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House repossession and eviction - Serving a Section 21 notice or a Section 8 notice
No landlord wants to forcefully evict their tenants, but there is almost certainly bound to come a time when you want to repossess your property, either to move back in yourself, to sell it, or you need to carry out extensive refurbishments.

There’s also the possibility that you might need to evict a rogue tenant who isn’t paying their rent or has broken the terms of their tenancy agreement.

 

How do You Evict a Tenant?

So, how do you go about it? Let’s walk through your options.

The simplest way to evict a tenant is to serve them with a Section 21 notice. This is also known as a “no fault eviction” as the landlord doesn’t need to give a reason for ending the tenancy.

It is also frequently used by landlords to evict tenants who are in rent arrears, those who are causing a nuisance or who have broken the terms of their contract in some other way as it’s much easier and sometimes faster than the alternative, which is to serve them with a Section 8 notice.

Once you’ve got the tenant out using a Section 21 notice, you still have the option of making a separate court claim for rent arrears or damage.

 

How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant?

What do you do if your tenant doesn’t leave by the date specified on the Section 21?

Well, what you mustn’t do is forcefully kick them out, tempting as this might be. Neither can you let yourself in to the property without their consent, change the locks or do anything else that could be construed as harassment of the tenant, otherwise you will be breaking the law.

 

Accelerated Possession Procedures

You must apply to court for “accelerated possession”. There isn’t usually a hearing, but it costs £355 to apply.

Your tenants will have 14 days to challenge the application for possession from the date they receive it from the court. A judge will then decide whether to issue them with a possession order or to hold a court hearing, which sometimes happens if your paperwork isn’t in order or your tenant raises an important issue.

If your tenants are in a particularly difficult situation, a judge might give them an extra six weeks to leave. Frustrating, we know, but this is still the easiest way to evict a tenant.

However, there are several restrictions with Section 21 notices. First of all, they can’t be served during the first four months of a tenancy if the tenancy started after October 2015, and they must give tenants at least two months’ notice. Also, they can’t be used to end a tenancy during the fixed term.

If you need to get rid of a rogue tenant during the first six months or before the fixed term is over, you will need to issue a Section 8 notice.


What is a Section 8 Notice?

To be able to evict a tenant under Section 8, you must be able to prove the tenant has done something wrong. This includes rent arrears (usually your claim will only succeed if they are at least two months’ behind both when you issue the S8 and at the time of the court hearing), damage to the property or anti-social behaviour. You can also issue an S8 notice to evict your tenant if you want to move back into the property yourself, but only if it was previously your home, or you need to carry out extensive work.

You must issue the Section 8 notice on a special form, which you can find at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/assured-tenancy-forms - form-3

How much notice you need to give your tenant varies from two weeks to two months, depending on the grounds for eviction; for rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or damage, it’s two weeks.

If a tenant who owes rent doesn’t leave at the end of the notice period, landlords in England and Wales can apply for a standard possession order online. The application will cost £325.

If you like, you can also apply by post, although this will take longer.

If your tenant isn’t in rent arrears but they have broken the terms of their lease, you must fill in a paper standard possession claim form and post is to your local court that deals with housing possession. It costs £355.

A court will then decide whether to grant you a possession order and, if it finds in your favour, it will order the tenant to leave, usually within 14 days. However, your tenant has the right to challenge the order and the court might rule in their favour. Even if your application succeeds, if an eviction would cause the tenant excessive hardship, the court can delay possession for up to six weeks.

Sometimes tenants ignore the possession order, which means you’ll then have to go back to court to apply for bailiffs to evict them.

Make sure you follow the procedures carefully and that all your paperwork is in order otherwise your eviction application will fail and you’ll have to start all over again.

As you can see, evicting a rogue tenant can be a long, stressful and expensive process. If possible, it is often better to reach an amicable arrangement with the tenant to leave, even if this means writing off rent arrears or agreeing not to pursue them for the cost of any damage.

Always keep in mind that the most important thing is to get your property back as fast as possible, but you must make sure you do nothing that could be construed as harassment, otherwise your tenant could sue you for illegal eviction. Remember, only bailiffs can evict a tenant.

If you do have to chase your tenant out through the courts, you might want to seek legal assistance. Alternatively, you might want to consider consulting specialist eviction services like Landlord Action.

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