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How To Evict A Tenant – A Simple Guide for Landlords

The process of renting should be simple, however landlords are likely to face issues during their time managing a property, or they may simply face a change of circumstances resulting in the need to evict a tenant. 

Initiating possession proceedings is not pleasant, but needs to be conducted according to the strict procedures which ensures landlords are not accused of harassing and illegally evicting their tenants. In this situation, seeking advice from an experienced residential property solicitor is a way to ensure the process is as smooth as possible and can often help to avoid lengthy court proceedings. 

Why would a landlord want to evict a tenant?

Sometimes an eviction has more to do with the landlord and their plans, for example:

  • Wanting to move back into the property themselves
  • Wanting to sell the property 

Sometimes an eviction is down to the actions of the tenants themselves which break the terms of their tenancy agreement, for example not paying rent on time or at all (called being ‘in arrears’), or causing damage to the property.

In this situation it may be sensible  for landlords to try and resolve any disputes with tenants before serving notice. For example, working with the tenant to manage rent arrears or agree a rent repayment plan if they have rent arrears.

What are the legal grounds for evicting a tenant? 

Regardless of the severity of the landlord’s need to evict their tenant, they are ultimately beholden to the rules of the tenancy they have in place. The legal grounds for evicting a tenant depends on the type of tenancy. 

Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)

The most common form of tenancy is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). Most new private rental tenancies are automatically this type as well as most tenancies started after 15 January 1989.

Periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancies

These are tenancies that run week by week, month by month or year to year with no fixed end date. In this circumstance a landlord will need to give notice to their tenant, often referred to as a ‘notice to quit’. The landlord does not  need to give a particular reason to the tenant, and the process is initiated via a Section 21 eviction notice, which is commonly referred to as a  ‘no fault’ eviction notice.

Fixed Term Assured Shorthold Tenancies

A fixed term tenancy means that there is a fixed period of time within which a landlord cannot evict a tenant unless they have grounds to do so. For example, unless there is a break clause in the middle of a year-long fixed term rental contract, the landlord would need to wait until the end of the year before evicting the tenant, unless they could demonstrate that the tenant is at fault in some way. 

A Section 21 ‘no fault’ notice can be served with an expiry date that coincides with the last day of the fixed term period. However, before this arrives, a ‘Section 8’ notice will need to be given and this will cite ‘grounds’ for eviction which can include:

  • The tenant being behind with rent payments (‘in arrears’)
  • Using the property for illegal purposes, like selling drugs
  • Damage to the property

With both Section 21 and Section 8 notices there are conditions that must be met to ensure that they are legally valid. An experienced solicitor will ensure landlords cover all bases before proceeding with an eviction under each circumstance. 

Assured Tenancies

Assured Tenancies are much rarer and provide more protection from eviction. A tenancy is likely to be an assured tenancy if the tenant moved in between 15 January 1989 and 27 February 1997 and can be either periodic and fixed term. An eviction will need to follow either the Section 21 or Section 8 procedure in accordance with the Housing Act of 1988. 

Excluded Tenancies (ET)

Excluded tenancies typically provide less protection for tenants from eviction. Lodgers and subtenants living with the landlord and sharing the facilities, such as a kitchen and bathroom tend to have these. Excluded tenancies can also be fixed or periodic. Landlords can’t evict a tenant during the fixed term period, but once this is complete, they don’t need any ‘grounds’.

Once the fixed term has ended, or if the ET is a periodic one, the landlord must give the tenant the same notice as their rent period, e.g., one month if the rent is paid monthly, and this does not need to be in writing although it is wise to put the notice in writing so that there is a clear written record.  There is no need to follow the Section 21 notice procedure in these circumstances. Landlord’s also don’t need to get a possession order from the court either, they just need to give reasonable notice, and then, following the expiry of the notice, they can change the locks on the tenant’s room even with their possessions inside (although they will have to give back the tenant’s possessions).

What is the legal process of evicting a tenant?

Giving notice 

In cases where a section 21 notice is given, the landlord must give at least 2 months written notice that they want the property back (‘notice to quit’), and the date given on the notice must be at least 6 months after the original tenancy began.

For a section 8 notice, a landlord only needs to give two weeks notice under certain grounds before escalating the eviction if the tenant doesn’t leave. 

A standard possession order 

If the tenants don’t leave after having been given notice, the next stage for a landlord is applying to the court for a standard possession order which can also help with claiming unpaid rent. If the landlord isn’t attempting to claim unpaid rent, they can apply for an accelerated possession order. 

Warrant for possession

The eviction can be escalated even further by applying for a warrant for possession if the tenants still will not leave which means bailiffs can remove the tenants from the property.

How long can evicting a tenant take? 

Depending on the length of time it takes the tenant to vacate the property an eviction can take a matter of weeks or several months. It is important to bear in mind that if the landlord involves a lawyer early on, they are more likely to avoid lengthy and costly court proceedings. Eric Robinson’s tenant eviction specialists offer an expert eviction service, helping clients deal with their case quickly and efficiently.

A section 21 eviction

As a general rule, because a landlord is required to give 2 months notice in a section 21 eviction, this is the minimum time a tenant can be expected to take to leave the property.

The next phase, if the tenant doesn’t leave, is a possession order which is harder to predict. The landlord has 4 months from the end of the notice period to apply, and from this time it can take several months to get the court order because it depends how busy the court is and if a hearing is needed.  

This second stage is not binding and the tenant can still stay after receiving this court order. Only court bailiffs can evict a tenant and this process can also take a landlord several weeks to arrange. The bailiffs themselves also must give the tenant 2 weeks notice of their eviction date. 

All in all, it is reasonable to assume the whole process could take anywhere up to a year.

A section 8 eviction 

In theory, a section 8 notice can be more rapid. This is because if the landlord cites grounds such as a breach of tenancy agreement or damage to property, they only need to give 14 days notice before initiating possession proceedings unlike the two months required for a section 21 notice. 

How much will the process cost?

Landlords will likely incur costs in all phases of the eviction process with the average total ranging from £1000 – £3000.

Court fees will be cheaper going through County Courts compared to the High Court but even so, applying to the court for a standard possession order costs £355, while an accelerated possession order (if the landlord is not claiming for rent arrears) costs £275.

If the tenant does not vacate after the possession order, the next step is to apply for a warrant for possession, costing £130. In addition, landlords may need to employ a bailiff to evict the tenant as well as the cost of solicitor’s fees. 

Eric Robinson offers fixed fees inclusive of VAT for the service of an initial letter and notices, and in relation to residential possession claims, we can offer fixed fee services for landlords seeking possession via the section 8 and/or the section 21 route. Please get in touch to discuss your specific circumstances for an accurate fee.

How Eric Robinson Solicitors can help

At Eric Robinson Solicitors we have many years’ experience advising commercial and residential landlords on how to evict their tenants. 

Our expert lodger and tenant eviction solicitors will expertly guide you through the eviction process and we will also assist with seeking to recover financial losses such as rent arrears and legal costs. 

Contact Eric Robinson Solicitors today for expert landlord and tenant advice on 02380 218 000, or simply fill out our contact us form.