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How can I evict a difficult tenant? My tenant is refusing to leave the property – what can I do? My tenant is ignoring my notice. My tenant will not communicate with me. I feel threatened by my tenant.
Does this sound familiar? It’s not a pleasant situation to be in, and can be extremely frustrating for a landlord, finding themselves in the position of not being able to gain legal access to their own property.
The most important thing to remember in this position is to remain calm and not take the law into your own hands. The worst thing you could do is act quickly or act without the correct advice, as you may find yourself in a sticky situation. Whether you like it or not, tenants do have certain legal rights and you must, therefore, remove them correctly in order to avoid any unnecessary legal and financial implications.
We have put together our own ‘in a nutshell’ guide on evicting legally: -
1. Notice of eviction – Section 21 Housing Act 1988
A notice of eviction, otherwise known as ‘The Section 21 Notice’ is the first step in the eviction process and can only be served on a tenant if either a) the fixed term has expired, or b) if the tenancy agreement makes provision for it. At least 2 months-notice must be given to the tenant. It’s important that you follow the correct procedures when serving this notice… it must be served in writing and must state the date of the planned possession (which must be a date after the 2 month- notice, and not earlier than the end of the fixed term).
2. Possession Order
The next step, if section 21 doesn’t work, is to seek a Possession Order from the courts. A Possession Order cannot be granted within the first 6 months of a tenancy, and can only be applied for if there are ‘sufficient grounds’ for eviction. You must also have served the proper notice to your tenants (using section 21) before possession order proceedings are started.
‘Sufficient grounds’ may include -
- An Assured Short-hold Tenancy – where the tenants refuse to move out after the fixed term of the agreement has expired
- Rent arrears – if the tenant is in serious rent arrears (which must be over 8 weeks-arrears by the time of the hearing)
- Criminal activity – for example, growing cannabis in the property (police reports would be required in court so it is not sufficient to simply see this for yourself and use it as evidence)
3. Accelerated Possession Procedure
This is a more efficient way of evicting a tenant, as it does not require a court hearing. A fee is payable before you commence and you will need to complete a form N5B, which is a claim for possession through the accelerated procedure. This can be obtained from the HM Courts Service. The court then posts the papers to the tenants and they then have 14 days to object. If successful, you will get an order for possession which is enforceable 14 days after the order was served, plus an order stating that the tenant must pay the court costs. This procedure usually takes 6-10 weeks on average, from start to finish.
4. Use Professional Notice Servers
This may be a useful option if you have an uncooperative or difficult tenant who, maybe, doesn’t answer the door and avoids your calls. They will serve written notice on the tenants by taking a witness with them and posting the notice through the door before 5pm (the notice is officially taken from the following day). The judge in court will take this as evidence of notice. This option is fuss-free, takes the stress away from the property owner, and is not overly expensive. It may also be used in a situation where the landlord feels threatened by the tenant and may want to avoid contact.
Armed with this information, you are hopefully feeling more positive about dealing with a difficult tenant – after all…. knowledge is power!
We realise this situation can be stressful for the property owner, and we offer advice and support in this situation, and any other that you may face. Should you need any free advice, simply give us a call and we are happy to help.
Have you had a nightmare tenant? What was the outcome? Do you have any tips for other landlords? Maybe you always have positive experiences with tenants? What is your secret?!
We would love to hear from you…
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or come and have a coffee in our office at 50 West Street, Chichester.