Evicting a tenant who has stopped paying the rent, damaged a property or broken the terms of a tenancy contract is much harder than many landlords realise. In many cases, you’ll have to go to court to regain possession of your investment, so it’s useful to know how to go about this in the most straightforward way for everyone involved.
Landlords can evict tenants on assured shorthold tenancies (AST) using one of two notices under the Housing Act 1988: section 8 or section 21. A section 8 notice can be served on a tenant by a landlord during the fixed term of an AST. However, the landlord must have grounds to do so. These may include non-payment of rent (if the tenant is two months or more in arrears) or breaking the terms of the tenancy agreement. It is therefore most common for a section 8 eviction to be used where the tenant has done something wrong.
The main difference between the two types of notice is that, when issuing a section 21 notice, landlords do not have to give a reason for evicting a tenant – this has led to section 21 notices being dubbed “no fault” evictions. As a result, section 21 notices tend to be landlords’ preferred options where there hasn’t been a breach of contract, but where the landlord simply wants the tenant to leave the property. (If it’s appropriate, you can issue both notices at the same time, as they would be treated separately from each other.)
A section 21 notice gives the tenant two months’ notice to leave the property, but be aware that this time period cannot end during the fixed period of a tenancy (normally six or 12 months). However, under the Deregulation Act 2015, in order for a section 21 notice to be valid, landlords must meet certain requirements. To be able to evict a tenant using a section 21 notice, you’ll need to have supplied the tenant with certain information at the beginning of the tenancy. This includes the “prescribed information” relating to the protection of a tenant’s deposit; a valid energy performance certificate (EPC); a Gas Safety certificate; and a copy of the government’s How to rent booklet. These regulations apply to tenancies which began after 1 October 2015, and from 1 October 2018 will apply to all tenancies. Note that if the tenancy started after April 2007, you can only use section 21 if you put the tenants’ deposit into a deposit-protection scheme.
If a tenant ignores either a section 8 or section 21 notice, you’ll need to get a possession order from a court to evict them from the property – this can usually be done online and will cost £325 (in certain situations, such as where trespass has occurred, you will need to submit the form via post, which will cost £355). If you’re not claiming rent arrears, you can opt for what’s known as an “accelerated possession procedure” via the County Court. This is quicker than a normal eviction, and doesn’t usually need a court hearing if all your paperwork is in order. You’ll need to fill in a Form N5B claim for possession (accelerated procedure), which you can get from HM Courts & Tribunals Service. If successful, you’ll get an order for possession which gives the tenant 14 or 28 days to leave the property. If the tenants are not out by then, you can use a bailiff to evict them.
If you’d rather not enter into this process on your own, there are specialist tenant eviction services such as Landlord Action or Solicitors4Landlords, that will serve a section 8 or section 21 notice on your behalf, and carry out any follow-up action required. This will obviously add significantly to the costs you will incur during the eviction, but could also help to ensure that the process isn’t derailed by small errors on forms.