Do you understand the eviction process?
By Carl Agar
Having a home in a location that's important to you is paramount to many tenants. Combine that with a shortage of homes to choose from and it means most tenants are keen to hold on to their rented property.
What's more, we also have a shortage of social housing for tenants in receipt of benefits. Local Authorities are ALSO keen for tenants to stay in their existing properties.
Consequently, your tenant is likely to be fully clued-up on the laws around eviction - and if they aren't there is plenty of information and support out there to find.
Eviction horror stories are all over the internet in landlord forums, from such things as the cost, the length of time and the damage caused to properties. So what can you, as a landlord do to avoid a similar situation?
Well, first of all, you can make sure that you understand the eviction process.
There are various legal methods by which a Landlord can take back possession of their property and typically that process starts with the serving of a notice.
A Section 21 notice, the most common notice served to end a tenancy, must be given in writing, in a specified format and provides the tenant with a specific date as to when you want possession of the property.
This is a mandatory grounds notice - and therefore if served correctly the courts must give possession back to the Landlord.
However, the tenant must be given a minimum of two months notice that cannot end before the fixed term of a tenancy expires - and I would normally recommend adding 3 days on top of the two months to cover the service period.
If you are unsure about how to do one of these notices then I would advise asking a professional. Remember you cannot end a tenancy agreement simply by sending a nicely written letter to your tenant!
Section 8 notice is what you should serve if the tenant has broken the rules of a short assured tenancy - ie. because he or she is more than two months behind with rent or has been exhibiting anti social behaviour during the tenancy.
This will enable you to get possession of your property back and pursue any rent arrears. Some Landlords choose to issue a section 21 notice and pursue the rent arrears as a CCJ, but that decision needs to be made on a case-by-case basis.
Both notices above should be served by first class post and if possible both recorded delivery and hand delivery. Landlords should keep a record of service and postage for future reference in case the matter escalates to court. If you’re doing a hand delivery it’s sometimes a good idea to ask a friend to be a witness - and take a picture of you posting the notice.
It's also important that the landlord can prove that the tenant was issued with a copy of the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate), the government on how to rent booklet’ and that any deposit has been correctly protected - otherwise the courts may deem any notice as invalid and you will need to start all over again!
Possession orders and Accelerated Possession Procedure
If the tenant chooses to ignore the notice, then the landlord should apply for a Possession Order. Landlords have a couple of options available to them with the most common option being an accelerated possession procedure.
An Accelerated Possession Procedure is quick because there is no court hearing. Simply fill in a Form N5B and apply to the County Court. The tenant has 14 days to reply to your application. If successful, you get possession 14 days after the court order is made. The whole process can be over in six to ten weeks. Be warned though different courts have different lead times!
Reasons for evicting a tenant
Most lets are assured shorthold tenancies where the landlord must have grounds for eviction before he or she can go to court.
In most cases it's to do with rent arrears or it could just be because the landlord intends to sell the property.
Key areas to look out for are as below.
it is essential to get all your paperwork 100 per cent correct as a wrong date could result in the Section 21 or Possession Order being dismissed, meaning you’ll have to start again and the tenant can look forward to a further rent-free period in your property, assuming they have stopped paying!
It is still legal for a tenant to remain in your property after the Section 21 notice has expired. Trying to force them to leave will land you – rather than them - in trouble with the law. Only once you get a Possession Order from the court can you insist they leave and only by getting the court bailiffs to enforce the possession order.
Court proceedings are usually costly, and applying for an eviction notice is no exception. Expect to be hundreds of pounds out of pocket, in addition to the loss of rental income.
Hopefully you will never experience the above, but if you do it can be a huge cost, and a huge hassle.
You understand your property, tenants, finances and risk best – but if your margins are tight this sort of policy really could be worth the extra pounds each month.