What are reasonable grounds for evicting tenants?
No private landlord wants to evict a tenant. If you have to evict anyone it means there have been some serious issues. Which no landlord wants. Especially as the whole eviction process can be stressful and expensive. It's not surprising then that every private landlord wants a tenancy to run its natural course. For the tenant and landlord to go their separate ways without a cross word or dispute.
Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. It's fair to say if you're a private landlord for any length of time you'll probably have to evict a tenant at some stage. But what grounds are you able to use to evict a tenant?
It should be stressed we're not talking about a Section 21 notice here. When you serve notice on a tenant as their agreed tenancy comes to an end. Or when there's a break clause in the tenancy agreement.
We're more concerned with the reasonable grounds you can use to evict a tenant under Section 8. Under Section 8 you are forcing the tenant out of your property during their fixed term. Of course, you can serve Section 8 and 21 notices at the same time. But let's look at reasonable grounds for eviction under Section 8 only.
Why you need to establish reasonable grounds for eviction
An important point to bear in mind is the tenant can dispute a Section 8 notice. You have to prove your case for a judge to grant a possession order. Hence the need for reasonable grounds. Remember if you lose a hearing after issuing a Section 8 notice it's highly likely you'll have to pay the tenant’s legal costs. This is why you need to be sure you're using reasonable grounds.
What are reasonable grounds?
There are three main grounds used by private landlords to evict their tenants.
Rent arrears are the most common reason for evicting a tenant. But the 'reasonable' standard must apply. In other words, if your tenant is a day late with their rent you can't immediately slap them with a Section 8 notice.
The tenant must be at least eight weeks in arrears in order for you to evict them. You'll be granted a mandatory possession order if this is the case. As we mentioned earlier rent arrears are the most common ground for eviction.
You can also serve a Section 8 notice if the tenant is persistently late with the rent. However, a judge may not consider this reasonable. Especially if the tenant isn't in serious arrears. When looking to evict your tenant for rent arrears it's best to stick to the eight weeks rule.
Damage to the property
Damage to the structure of the property or to furniture is reasonable grounds for evicting tenants. Although what is reasonable will ultimately be determined by a judge. Remember you must allow for wear and tear. But a judge will usually consider serious damage reasonable grounds for eviction.
Causing a nuisance
Anti-social behaviour is something everyone is aware of. And it can be grounds for eviction. You do of course have to prove the tenant or member of their household is causing a nuisance. So you need to build a case for the judge to agree you have reasonable grounds for eviction. This could include asking neighbours to keep diaries of incidents and videos of anti-social behaviour.
We've discussed three common grounds for evicting a tenant. Rent arrears are mandatory grounds. In this case, a possession order will be granted. But damage and anti-social behaviour are discretionary grounds. In other words, the judge will make a decision based on the evidence you present.
When a Section 21 may be appropriate
If you're having problems with your tenant and are thinking about a Section 8 notice consider how long is left on the lease. If the tenancy is drawing to a close it may be worthwhile waiting and serving a Section 21 notice instead. This will be cheaper and you don't have to prove your case in court. If possible it may be worth waiting the extra week or two to get the tenant out without going through the challenges of a legal contest.
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