Advice for evicting tenants
Evicting tenants can be a hard process. Perhaps the tenancy isn’t working out, or maybe things have changed. The landlord might need the property back as their main home, for example, or they may need to carry out vast repairs. Maybe the tenants are severely behind on their rent.
Whatever the reasons, it’s crucial landlords know the best practice for evicting tenants. Online estate agent easyProperty has put together this guide to help.
This guide covers:
Which notice do I need?
Discover which notice is right for you. Click on the chart below, or read on to learn more.
When to serve a Section 8 Notice
For Assured and Regulated tenancies, this is the notice landlords must serve.
Landlords in an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) can use a Section 8 Notice to end a tenancy due to a breach of contract, such as rent arrears.
If landlords serve a Section 8 Notice due to rent arrears, it’s vital they’ve protected the deposit. The fine for not doing so is up to three times the amount — paid to tenants. If a court grants this, it could bring tenants out of arrears and neutralise the grounds for possession.
For a successful claim, landlords should meet one or more mandatory grounds for possession. The grounds must be stated on the notice.
Once tenants have received notice, landlords must complete a ‘standard possession order’ form and apply to County Courts to evict tenants.
If the landlord meets one or more of these grounds, courts have no choice but to grant them possession.
Tenants need to know before a tenancy starts that possession may be sought under any of these grounds. It’s best to add any grounds that might be used to the tenancy agreement.
Ground 1: Landlord needs to live in property
The landlord or their spouse/civil partner needs the property as their main home. They must have previously lived there.
Ground 2: Property subject to mortgage
If the property has a mortgage that started before the tenancy, the lender may repossess the property. Tenants can be evicted under this ground if they knew before the tenancy began that the property may be taken back in this instance.
Ground 3: Holiday let
If the property is normally let as a holiday home (for example, in the summer) landlords can take back the property. The tenancy mustn’t be longer than eight months for this ground to apply, and the property must have been let as a holiday home the year before.
Ground 4: Educational institution
This applies to dwellings like student halls. Possession can be sought if the tenancy is fewer than 12 months, and the property belongs to an educational institution. It must have been let as a student home the year before.
Ground 5: Minister of religion
Used for when religious bodies need the property for a new minister to live in and to perform their duties.
Ground 6: Refurbishment
Landlords can take back the property if they need to do vast repairs which would make it uninhabitable. Landlords may have to pay for removal costs.
Ground 7: Tenant death
If a tenant dies, the tenancy may be passed on under the will of the deceased. Landlords can take back the property within 12 months after the tenant dies if the tenancy hasn’t passed on to a spouse or civil partner.
If rent is paid weekly or monthly, tenants must be in arrears by eight weeks or two months for this ground to apply.
Landlords can use any of the discretionary grounds when evicting tenants. However, this means a court can give tenants another chance, and landlords often pay the legal costs. It’s best to meet one or more of the mandatory grounds, so a judge has no choice but to evict tenants.
What if tenants won’t leave?
When to serve a Section 21 Notice
A Section 21 Notice is common for evicting tenants. It’s often called a “no fault” possession notice, as landlords don’t have to give a reason for taking back the property.
Section 21 Notices can only be served under Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs). For other types of tenancies, landlords must serve a Section 8 Notice.
To serve a Section 21 Notice correctly, landlords must:
- Have an AST agreement in place
- Have protected the deposit
- Have served tenants the Prescribed Information
- Have served tenants with the government guide, ‘How to Rent’
- Have a valid EPC and Gas Safety Certificate (if applicable)
- Have let the tenancy end, or used an appropriate break clause to end it
- Give tenants at least two months of notice.
If landlords haven’t done all seven points above, the Section 21 Notice will be invalid. Landlords may also need to prove to courts that the notice was served.
Landlords can download easyProperty’s Section 21 checklist and tick off each requirement as they go. Or get a Section 21 Notice now to start evicting tenants.
If landlords have completed all the above, and their tenants won’t leave after giving them two months of notice, they can apply for an accelerated possession order.
Accelerated Possession Order
The accelerated possession procedure often means landlords don’t have to go to court. A judge looks at the paperwork and, if everything is in order, grants a possession order with no hearing.
Landlords can complete a form and submit this (along with other paperwork) online. A fee must be paid.
It’s crucial all the paperwork is in order and the Section 21 Notice has been served correctly. If not, a judge may dismiss the case and the process must start all over again.
But if everything goes well, an order for possession will be granted.
What if tenants won’t leave?
When to serve a Section 8 and 21 Notice
In some situations, landlords can serve both a Section 8 and 21 when evicting tenants. They don’t cancel each other out as they serve different purposes.
For example, landlords could serve a Section 8 Notice and rely on one or more of the mandatory grounds to gain possession. But if the tenancy has ended — and the landlord has completed all seven points above — they can also serve a Section 21 Notice.
Should there be any issues with either notice, there is always the other as a backup. This can potentially save landlords a lot of time and money.
Landlords can serve a Section 8 if tenants are in rent arrears. But if tenants pay off some of the arrears by the time of the hearing, the grounds may no longer be valid. A valid Section 21 Notice could stop tenants undermining the claim.
If tenants have fallen into arrears, landlords can’t use a Section 21 to recover the funds. Only a Section 8 can grant a money order. If possession is a priority, landlords may want to cut their losses.
Evicting tenants: best practices
If landlords serve a Section 8 or 21 Notice, they need to prove to courts that it was served. Tenants can argue that they never received it, which could see a possession claim dismissed. There are three main options.
Whichever delivery method a landlord chooses, they must allow at least two working days to process — even if delivering in person. Once received, it’s usual for tenants to have at least two months to leave the property.
Professional process server
A professional process server can issue tenants legal documents, and will confirm they’ve been received. Professional process servers generally act for the legal profession. While they can be expensive, they are a sure-fire way to ensure tenants receive the served documents.
Delivery in person
Landlords can serve documents in person, but they still need evidence. If possible, ask tenants to sign upon receipt. Otherwise photos or videos showing it has been served will suffice.
Certificate of Posting
It’s highly recommended landlords serve two notices by First Class post from different post offices. For each, they should ask for a Certificate of Posting as proof the document was accepted by Royal Mail.
If tenants argue they never received notice, it’s unlikely a judge will accept that two documents — sent from different post offices — were lost on the way to the same property.
What you must NEVER do
It’s natural for landlords to want problem tenants out of the property. But evicting tenants must follow a set process.
Landlords can be prosecuted under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 if they interfere with the peace and comfort of tenants, or if they stop services needed to occupy the property.
If their behaviour causes tenants to leave, the eviction could be unlawful. Illegal eviction can lead to a hefty fine or even imprisonment.
In practice, this means:
No matter how frustrating evicting tenants gets, landlords must not take the law into their own hands.
Find new tenants
Prevention is better than cure
Before you allow tenants to move in, it’s highly recommended you have them referenced. Our easy Let Plus package includes referencing in it.
This blog serves as a guide to evicting tenants. When in doubt, you are strongly advised to seek legal advice.