Tenant Eviction - What You Need to Know
When it comes to evicting a tenant from your property, there are many different considerations and legalities to think about. Evictions should be the last resort when every other avenue of communication had failed. We spoke to Adam Khan, a senior consultant at tenant eviction company, Hector & Finch.
At Hector & Finch, 70% of evictions are due to non-payment of rent. The rest are down to other reasons, such an anti-social behaviour or general breaches of contract. Tenants are protected from eviction under the Housing Act. It isn’t a criminal offence to evict a tenant, providing you have followed the correct legal procedure. However, to simply force a tenant out of a property is against the law. This can result in a fine and potential prison sentence. If there is conflict, the only way to take back possession of your property is either if the tenant willingly vacates the property or via a court order.
There are two types of evictions covered in the Housing Act 1988: one is in section 8, where evidence of a breach of the tenancy is required. The other is under section 21, known as a ‘no fault’ eviction. The latter is more likely if a landlord has a tenant who is claiming Housing Benefit. Over the past few years, more councils across the UK are advising tenants to simply stay in the property until they are physically evicted; this is despite the tenant usually wanting to leave. A tenant will then have no choice but to force the landlord to take them through the whole eviction process up until a bailiff is instructed. Councils work on a priority list and will only physically re-house people who are homeless. Only once the tenant has been evicted will their application to get rehoused be taken into consideration.
For private tenants, landlords can draft what is known as a ‘deed of surrender’, which is often used as an incentive. Landlords may be willing to offset an outstanding debt if it means they can avoid a lengthy court process. Some landlords do this, as they know they have a small chance of recovering the debt and want to either sell or let the property as quickly as possible. If the fixed term of a tenancy has come to an end, the landlord lawfully has the right to take back possession of their property.
From a landlord’s perspective, the best course of action is to avoid court. Communication is always the best way to resolve issues. If the landlord/tenant relationship has completely broken down, it’s always wise to seek further legal advice so you know exactly what to expect in advance. If you have no prior experience of the eviction process, don’t take shortcuts to try and evict tenants. The most common reason why a case in court may be thrown out is due to an eviction notice being served incorrectly, even though it appears to be the simplest part of the process.
It’s important that a correct legal notice is drafted; landlords will often draft a letter by hand and give this to the tenant, which is a total waste of time as something hand written will not hold up in court. The law is always changing and eviction notices are updated regularly.
Depending on which route of eviction you take, landlords must ensure they have fully complied with their legal obligations, as per the changes to the Deregulation Act 2015. For any new or renewed tenancies after that date, a tenant must be provided with an Energy Performance Certificate, government’s How to Rent guide and, if applicable, a Gas Safety Certificate. If a deposit was taken, you must also comply with deposit legislation otherwise a section 21 notice cannot be served. If landlords haven’t complied with the above it can land them in trouble.
The process of eviction is long and drawn out, so it’s wise to ensure you have explored all avenues before taking this route. A ‘no fault’ eviction requires at least two months’ notice. If the tenant still refuses to vacate the property after that, you need to apply to the County Court to obtain an Order for Possession – this can take four to six weeks. Once the Order for Possession is granted, the judge will allow the tenant 14 days to leave. If the tenant still refuses to leave, the final step is to instruct County Court bailiffs who take a further five weeks. Once the tenant has been evicted, landlords are obliged to keep belongings in storage for between seven days and four weeks. They must also show evidence that they have made reasonable attempts to get in contact with the tenants to collect their belongings.
A section 8 notice is commonly used when there are rent arrears outstanding. This only requires 14 days’ notice before you take court action. If the tenant then fails to comply with the court and bailiff, the time scale is the same as for section 21.
It’s wise to enlist the services of a solicitor or professional company to evict someone, particularly if you have no previous experience of the process. Depending on what services you require, there are fees involved; court fees may also apply.
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