
In these cases, you don’t need to go to court, and you don’t have to give written notice. Instead, you must give only ‘reasonable notice’, and this can be delivered verbally if you prefer. Normally, ‘reasonable notice’ is considered the same as the rental term, so, for example, if rent is paid fortnightly you should give a fortnight’s notice.
If they refuse to leave by that date, the law gives you the right to change their locks.
Remember: this is just a guide. If you are in any doubt about your legal position, you should consult a solicitor.