Although it’s usually a relief for you as a landlord to find good long-term tenants, there are occasions when you may want to take possession of your property; maybe you want to live in it yourself, make it available for a family member to live in, or redevelop it from (for example) a large single home into student flats.
Less positive reasons might be that your tenant has stopped paying the rent, or broken the terms of their tenancy agreement, and efforts to resolve the situation have stalled.
If you can’t come to an amicable arrangement for your tenant to leave then you will have to evict them. Providing you’ve done everything correctly and all paperwork is in place (which it will be if you use a reputable letting agent) then the procedure should be straightforward.
Section 21 Notice
Firstly you must issue a “Section 21 notice” which is a letter that complies with Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. You don’t need to use a special form for a Section 21 notice, but various websites offer paid-for templates.
This will advise the tenant of the eviction date, which must be at least two months from the date the notice is served, and also mustn't be earlier than the end of the fixed term. If the fixed term has expired, or the tenancy was periodic, the eviction date must be the last day of the rental period.
Make sure you get the date right since if it is wrong the tenant can reject the notice and you won't succeed in possession; you will have to go through the process again.
Another point to note is that for a Section 21 to be validly served (and therefore for you to be able to obtain automatic possession under the accelerated possession scheme) the tenant’s deposit must be protected, and you must be able to prove this with a DPS certificate or at least a reference number from the DPS scheme.
Professional Notice Servers
There are rules to follow to ensure your Section 21 notice is correctly ‘served’. If your tenants refuse to answer the door and be handed the notice, which they might if they know it’s coming, take a witness and put the notice through the letterbox before 5pm. If you are unable or unwilling to visit the property personally, use a professional process server – for around £50 they will do the job and provide with a certificate that will be acceptable in court as proof the Section 21 was correctly given.
If the tenant doesn't move out as a result of the Section 21 notice, you'll have to go to court to seek a possession order. For an assured shorthold tenancy you need to have grounds for eviction and to have served the proper notice on the tenant before possession proceedings are started. The most common grounds for eviction are:
Note the court can't make a possession order in the first six months of the tenancy.
Accelerated Possession Procedure
The accelerated possession proceeding is a quicker way to gain possession as there is no court hearing, but you will need to pay a fee (currently £280) before the action can commence. Despite being “accelerated” these proceedings still normally take between six and ten weeks assuming nothing goes wrong.
Until recently the route to accelerated possession involved finding the County Court for the area where the property is situated, filling in a Form N5B claim for possession from HM Courts service, waiting while the court posts the papers to the tenant (with an opportunity for them to object), waiting for an order for possession (normally enforceable 14 days after the order was made), and waiting for the tenant to repay the court fee.
Although the waiting part hasn’t been eliminated the process is thankfully now more streamlined for the landlord who can simply head to the official Government site at https://www.gov.uk/accelerated-possession-eviction and complete the court paperwork online, thus kicking off the process.
One thing to note is the system will ask for a reference number to prove the tenant’s deposit has been lodged in a Deposit Protection Scheme - without this you cannot access this service.
Of course by using a local and respected letting agent such as Newlife Lettings in Farnborough this process will be much easier and – thanks to their initial tenant vetting and on-going negotiating skills - it is much less likely you’ll need to go through this process at all.