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The Accelerated Possession Procedure

Updated February 2017

Under the Housing Acts 1988 and 1996 and the terms of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) the landlord has an automatic or mandatory right to possession of the property at the end of an agreed term, or after 6 months if the agreed term is less than 6 months, providing a valid 2 months’ notice (Section 21 Notice) has been served.

The landlord does not need to give a reason why he needs possession, and providing all the paperwork is in order the County Court judge must issue a possession order based on this, providing the tenant does not oppose, without the need for a court hearing.

For tenancies started after the 1st of October 2015 new procedures are required, see:  www.landlordzone.co.uk/information/new-section-21-rules

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This is by no means a quick procedure but it is usually quicker than the alternative Standard Procedure which requires a court hearing. In any event a court hearing may be necessary if the tenant files a defence or the landlord’s paperwork is missing or defective.

Landlords have a Right to Possession

With Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST) landlords have the right to claim possession, but tenants should bear in mind that landlords will rarely do this when they have a good tenant – one that is paying rent on time and is looking after the property. Most landlords want their residential tenancies to last as long as possible because re-letting involves a lot of trouble and expense.

Section 21 Notices

Great care should be taken when serving the 2 month Section 21 Notice to ensure that the correct notice is served with the correct dates. There are thee different S21 Notices: one for a fixed term AST, one for a periodic AST and one for all tenancies (fired-term or periodic) started after 1st October 2015 – see the LandlordZONE® S21 Notice with Guidance Notes:

  • The notice Section 21(1)(b) of the Housing Act 1988 applies to shorthold tenancies that are fixed term tenancies
  • The notice Section 21(4)(a) of the Housing Act 1988 applies to assured shorthold tenancies that have become periodic tenancies.
  • The notice Section 21 (6A) – notice cannot be served within the frist 4 months of a first tenancy, and unlike the other two notices which last indefinitely, this notice expires after 6 months.

The accelerated procedure, only applies to possession, together with the costs of bringing the action. The landlord cannot include a claim for arrears of rent.

Where rent arrears are involved the landlord can make a claim using the standard procedure, where a hearing is involved, or alternatively use the accelerated procedure and take out a separate small claim for the debt. In practice, the latter is often the best course as the full extent of the debt may not be known until the tenant leaves and the condition of the premises are assessed.

Written Evidence Required

Because the accelerated possession procedure is carried out purely on written evidence, it is particularly important that the landlord has everything in order:

1. An up-to-date and properly completed Tenancy Agreement. You usually need 3 copies for the court. Keep the original but take it along to any hearings.
2. A copy of the correct s21 Notice with correct dates, properly served and the 2 month’s notice expired.
3. Evidence of service of the s21 notice. You need this in case the tenant says he or she did not receive it.
4. Where the landlord has taken a deposit, the paperwork from the scheme with a copy of the statutory notice served (s213 notice) is needed, plus evidence of service.

For tenancies started after 1st October 2015 this addition information is required, which is proof that the tenant was served:

5. A copy of a current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
6. A copy of a current Gas Safety Certificate if there is gas in the property
7. A copy of the version of the government’s “How to Rent Guide” current at the time of letting

If the tenancy was formed on a casual (oral) basis (without a written tenancy agreement) then the accelerated possession procedure cannot be used and a court hearing will be necessary.

For guidance and forms for making an application for Accelerated Possession see “Accelerated Possession Procedure” on the Justice.gov web site.

All these documents are available here: www.landlordzone.co.uk/documents

Accelerated Possession Procedure – My tenant is causing me trouble. Can I get possession quickly using the Accelerated Possession Procedure?

If you served your Section 21 Notice during the fixed term you can commence the Accelerated Possession Procedure once the fixed-term and the 2 months’ notice period have both ended. This may be necessary if the tenant refuses to leave voluntarily when the fixed term and notice period come to an end.

The Assured Shorthold Tenancy must have started after 15th January 1989 and your claim must be for possession only, not rent arrears. All the documentation must be in order: a valid Tenancy Agreement and Section 21 Notice correctly served, plus details of any Deposit Protection arrangements your have made and the other details listed above. For HMO and some other landlords you will also need evidence of a landlord’s licence.

For tenancies commencing before 28 February 1997 landlords will need evidence that a section 20 notice (a notice informing the tenant that they were entering a shorthold tenancy) was served prior to the signing of the tenancy agreement.

You apply to your County Court in the same district as the property, paying your fee and using the court form N5B, supported by all the documentary evidence. Court fees and all the forms are available on-line or from your local court.

Possession Claim Online (PCOL) is HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s Internet based service for claimants and defendants.

PCOL is a simple, convenient and secure way of making or responding to certain types of possession claim on the Internet.

A Civil Procedure Rules Practice Direction governs the type of claims that can be issued using the PCOL service. With PCOL you can keep an eye on the status of your Claim, Judgement and/or Warrant.

The tenant has 14 days after receiving the documents to file an objection. If the tenant does not file an objection and the paperwork is in order the judge will normally issue a possession order on reviewing the paperwork for the case.

There will not need to be a court hearing unless there is some problem with the documentation or the tenant requests postponement on hardship grounds, in which case possession can be delayed by up to 6 weeks.

If the judge awards a possession order with immediate effect the tenant will be obliged to leave. If he or she refuses the landlord will need to pay another fee and apply for the services of the court bailiff, which is likely to delay matters for at least another 2 weeks.

If there are rent arrears it’s a good idea to mention this on the form as this may influence the judge’s decision when deciding whether to defer possession.

The total time taken depends upon the workload of your local county court. Some courts have long backlogs.

If the tenancy has become a periodic one the notice procedure is slightly different – see Serving a Valid Section 21 Notice here: www.landlordzone.co.uk/information/new-section-21-rules

All Notices available here: www.landlordzone.co.uk/documents

If you have any questions about any of the issues here, post you question to the LandlordZONE® Forums – these are the busiest Rental Property Forums in the UK – you will have an answer in no time at all.

Please Note: This Article is 7 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.