There are a number of reasons why a landlord may need to evict a tenant in order to reclaim their property – you may for example wish to renovate or sell up, or the tenant could be failing to pay the rent or mistreating your property.
Paul Shamplina, Brand Ambassador at Hamilton Fraser landlord insurance and founder of Landlord Action, emphasises that, while no landlord wants to take action against a tenant, if you find yourself needing to take back possession of your property the secret to success is to act quickly and legally. The longer you wait to serve notice on a tenant, the more rent you stand to lose.
So, what are the key legal issues you need to be aware of?
- Long before any future eviction, it is important to ensure that your tenancy is legally compliant. Failure to do so could hinder any attempt to evict your tenant should you need to do so further down the line. For example, if you or your letting agent don’t protect the tenant’s deposit, you could be prevented from using a Section 21 notice to recover possession of your property. You must also be compliant with the Deregulation Act 2015 and, if applicable, hold a valid HMO licence.
- You must follow a set process if your tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy; give your tenants a Section 21 notice if you want the property back after a fixed term ends but give them a Section 8 notice if they have broken the terms of the tenancy.
- The tenant must also be given the following information prior to the commencement of the tenancy agreement for a Section 21 to be valid:
- A gas safety certificate
- An energy performance certificate (EPC)
- The government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide (this must be given to the tenant at the start of any new tenancy)
- You can’t evict your tenant during the fixed term of a tenancy unless your tenant has breached a term in the tenancy agreement, such as not paying rent or damaging the property, unless there is a break clause in your agreement.
- If your tenant is still in your property beyond the fixed term and you want possession without a reason, you must give at least two months’ notice (a Section 21 notice), and ensure that you have followed the rules in points one and two above.
- Before resorting to repossessing your property due to rent arrears, consider whether there is an alternative approach. If you are otherwise happy with the way your tenant is treating your property and would prefer to avoid a void period, it may be possible to work things out with the tenant if you have a strong working relationship. The National Landlord Association’s Landlord Guide to Rent Arrears contains lots of useful advice to help you.
- In order to bring court proceedings to evict your tenant, you must have served the proper, correctly drafted possession notice and have waited until the notice period has expired.
- It is a criminal offence to evict a tenant without obtaining a court order for possession in the County Court and then if necessary by using the County Court bailiffs. Failure to follow the proper procedure, even if you simply ask your tenant to leave, constitutes harassment in the eyes of the law.
- You will also need to be able to prove to the court that your notice has been served, so keep a copy, consider taking an independent witness with you or employ the services of a professional process server.
- Never be tempted to harass the tenant in an attempt to resolve the matter. The penalties for harassment are severe and can result in heavy fines, so always seek professional advice and stick to the correct procedures.
While landlords and letting agents can draw up and serve an eviction notice themselves, judges will expect them to follow the correct procedure. Any error, however small, can result in a case being thrown out of court, which is both time consuming and costly. If this is not something you have done before it is worth considering instructing a legal professional who specialises in eviction. Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Landlord Action is one of the UK’s best known eviction and housing law specialists. Hamilton Fraser’s guide, how to handle the eviction process, offers more advice on what to do if you need to evict a tenant.