How to evict a tenant

Understanding the law

For private landlords, gaining possession of their property at the end of a tenancy can sometimes be a traumatic experience. And for landlords who only use the process on an occasional basis, all the rules and regulations can appear daunting.

Fail to get the eviction process right and you may find yourself back at square one with your tenants still in occupation. So if you are in any doubt about the correct eviction process, we would suggest you obtain advice from a solicitor or one of the companies that specialise in this area of work.

To help point you in the right direction, we have prepared a simple 3-step summary of the eviction process.

But remember this is only intended as general guidance, it is not legal advice and unless you know exactly what you are doing, it may be sensible to appoint someone to act on your behalf.

Step 1 – Serve a notice of seeking possession

For properties let on an assured short-hold tenancy agreement, landlords will usually regain possession of their property by serving a notice of seeking possession under Section 8 or Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

With the more commonly used Section 21 notice, the tenant does not need to be in breach of the tenancy and you do not need to give a reason for wanting the property back. The rules for serving a Section 21 notice changed on 1 October 2015 and you can find out more information on our website here.

To use a Section 8 notice, the landlord needs to satisfy one or more of the mandatory or discretionary grounds for possession. For example, rent arrears or failing to comply with the conditions in the tenancy agreement. This is a more complicated procedure and we would suggest you seek further advice if you intend to follow this route.
Step 2 – Apply for a possession order

If your tenant does not vacant the property by the expiry date on the Section 8 or Section 21 notice, you will need to apply to the County Court for a possession order. Once granted, the possession order will state a date by which your tenant must leave.

If you suspect that the tenant may refuse to leave and want to fast track the process, you can seek the Court’s permission to transfer the case up to the High Court at the same time as applying for the possession order. See Step 3 for more information.

It is important to note that some council housing advice services suggest private tenants should remain living in the property until bailiffs have been instructed to evict them. This avoids them becoming homeless and delays any potential rehousing obligation. Thus, it is likely you may have to follow step 3 in the process, as outlined below.

Remember - under no circumstances must the landlord go round to the property and take steps to try and force the tenant to leave. Harassment and illegal eviction are criminal offences and you could face an unlimited fine and up to six months imprisonment!

Step 3 – Organise the eviction

If your tenant refuses to leave by the date given in the possession order, you can apply to the County Court for a warrant of possession.

Once granted, the court will arrange for a bailiff to evict the tenant from your property. This can be quite a slow process and the bailiff will normally write to the tenant to let them know when the eviction will take place.

Alternatively, for a faster response you can seek assistance from a High Court Enforcement Agent (HCEA) who can apply to the High Court for a Writ of Possession. This first requires an application to the County Court for an order transferring the proceedings to the High Court under Section 42(2) of the County Courts Act 1984. This application can be made at the same time as the applying for the possession order, as explained in Step 2.

If you follow this route and the Writ is granted, the tenant does not have to be given prior notice of the date the HCEA will take possession of the property, thereby minimising the risk of any damage to the property before they get evicted.

Which route you follow is really up to you. Once a possession order has been obtained, we understand an eviction can take around 2 to 3 months using County Court bailiffs, whereas using High Court Enforcement Agents could reduce this to as little as 7 - 10 days, which enables you to re-let the property much more quickly. A lot of landlords are still unaware of this alternative fast-track approach.

One company offering this service is High Court Solutions who you may have seen in action on the Channel 5 series “Can’t pay? We’ll take it away!”. They offer landlords a full service from obtaining the possession order to evicting the tenant. For more information, you can contact Mark Noble, Client Service Director on Tel 07974 516998.

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