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How Does Legal Eviction Work For Landlords?

No landlord ever wants to evict a tenant. But sometimes it's a step you have to take. The tenant may be behind with the rent. Or is causing issues with anti-social behaviour. Or you may simply need to retake possession of your property. Whatever the reason you must follow the legal process. To do otherwise can lead to legal problems and financial penalties.

How to evict tenants

Assuming an assured shorthold tenancy there are two ways to evict a tenant. You can serve either a Section 8 or Section 21 notice. However, these notices are very different.

At any time during the tenancy, you can serve a Section 8 notice. Though you must have a legal reason to evict the tenant. But with Section 21, the landlord doesn't need to give a reason for eviction. Serving a Section 21 notice is the most common way to evict a tenant in the UK.

However, that's a very brief summary. So, let's look at both in a little more detail.

How to legally evict tenants using a Section 21

To take possession of the property at the end of a fixed term you should use a Section 21. You could also use a Section 21 to enforce an agreed break clause in the tenancy agreement.

Whatever the circumstances you have to give your tenant at least two months’ notice. You can serve the notice at any time. But it won't come into effect before the scheduled end of the fixed term. Or at the agreed break in the tenancy agreement. If, for example, the notice is served in the third month of a six-month fixed term the notice can't be enforced until the end of the tenancy.

If you wait until the end of the tenancy to serve the Section 21 the tenant can remain in the property for another two months.

Serving a Section 21 notice

Before serving your eviction notice, you must make sure the details are correct. The address and tenant(s) details must exactly match those in the tenancy agreement. In the case of a joint tenancy serve notice on all named tenants.

To serve the notice you can:

  • Physically hand it to the tenant.
  • Personally, put it through the letterbox.
  • Post it by first-class registered mail.

    Do make sure you keep copies of the notice and any covering letter.

    Section 21 notice must be valid

    In certain cases, you'll be unable to serve a valid notice. If you haven't protected your tenant's deposit for example. If this is the case, you’ll be unable to evict your tenant with a Section 21 notice. You may also have to pay your tenant compensation.

    After the notice is served

    Assuming the notice is valid the tenant must vacate the property on the specified date. This happens in the overwhelming majority of cases. However, if the tenant refuses to leave you can use the accelerated procedure to reclaim your property. This usually takes around two months but doesn't require a court case.

    Section 8 eviction notice

    If you have legal grounds to regain possession of the property serves a Section 8 notice. In other words when the tenancy agreement has been broken. This could be because of unpaid rent or damage. Or maybe the tenant has been sub-letting. Whatever the issue, if you have provable grounds for eviction, Section 8 is the way to go.

    There are a couple of things you should note before serving a Section 8 for unpaid rent. First of all, the tenant must be at least two months in arrears. Secondly, you must also have given the tenant a chance to make up the payments and give them written notice of their arrears.

    Serving a Section 8 notice

    When you serve the notice, you must name every person on the tenancy agreement. This includes joint-tenants who may have already left. Serving the notice is straightforward. You can either give the paperwork to the tenant directly, sent by first-class post or put through the letterbox of the property. However, when serving a Section 8 notice you do have to be very sure of your ground. If the tenant disputes your claims you will have to prove your case in court.

    After the notice is served

    15 days after serving the notice you can begin court proceedings. Hopefully, the tenant will have already left the property. If they haven't or have left without paying what they owe you should be prepared to make your case in court.

    Which notice should you serve?

    We mentioned at the start of the article a Section 21 notice is the most common way to evict a tenant. And many landlords will use a Section 21 even when they could serve a Section 8. The reason is, of course, you don't have to prove anything when you serve a Section 21. This is why many landlords will choose to serve this type of notice even when they have a problem tenant.

    However, this is of course only an option if the end of a tenancy or a break clause is looming. If it's the middle of the tenancy with no break clause you may have to go down the route of Section 8. But you can also choose to serve both notices and go to court with whichever provides the best opportunity of reclaiming your property.

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