Evicting a tenant
This can undoubtedly be one of the hardest tasks that a landlord has to undertake – evicting a tenant should be the last resort; but if you have a tenant that is not paying their rent or causing other major issues and they can’t be settled any other way, then eviction can be the only step.
A landlord MUST ensure that he or she follows the correct procedure for eviction laid down by law, it’s important that these are strictly followed as the courts often do not look favourably on landlords who try to do this by their own means or with errors – making it incredibly difficult to evict.
When should the tenant eviction process start?
If a landlord has failed to obtain payment from a tenant (or the guarantor on behalf of the tenant if one exists) and it is apparent that there is no possibility of a negotiated settlement, then it’s time to pursue matters further with court action.
Is it possible for a landlord to evict a tenant without a court order?
Absolutely not, it is a criminal offence for a landlord to evict a tenant without a court order. It is therefore advisable for a Landlord to seek specialist legal advice in this area to ensure that all legal procedures are followed correctly.
The Housing Act 1988 – and landlord repossessions
Almost every landlord and tenant will have encountered the Housing Act 1988 at some time as it should be referenced several times in the tenancy agreements that you’ll have had prepared and signed, it also (and more importantly) dictates most of the laws regarding the rights of landlords and their tenants.
The simplest way to think of the Act is the rulebook containing the statutory rights and legal responsibilities of both landlords and tenants.
As stated under the act, a court can award a repossession order in relation to that particular property which enables the landlord to force a tenant to vacate the premises.
When can a repossession order be granted under the Housing Act 1988?
Under the Housing Act, a repossession order can be granted if the tenant owes more than two months (or eight weeks rent).
Where do I start with a repossession order?
The first thing that a landlord needs to do to start the repossession process is to issue a Section 8 Housing Act 1988 notice – Also known as a section 8 notice to quit – on this section 8 notice the Landlord must state the grounds by which they are seeking possession of the property.
This notice allows the tenant 14 days in which to respond.
How should a section 8 notice be served?
When a landlord serves a Section 8 Housing Act notice on a tenant this must be done in the correct, legal manner. If the notice is not served correctly then this may cause a delay in the repossession process.
Key elements are that it must be completed fully and correctly, it must be sent to all of the tenants living at the address in question. We would recommend that the landlord sends it via first class post and at a post office where proof of postage can be obtained.
Please bear in mind that it could take a minimum of three working days for the notice to arrive at the address of the tenant; but the Section 8 notice expires two weeks or two months, depending on the grounds being cited within it.
When can I get a possession order from the court?
It is only once the Section 8 notice has expired and the issue has not been resolved that the landlord can apply for a possession order from the court.
So again, it is the wise Landlord that seeks appropriate legal advice before serving the Section 8.
What happens after this 14 day period has expired?
As already mentioned, the Section 8 notice process provides the tenant with 14 days to respond to it and in some situations will result in the outstanding rent being paid or the tenant vacating the premises.
However, often this isn’t the case and further action is required.
Once the Section 8 notice has expired and the tenant has not paid any monies due nor have they moved out of the property then a landlord may apply for a hearing at a County Court.
Why would I need a County Court hearing?
The purpose of this hearing is to enable a judge to award a repossession order if the rent remains unpaid or the other grounds by which the Landlord is seeking possession of the property have not been resolved.
Will the court hear all cases for repossession?
The only times when the County Court will not hear a case in relation to a repossession is where the property is in disrepair or if the reason for the rent arrears is due to a delay in a Housing Benefit claim. In both of these cases, the issue should have been dealt with through the Local Authority and not through an application to the court.
What happens once the court has provided a repossession order?
Once a repossession order by the court, this now becomes a legal requirement and therefore enforceable by law. The tenant should now leave the premises.
What action can be taken if a tenant still refuses to leave the premises?
If a tenant still refuses to leave the premises following the provision of a repossession order a landlord can arrange for Court bailiffs to enter the premises and remove a tenant forcibly, this isn’t ideal for the tenant (of the Landlord), so a last minute conversation with the tenant could be a good idea.
Is it legal for a landlord to order court bailiffs?
Yes it is, and it’s the correct legal process following a repossession order. This is because the tenant is now in clear breach of a legal court order.
However, we must remind you that if a landlord was to try and evict a tenant by force prior to this court order then the landlord would be guilty of a criminal offence.
As you can see the law is exact and protect both parties, but failure by a landlord to do any of the steps correctly would mean that it becomes more difficult to evict a tenant and to get their property back – we strongly advice that Landlords seek legal advice as early as possible.
For more information, view our Landlord Repossessions page. For some free consultation from one of our legal team, please complete the form opposite and we’ll be in touch with you.