A step-by-step guide to tenant eviction in England
Unless you’re an exceptionally lucky landlord, you will have to deal with evicting a tenant at least once in your career. Since you got to this page, you’re probably considering an eviction right now. We won’t lie, it can be quite a distressing experience. But we promise that as long as you follow the rules, it will be a straightforward process. We prepared this step-by-step eviction guide to keep you on the right side of the law can make things as easy and clear as possible.
The first thing you need to know is that eviction procedures will differ based on what type of agreement you have with your tenants. For private tenancies, the most common contract is the assured shorthold tenancy (also known as an AST). There are two types of AST:
- fixed-term tenancy – runs for a set amount of time
- ‘periodic’ tenancy – runs week by week or month by month with no fixed end date. A periodic tenancy can also arise when a fixed term tenancy expires and is not renewed for another fixed term.
Another type of tenancy that has become very rare nowadays is the assured or regulated tenancy. Your tenants might be on it if they started their tenancy before 27 February 1997. If this is the case, different eviction rules will apply.
2. Serving a notice
If your renters are on an AST, the eviction process must start with you giving a “notice seeking possession” to your tenants.
2.1 Serving a section 21 notice
If you simply don’t want your tenants to continue living on your property at the end of the tenancy or you want to trigger an agreed break clause, you must start by serving a valid section 21 notice of possession.
Technically, a section 21 is not an eviction notice. It’s a notice to inform your renters that you wish to recover possession, so you don’t have to give any reason for your decision. But if your tenants choose to ignore your notice you might have to present it in court, and you won’t be able to enforce it in court unless everything has been done by the book. To serve a correct section 21 notice, you must follow these rules:
- You must give the tenant at least two months’ notice using the prescribed form of the notice.
- It can’t be served during the first 6 months of the tenancy.
- The notice is only valid for six months from the date it was issued. If possession proceedings are not issued during the six month period, another notice will have to be served.
- If your renter makes a legitimate complaint about the condition of your property and you fail to deal with it, they may then refer the matter to the local housing authority. A section 21 notice issued after the initial complaint will be invalid once the local housing authority notice is served.
- You must use form 6A to make a section 21 notice. Hand the form together with your Section 21 notice letter.
- For a Section 21 to be valid, you must have given your tenant the following information at the start of the tenancy:
- A Gas Safety Certificate
- An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- The ‘How to Rent‘ guide, this guide must be given to a tenant at the start of any new tenancy.
You must be aware that you cannot use a section 21 if you or your letting agent don’t protect your tenant’s deposit. The tenant can also raise a claim against you for the return of the deposit and a penalty of as much as three times its original value.
If you have respected all the rules above, you are entitled to possession by default if a section 21 notice was served. However, if your tenant becomes difficult or refuses to leave never reply in a way that could be regarded as harassing or anti-social. This could result in them claiming harassment damages in court.
2.2 Serving a section 8 notice
What if your tenants have broken the terms of the agreement? You will need to start the eviction process by giving your tenants a Section 8 notice. You will have to fill in a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy’ which can be downloaded here.
You will need to specify which terms of the tenancy have broken. The most common reasons for evicting a tenant are rent arrears, damage or disrepair to the property and nuisance.
A section 8 notice should be your last resort. If you end up in court, the outcome might not go your way, especially if the tenant has remedied the breach that you relied on to seek possession. Even if that didn’t happen, a judge in court may not decide in your favour.
So it is best to start by trying to convince your tenant to reach a mutual agreement before serving a section 8. You might want to consider a Section 21 notice instead, particularly if it’s approaching the end date of the agreed tenancy or it is a periodic tenancy.
2.3 What if my tenants won’t accept the notice?
Sometimes, difficult renters will refuse to accept the notice. The correct way do deal with this issue is by going to the property with a witness and posting it through the letterbox, before 5pm. The courts will then consider it delivered the next day.
A second choice for you is to use a professional server, but remember to get a certificate of service from them to use in court.
2.4 What if my tenant lives with me?
If your tenant lives with you, sharing the kitchen, bathroom, or other common spaces, you don’t have to give any written notice. You must give a ‘reasonable notice’ that can be delivered verbally. Normally, ‘reasonable notice’ is considered the same as the rental term, and if they refuse to leave by that date, the law gives you the right to change their locks.
3. Making a possession order
If your renters don’t leave the property by the date specified on the notice, you will need to escalate by applying to the court for a possession order. There are two types of possession orders you can use:
- a standard possession order if your tenants owe you rent and you served either a section 8 or 21 notice
- an accelerated possession order if you’re not claiming any unpaid rent and you served a section 21 notice
It’s good to know that if for whatever reason want to get your property back faster but your tenant still owes you rent arrears, you could still use an accelerated procedure then make a separate court claim for the rent arrears.
3.1 Making a standard possession order
A standard possession order costs £325.
You can do it at the County Court for the area where the property is situated, or use the possession claim online service, which will allow you to fill in court forms online and track how the claim is progressing.
3.2 Making an accelerated possession order
This option will get you back in possession of your property faster than a standard order and usually there is no court hearing. From the issue of proceedings to receipt of the order for possession, it can take between six and ten weeks.
The court fee for this procedure is £355. You will need to fill in the appropriate forms and send them to the County Court for the area where the property is situated.
The court will notify the tenant, who can lodge an objection within 14 days.
In a successful outcome, you will get an order for possession without a hearing (normally enforceable 14 days after the order is made) and the tenant will have to pay the court fee.
If the paperwork is not in order or if your tenant raises an important issue in their objection, there might be a court hearing.
4. Applying for a Warrant for Possession
If the possession order has expired and your tenants are still on the property, the last step is to ask the court for a warrant of possession and arrange for a bailiff to evict them. This will cost £121 and may take a further 4 to 6 weeks.
You can speed up the process by applying to have the warrant transferred from the county court to the High Court, in which case a high court enforcement officer will carry out the eviction.
You must be aware that even at this stage you tenants will be able to ask for a suspension at a new hearing. For example, if they can make payments again the judge can delay the eviction or let your tenants stay in the property.
5. Howsy introduces: Free Eviction Service
We provide a fixed fee property management service that covers everything for landlords: from finding tenants to rent collection, repairs, 24/7 service etc.
While our checking and referencing process is top-of-class, sometimes a tenancy will go wrong despite everybody’s best efforts. If you are a Howsy Landlord and your tenants passed our referencing process, including guarantor backed tenancies, our Free Eviction Service will handle the entire eviction process on your behalf and cover the bill.
For any questions about Howsy or our Free Eviction Service, chat to us, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 0330 999 1234
Disclaimer: this guide is for informative purposes only, if you need advice specific to a particular situation please get in touch with a solicitor.