Buying-to-let is big business in the UK, with private rented properties now making up one-fifth of all households, according to government research. If you can buy a property and rent it out to cover your mortgage and earn a little extra on top, what is not to like?
All well and good, but what happens if you have problem tenants that you want to evict, or simply decide that you want your property back, tenant-free? As Robert Twining, property disputes expert at Warners Solicitors in Kent explains, this may not always be as easy as it sounds.
Under the Housing Act 1988, there are strict procedures for evicting tenants which must be followed to the letter if you want to reclaim your property in a timely fashion.
The procedure you follow will depend on whether you want to evict problem tenants who have broken the terms of their tenancy or if you simply want your property back at the end of a fixed term.
The laws concerning evicting a tenant in the UK
Section 8 eviction notices
If your tenant has an assured shorthold tenancy you can apply to regain possession of your property before the end of the fixed term if your tenant has breached the terms of the tenancy agreement and if certain conditions have been met.
Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988, provides 17 grounds on which you may seek possession before the fixed term of tenancy has finished, which include unpaid rent, criminal or antisocial behaviour, and a landlord wanting to reclaim the property to use as their principal home.
To regain possession using a section 8 eviction notice you must issue the tenant with a notice to quit stating that you intend to seek possession of the property and the grounds on which possession is sought. You must ensure the notice is laid out in the required format otherwise there may be a delay in gaining possession.
If the court is satisfied that you are entitled to possession on one of the grounds, it will grant a possession order to take effect within 14 days, although this may be extended to six weeks if the tenant is likely to experience exceptional hardship.
Section 21 eviction notices
If you wish to reclaim your property on a ‘no-fault’ basis at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy, you may do so using the section 21 notice eviction process. In this scenario you do not have to provide a reason for wishing to take possession.
You must give the tenant at least two months’ notice before you want them to leave the property and the notice must be provided on the correct form.
The section 21 notice may be invalid if you have not protected the deposit, provided all the required tenancy-related documents (such as the gas safety certificate), or overcharged for a fee or a deposit.
If your tenants do not leave by the date specified on the notice and they owe you rent, you can apply for a standard possession order. You can apply for an accelerated possession order if you are not claiming rent arrears.
Once your case reaches court the judge may:
- dismiss the case – this means the tenant can remain in the property and you must restart the eviction process from the beginning if you still want them out;
- adjourn the hearing – usually to gain more information so the case can be heard at a later date;
- make an order – this could be an outright possession order which means your tenants must leave your property before the date given in the order; or
- make a suspended order for possession – which means your tenants can stay in your property as long as they obey the conditions set out in the order.
Tenant eviction solicitors
If you wish to regain possession of your property it is wise to seek expert legal advice as the eviction process can be complicated and getting it wrong can mean long delays in reclaiming your property, or even criminal charges if you are found to have harassed your tenants or illegally evicted them.
If you need advice on evicting tenants or any other property law matter, please contact Robert Twining on 01732 770660, email [email protected] or via our contact page. Warners Solicitors has offices in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, Kent.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.