In almost all circumstances, landlords must follow very specific steps when evicting tenants. This is even the case when the landlord is dealing with problems such as rent arrears. If the correct legal procedure is not adhered to, the landlord could face charges of Illegal Eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
In fact, even merely asking the tenant to leave or going round to the property if the correct notices have not been served is considered harassment in the eyes of the law. Any landlord found guilty of this could receive a jail term of six months or a fine of up to £5000.
If tenants fall into rent arrears, it is important to act quickly. Failure to do so will result in further loss of income and a lot more stress.
It might be helpful to speak to the tenants, using a mediator if necessary; to talk about what has happened. If there is a specific reason for the rent arrears, such as illness or redundancy, there may be a mutually agreeable way forward.This could be to reduce monthly payments on a temporary basis, or to agree a fixed date by which arrears will be settled. Documents should always be drawn up to this effect and clear and concise guidelines put into place. If tenants simply won’t pay, the sooner the tenant eviction process begins the better.
How to Evict a Tenant
Tenants must be issued with a written notice of eviction, even in cases where there is no initial written agreement. This should give two months’ notice (or eight weeks’ if rent is payable weekly), ensuring any fixed-term tenancy expires before the notice date. If there is a periodic tenancy in place, notice can be issued immediately but must again give a clear two months’ (or eight weeks’) notice.
Exceptions to this rule may be in cases where the landlord can prove legal ‘grounds for possession’. Under these conditions, the notice for possession can sometimes be reduced to 14 days. The notice must contain: the landlord’s name and address; the tenant’s name and address; a date by which the tenant must leave; reasons for eviction (not usually required); information regarding where advice can be sought.
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 states that a landlord using an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) does not need to give reasons for repossession once the fixed term has ended. Under these circumstances, a Section 21 can be served, obviously citing the requisite two months’ notice.
Application to the Court
If a tenant has not vacated the property even after the notice expires, landlords may have to apply to the County Court for an order asking tenants to leave. This is known as a possession order. If the tenant remains in the property after the date cited in the possession order, landlords can apply to the court again to request that bailiffs forcibly remove them.
Eviction can effectively render someone homeless. Therefore judges will expect the legal eviction process to have been followed precisely and for paperwork to be exemplary. Any mistakes made could potentially count against the landlord and may even result in an order for them to pay the tenant’s costs. Drafting notices correctly, as well as ensuring the correct notices are served and at the correct times, is imperative. Failure to do so may invalidate the claim.