If you are buying or already own a property with the intention of letting it out to tenants, then knowing what to do when you want your tenants to move out is as important as knowing how much rent it’s worth and what type of agreement you need them to sign. Evicting Tenants is a broad topic in law and can be a costly affair if you do not get it right.
The Current Law
Landlords currently have the option to evict tenants from their property at the end of the tenancy for any reason at all, or even no reason. However, it is likely that this will soon be changing, meaning you may need to have a valid reason to evict someone, even if the tenancy has come to an end. This could affect people purchasing properties specifically with the reason of renting it out. We would, therefore, recommend you obtain further advice on this before you decide on how to proceed.
We have put some brief information below.
The process that Landlord’s must follow to evict a tenant can be complex and costly. They must ensure that they complete the eviction legally as an unlawful eviction can render them liable to prosecution which could lead to them incurring significantly more legal costs and penalties. Some common grounds for which landlords can be prosecuted for include but not limited to harassment or illegal eviction.
Possible Changes in the Law
On Monday 15 April 2019 the Government proposed new reforms which would mean Landlords will no longer be allowed to evict tenants at short notice without giving a reason. This could change how Landlords feel about renting their properties out as they could find it hard to evict tenants as they feel necessary; for instance, if they are selling their property.
This is not yet in place and a date has not been set as to when it will come into place. It is therefore advisable that you seek legal advice prior to purchasing a property for investment purposes. It might be possible that your conveyancer at the time may incorporate an agreement for sale or amendments to AST’s which could either allow Landlords to serve notice on any tenants.
The Current Eviction Process
There are several steps which Landlord’s must legally take to when evicting tenants which we’ve set out below. However, even if you follow these steps you could still be presented with arguments and opposition. We, therefore, would always suggest that you obtain legal advice throughout the whole eviction process.
The exact procedure will depend on the type of tenancy agreement and its terms. The most common form of tenancy letting is an assured shorthold tenancy, of which there are two types:
- ‘periodic’ tenancies– these run week by week or month by month with no fixed end date
- Fixed-term tenancies– these run for a set amount of time.
You must follow a set process if your tenants have assured shorthold tenancy.
Three Steps to Take When Evicting Tenants
1. Give Notice
Firstly, a Landlord must provide their tenant with a notice. There are two notices which can be used to evict a tenant; a section 8 notice or a section 21 notice. Both these notices are very different and as a Landlord you must make sure you use the correct one.
Section 8 Notice
This notice should only be used if the tenants have broken the terms of the tenancy. A section 8 notice is served on the tenant by a landlord wishing to regain possession of a property during the fixed term of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. There must be terms that have been broken for you to provide a tenant with this type of notice.
If you believe that the tenant is breaking the terms and you wish to evict them, check with a solicitor to ensure the terms are being broken.
Section 21 Notice
This notice can be used:
- after a fixed term tenancy ends – if there’s a written contract
- during a tenancy with no fixed end date – known as a ‘periodic’ tenancy
You must give your tenants the Section 21 notice by filling in form 6a. However, you can write your own Section 21 notice. If it is a periodic tenancy, you must provide an explanation as to why you are giving notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
You must always give your tenants at least 2 months’ notice to leave your property. This means you cannot gain entry back into the property until this period has expired.
If it’s a periodic tenancy, you must also let your tenants stay for any additional time covered by their final rent payment.
You cannot use a Section 21 notice when evicting tenants if:
- it’s less than 6 months since the tenancy started
- the fixed term has not ended, unless there’s a clause in the contract which allows you to do this
- the property is categorised as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and does not have a HMO licence from the council
- the council has served an improvement notice on the property in the last 6 months
- the council has served a notice in the last 6 months that says it will do emergency works on the property
- the tenancy started after April 2007 and you have not put the tenants’ deposit in a deposit protection scheme
- you do not have a landlord licence – if you live in Wales
Once you have given your tenant notice you should keep proof. You could fill in the certification of service form (N215).
2. Seek a Possession Order
Once you have given the tenant notice, if they still do not move out, then you will have to go to court and apply for a Standard Possession Order. The cost of this is £325.
3. Apply for a Warrant for Possession
If the tenants still do not leave once you have completed the above steps. You will have one final option, applying to the court for a Warrant for Possession. Bailiffs can remove the tenants from your property, the cost of this is currently £121.
If you want to evict a tenant but you are not sure how or if you can, seek legal advice. Speaking to a solicitor or conveyancer will provide you with the guidance you need to ensure you take the correct steps legally.
Evicting Tenants on Excluded tenancies or licences
You do not have to go to court when evicting tenants if they have an excluded tenancy or licence, for example, if they live with you, such as if you have rented out a spare room to a lodger.
You only need to give them ‘reasonable notice’ to quit. Reasonable notice usually means the length of the rental payment period. So if your tenants pay rent weekly you can give them one week’s notice. The notice does not have to be in writing, but we would always recommend that it is.
You can then change the locks on their rooms, even if they still have belongings in there.
Your tenant owes rent and gets housing benefit
If your tenant owes you rent and claims universal Credit or Housing Benefit you may be able to get the rent paid straight to you instead of evicting them. This is known as ‘managed payments’.
Request managed payments if your tenant is claiming:
- Universal Credit – apply to the Department for Work and Pensions
- Housing Benefit– contact the local council that pays your tenants’ benefits
Clearing out the tenant’s goods
Property that the tenant leaves behind after eviction still belongs to the tenant and normally should be returned to the tenant.
If you throw away property belonging to the tenant which subsequently turns out to be of value, you may be subject to a claim from the tenant for damages.
If the tenant does leave things behind when they leave, you may however charge a fee for the cost of clearing them out of your property.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.