How to legally evict your tenant

Are you planning to evict your tenants? Read on to find out what steps you should take to ensure you do this legally and effectively.

1 Give notice of eviction

You must give at least two months' notice under section 21 of the Housing act 1988 if you want to evict your tenant. This is known as a Section 21 notice. 

It can only be served by a landlord earlier than any fixed term if the tenancy agreement makes provision for it.

The precise form of this notice can vary, but it must be in writing, and must specify the date of required possession. 

This date must not be sooner than two months after the notice has been served. It also mustn't be earlier than the end of the fixed term. 

If the fixed term has expired, or the tenancy was periodic, the date specified must be the last day of the rental period.

It's very easy to get the date wrong in this situation, so be careful because if the date is wrong, then you won't succeed in possession.

2 Possession orders

If the tenant doesn't move out as a result of the Section 21 notice, you'll have to go to court to seek a possession order. 

The court can't make a possession order in the first six months of the tenancy.

For an assured shorthold tenancy you need to have grounds for eviction and to have served the proper notice on the tenant before possession proceedings are started.

There are several mandatory grounds for possession, but two that are most commonly used are these:

  • Shorthold tenancy  If the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy, you're entitled to a possession order after the fixed term has expired, provided the proper Section 21 notice has been served.
  • Rent arrears  If there are serious rent arrears at the time of service of the notice (Section 8 notice), and at the time of the court hearing, the tenant is in arrears of rent of more than eight weeks. A Section 8 notice requires possession because of rent arrears.

3 Accelerated possession procedure

You can also opt for an accelerated possession procedure.

The accelerated possession proceeding is a quicker way to gain possession as there is no court hearing, but you will need to pay a fee before the action can commence.

For accelerated possession you need to find the County Court for the area where the property is situated, then fill in a Form N5B claim for possession (accelerate procedure), obtainable from HM Courts service.

The court will then post the papers to the tenant, along with a form of reply allowing them to lodge an objection within 14 days, if they wish to.

If successful, you will get an order for possession (normally enforceable 14 days after the order was made) and an order that the tenant pay the court fee. 

From the issue of proceedings to receipt of the order for possession, these proceedings normally take between six and ten weeks assuming nothing goes wrong.

4 Professional notice servers 

Sometimes a tenant will not answer the door so can't have notice served on them. The way to deal with this is to take a witness and put the notice through the letterbox before 5pm. It is then deemed to have been served on the following day.

If this is inconvenient or its difficult for you to visit the property personally or if you're worried about a confrontation with a tenant, use a professional process server. 

The fees for this service are modest and you will be provided with a certificate of service that you can use at court.

The judge will almost always accept this as conclusive evidence of service.

5 Renting guide

The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a How to Rent guide, which includes some useful tips for both landlords and tenants. 

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