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This blog posts covers the options and processes available to evict tenants with an assured shorthold tenancy in England or Wales, which includes HMO tenants.
Ahh, the underbelly of being a landlord, dealing with an eviction, or even just the prospect of it. It’s worrying.
I’ve been there, I’ve done it, and I’m still haunted by the experiences, because it’s never nice. But sadly, it is part of the business. In fact, most landlords will probably eventually have to flirt with the process at some point, particularly because of the current economic state, which is forcing more and more people to rent!
The reality of tenant evictions is that it’s not always a case of trying to get rid of bad tenants, it’s also a necessary process to get rid of well-intentioned tenants that have fallen into arrears due to a change of circumstances. In any case, it’s never a nice process, but it’s often the only choice.
An “eviction” may sound daunting, and particularly aggressive, but it’s an extremely common process and can be relatively easy…
An “eviction” is a legal proceeding by which the landlord seeks to reclaim the rented premises, causing the tenant to vacate. It’s always best to be prepared, so be assured that the process can be often be costly, lengthy and complicated.
A landlord only has a right to evict where the agreement with the tenant contains such a right, and/or where the landlord is able to rely on one of the ‘statutory grounds for possession‘.
It’s important to follow the proper procedures!
I get it. Trust me, I do.
It can be terribly tempting to take matters into your own grubby little mitts, especially when you’re dealing with an asshole tenant that is being overwhelmingly unreasonable. It may require super-human strength and discipline to remain calm and refrain from pursing your primal instincts, but I urge you to do exactly that. Fight it.
The most common urge is to turn up at the property and physically grab the rat-bastard(s) by their scrawny neck(s) and remove them and their belongings from the premises. While that may feel like progress and the course of justice, it can actually be catastrophically damaging for the landlord, and it may not only substantially delay the entire eviction process, but also make it a shit tonne more expensive!
The key point to remember is that a tenant has statutory rights, which includes the right to quiet enjoyment (which means the landlord is not entitled to turn up at the property as and when they please) and those rights do not magically disappear, even if the tenant has breached the terms of the tenancy.
If you decide to impede on your tenants right, your tenant may have grounds to counter-claim, which could result in your tenant gaining the rights to remain in your property and entitlement to financial compensation, which will be drained from your already light(er) pockets!
Yes, it may seem unfair and totally unjust (which it usually is in both cases), but it is the law.
So the most important aspect of ‘tenant eviction’ is to follow the proper procedures, because it’s the most effective and safest means of eviction- using improper methods could make you prime for criminal prosecution. It can typically take anywhere between 14 days to several months to evict a tenant, but it can take even longer if there’s foul play by the landlord.
Steps for Evicting Tenants (yourself):
Step 1 – Ask yourself, is eviction actually necessary?
Depending on your circumstances, eviction may not be necessary, but more of a knee-jerk reaction (frequently out of frustration and fear!).
The process of evicting a tenant shouldn’t be taken lightly, so if there’s a chance of avoiding it, it’s always better to do so (well, usually).
For example, if your tenants are good tenants but have fallen into financial difficulties, a better solution than eviction might be to put them onto a payment plan to help recover any arrears and/or keep on top of rent. But obviously, don’t let your generosity drag you into debt you can’t manage!
From my experience, evictions can be necessary, but they’re also often used under the wrong circumstances. It’s important to note that evictions can be stressful and expensive, so when it makes sense to avoid, do exactly that – avoid!
Step 2 – Ask nicely
If eviction is the only sensible option (which it often is, sadly)…
Before going in all guns blazing, it’s always worth trying the diplomatic approach. Simply ask the tenant to leave and explain your reasons for your request.
You could be surprised, your tenant maybe willing to vacate your property willingly. If your tenant agrees, make sure he/she signs a document clarifying the agreement.
Step 3 – Look into the different options available to end a tenancy
There are several ways of ending a tenancy, some methods are more elegant and straight forward than others- it doesn’t need to be a messy or an aggressive affair.
Here’s a more in-depth article on how to end a tenancy agreement, which runs through a few of the options available.
Step 4 – Serve a valid possession notice
Failing the diplomatic approach, you may now want to consider serving a possession notice, either a Section 21 notice or a Section 8 notice. It may make sense to serve one over the other, but it will entirely depend on your circumstances.
To determine the most suitable option, you may want to have a look at the Section 21 Vs Section 8 blog post.
A section notice is typically enough to force the tenant to surrender the tenancy, so court action is not required. Approximately 80% of tenants leave after being served notice.
Please note, failure to serve this notice correctly may delay the repossession, so if you feel out of your depth, it might be wise to consult a professional eviction company to advise you or do this for you.
Step 5 – Issuing a court order
Once the notice has expired, and if the tenant has not paid the owed amount or moved out of your property, you may apply for a hearing at a County Court. For more information on arranging a hearing at a county court, please go to the County Court HMCS page.
Step 6 – Bailiffs
Having won the repossession order in court, most tenants will vacate your property as instructed. However, if they do not, you can apply for a Warrant of Possession (a County Court Bailiff).
It’s important to note that landlords can’t use any run-of-the-mill bailiff to remove tenants from the premises, it must be a court bailiff.
Once a request for a warrant has been filed at court, the court will issue a warrant number. The warrant number then goes into a queue for the court to make a bailiff appointment.
Professional Eviction Services
If you need advice, or if you’re not feeling confident about the whole eviction process (which is completely understandable and normal for most landlords), my advice is to use a specialist tenant eviction company. They will know the most efficient way of evicting tenants, and it’s often the most cost-effective solution (they not as expensive as people assume). Here’s a list of professional eviction companies.
The reality is, many notices served by landlords are actually invalid, which end up causing major delays in the eviction process. Yes, in many cases, tenants vacate once they receive notice (invalid or otherwise), but in the cases where they don’t vacate and the case goes to court, it’s common for Judges to throw cases out because of invalid paperwork, which can cause several months of delays. Getting the notice right is critical, so that’s why it’s often cheaper and more reliable to use a specialist company.
Please note, I will always recommend a tenant eviction specialist over a general high-street solicitor. Eviction companies are often much cheaper than solicitors, and they specialise in evicting tenants, whereas most solicitors practise multiple areas of law, and therefore don’t have specialist experience or knowledge.
If you don’t want to go for that option, you can follow the eviction process independently, but make sure you follow the proper procedures (for the reasons already mentioned)…
- If your tenant has fallen into arrears, and provided you win your case, you should get what is owed, included the costs of going to court and possibly further compensation. However, if your tenant is not working, you could well find that he/she is permitted to pay the money back over some ridiculous length of time, with the potential for further defaults along the way.
- If you decide to use a professional company to evict your tenant, make sure you are aware of the ALL costs before proceeding. Most eviction companies operate under a “fixed-cost” policy, which is advisable to avoid any shocks!
- Make sure that you serve written notice correctly and that you follow all the correct procedures. If there are extenuating circumstances, like the property is in poor order, this may weaken your court claim.
- If you are in a position where you need to evict a tenant, you should consult a solicitor or legal body before taking any action. Even if you are relying on one of the grounds for possession that entitle you to a possession order as of right, the court will expect you to follow the correct procedure.
- Judges dislike evicting tenants and will not do so if the landlord has not got his paperwork in order. It is very easy for someone who is unfamiliar with the process to misunderstand the rules and get things wrong.
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger, I am not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any advice I give is my opinion based on my experience, and is never legal or professional advice. You should always get professional advice on any legal and financial matters!