With 4.44 million households living in rented accommodation, the UK’s rental market is buoyant. But if you’re a landlord with a problem tenant or need your property vacated for any reason, you may have to turn to eviction.
Landlords should keep up to date with housing legislation to ensure that they deal with their tenants in a way that is both fair and legal. This is a vital part of protecting your reputation as a landlord and also ensuring that your investment is protected.
Because of this, it’s important that if you’re considering eviction proceedings, you do it properly and to the letter of the law. Otherwise, the methods used could be successfully disputed in court by the tenant. In this guide, we explain how to evict a problem tenant the right way without the risk of landing in front of a judge.
How to evict a tenant
What is a Section 8 notice?
A Section 8 notice is served to a tenant that has breached one or more clauses within the tenancy agreement. It seeks repossession of the occupied property for the landlord. It is most commonly used when the tenant is in rent arrears or has defaulted on payments.
There are 17 grounds for possession, detailed in the Housing Act 1988. These fall into two main categories: mandatory grounds and discretionary grounds.
● Mandatory grounds — are Numbers 1 to 8. If one of these grounds is cited on a Section 8 form, the court must grant possession of the property to the landlord.
● Discretionary grounds — Numbers are 9 to 17. In these cases, the court will grant possession only if it is deemed reasonable to do so by a Judge.
Ground 8 is the most common reason for a Section 8 notice:
“The tenant has failed to pay more than 8 weeks rent in the case of weekly payments, or 2 months rent in the case of monthly payments, or 1 quarter in the case of quarterly payments…”
Serving a Section 8 Eviction Notice
Before rent can be treated as due, your tenant must be provided with an address in England or Wales that they can use for correspondence. Then, there are a few steps to undertake before presenting a Section 8 Eviction Notice according to UK legislation
1. Fill in a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an Assured Tenancy or an Assured Agricultural Occupancy’
2. Specify on the notice what terms of the tenancy have been breached and give between two weeks and two months notice for the tenants to vacate, depending on which terms you are relying on
3. Apply to the court for a possession order if they do not vacate
But eviction is a last resort, and you should try to get your tenant to surrender the tenancy or reach a mutual agreement before serving notice on them. Remember that even if you do go to court, the outcome may not go your way — a Section 8 does not guarantee eviction.
Going to court
If the tenant fails to pay their rent arrears or vacate the property once the Section 8 notice expires, you’ll need to begin court proceedings. The tenant will need to owe at least two months rent on the day that the court hearing is held.
The hearing will be held in front of a judge and the landlord will be required to attend the hearing or will have to send an agent as a proxy. Landlords should have all relevant documents to hand during the hearing: for example, a schedule of rent arrears, tenancy agreement, and proof of attempted communications.
If the claim is successful, the judge will grant a 14-day possession order, in which the tenant should vacate your property. If the tenant still does not vacate, a court-appointed bailiff should be used to carry out the eviction.
What is a Section 21 notice?
There are two types of Section 21 notice: one that is served during the term of the tenancy and another that is served when the term of the tenancy has expired.
But unlike Section 8, Section 21 does not officially refer to the eviction of the tenant. A Section 21 notice can be served when the landlord requires possession of the property, they do not have to give a reason for wanting possession and so there doesn’t need to be a breach of the tenancy agreement for this to happen.
Serving a Section 21 Possession Notice
To get the process started, give the tenant no less than two months’ notice that they will need to vacate the property at the end of their tenancy. You can also serve a Section 21 if the fixed term of the tenancy has come to an end, or if there is a break clause that can be triggered.
You should serve the notice in writing and carefully specify the required date of possession, as well as any other dates that the tenant should make a note of. But remember — a Section 21 cannot be served during the first four months of a tenancy, and it will only be valid for six months since the date it was issued.
Going to court
If the tenant fails to vacate before the expiry of the possession order, a county court bailiff should be appointed to carry out an eviction, but applying for a warrant for eviction can take a further 6 weeks.
If your tenant has made a legitimate complaint about the condition of your property, the matter could be referred to the local housing authority and any Section 21 notice served after the initial complaint will be invalid once a housing authority notice is served.
How to write a Section 21 eviction letter
There are a few things that a Section 21 eviction notice must include:
- Name, address and phone number of the landlord
- Name and address of the tenant
- Date the notice is served
- Date of repossession
- Reference to Section 21 of the Housing Act
When writing an eviction letter it’s important to be clear on the date that vacant possession is required, and any other dates that you will need access to the property relating to the eviction, for example, to do an inventory or inspection.
You should also remember to be cordial and respectful, as your tenants are likely to have been happy in their home. Receiving a Section 21 notice is stressful, so if you as a landlord can do something to mitigate the worry, it’s more likely to be an amicable process.
When to evict a tenant
From mounting rent arrears to property damage, the reasons for eviction are far-reaching. However, it’s important to remember that eviction should be a last resort.
Establishing effective communication with a tenant is important in ensuring that small problems don’t escalate into offences that warrant eviction.
First, make contact with your tenant to see if you can discuss the matter at hand. For example, sometimes tenants default on rent payments through no fault of their own — like ill health or job loss. In a case like this, communication can help to solve the problem.
But if the matter has got out of hand, and you cannot establish communication with your tenant, eviction with a Section 8 notice may be the only solution.
Sometimes, a Section 8 notice isn’t ideal. Instead, you might want to refer to Section 21. Section 21 notices allow you to claim back the vacant possession of your property with prior written warning to the tenant. If you want to sell the property or plan to move back into it yourself, a Section 21 notice is more appropriate than a Section 8 notice.
When to not evict a tenant
It is illegal to evict a tenant during the first four months of the tenancy agreement. However, if the agreement has been renewed following the end of a fixed term, you can serve an eviction notice at any point in the renewed term.
Until 31st May 2021, tenant evictions were on hold in order to mitigate the social and economic effects of Covid-19. Landlords could still serve notice and court action could go ahead, but they wouldn’t be able to use bailiffs to evict. Following that date, evictions will be permitted to take place as usual.
What to do about rent arrears
Rent arrears are often because of factors outside the tenant’s control, which is why it’s important to establish communication as soon as possible to find a solution to the problem they are having.
Always keep a record of all payments. Take into account when they are due and when they are paid, and send receipts when the payment comes in for both your tenant’s and your own records.
If your tenant has fallen behind on their rent, firstly make contact with them to prompt payment. If this has not worked, send your tenant a formal written letter to request the outstanding rent be paid immediately and ask the tenant to ensure that all future rental payments are made in full and on or by the due date. This letter should explain that unpaid arrears can result in court action or eviction. If this doesn’t work, a letter to the guarantor will usually ensure that all arrears are settled.
However, if the rent has still not been paid, you could serve a Section 8 notice at this stage to remove the tenant from your property.
Handling an appeal by a tenant against eviction
If your tenant decides to lodge an appeal against the eviction process, this appeal needs to be heard in the county court.
However, as a landlord, you are entitled to oppose the tenant’s appeal to the High Court. If the High Court allows the tenant’s appeal, you may be able to appeal against that decision in the Court of Appeal.
Evicting a tenant the right way
Whilst eviction is a last resort, for many landlords with problem tenants or for those wishing to seek possession of their property, it is a necessary part of working in the housing sector.
It is vital to ensure that the tenant’s rights are protected, as well as yours — so if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of applying for a Section 8 or Section 21 notice, remember to follow guidance and legislation.