How to legally evict a tenant

During the course of being a landlord you will at some point find yourself in a position where you wish to end a tenancy. The tenant may be in arrears with their rent, may be in breach of the agreement, they could be a ‘difficult tenant’ or just because you wish to get vacant possession of the property. Whatever the reason, there is a process you need to follow to abide by the law. An unlawful eviction is not only a civil matter it is also considered to be a criminal offence and can have serious consequences for the landlord. Ensuring you take the correct course of action is very important, otherwise you may find yourself in a position where errors have been made which may cost you in more ways than expected.

Many people are under the illusion that at the end of the fixed term of the tenancy then that’s it, the tenancy is over and the landlord can change the locks and remove the tenants themselves …. this is so, so, so not the case – in fact that is the ultimate definition of an unlawful eviction as per the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

Serve a notice seeking possession upon the tenant.

Depending on the type of tenancy and reason for eviction you will need to serve the correct notice seeking possession which could be one of many such as a Section 21 notice, Section 8 notice or Section 20 notice which is detailed in Housing Act 1988. There are a few things you need to pay very close attention to when preparing and serving the notice. If you do not get the notice stage right then it is likely your claim for possession will be refused.

  • is it the correct one for the circumstances
  • if you have used a free one downloaded from the internet are you sure it really does contain the correct text as we have found the majority don’t
  • do you know what the correct notice period is especially if the tenancy is a statutory periodic tenancy as it is not the 2 straight months as assumed by many
  • are you aware of the rules of service in relation to notices as laid out by the Courts Civil Procedure Rules? Depending on what method of service you use (post, hand delivery, email., etc), the time of day it is done and the day of the week different rules apply. It is not as simple as if you posted it on Thursday then that is the day you served it. This is very important as the notice period must coincide with the official date of service.

Make a claim for possession via the Court.

If at the end of the notice period the tenant has not moved out then the ONLY course of action available to you is to apply to the Court to grant an order for possession. The process you use to request the order for possession depends on the circumstances and notice already served.

Typical routes for possession would be:

  • Section 21 accelerated possession
  • Section 21 standard possession
  • Section 8 rent arrears possession
  • Section 8 Breach of tenancy other than rent arrears

The accelerate route generally has no court hearing listed therefore remains paper-based. This route can only be used for the most simplest claims for possession which have all the required tenancy and property paperwork,  the landlord has followed the deposit protection rules, served the perfect notice, etc.

The other 3 routes always have a hearing listed which the landlord [or legal Representative] must attend. The hearings are generally very short typically listed for between 5 and 15 minutes and are not too grueling. Most of our customers attend the hearings themselves rather than use a legal representative.

Get the bailiffs in

After you are successfully granted an order for possession many tenants still stay put and refuse to go even after the court ordered date of possession. YOU CANNOT change the locks yet. The next step is to request the Court to grant their bailiff permission to ‘remove’ the tenants. It is only at this point you can then change the locks – with the bailiffs permission.