It’s essential to follow the correct procedure or your claim as a landlord may fail, warns Amanda Hamilton.
If you rent your flat and find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to get a tenant out, it’s generally an unpleasant situation for both sides.
The two routes to evicting a tenant are either serving a Section 21 Notice of Possession or a Section 8 Eviction Notice under the Housing Act 1988. Both notices produce the same outcome: you get your property back.
However, it’s essential you’ve followed the correct procedure or your claim as a landlord may fail. If you’re not comfortable doing everything yourself it can be worth taking on the services of a paralegal. They can offer the same advice as a solicitor but generally charge considerably less. Check they belong to a recognised membership body such as NALP and have a licence to practice, with the proper indemnity insurance in place.
Whether you’re doing it yourself or engaging a paralegal, you need first to decide which method suits your needs most.
A Section 21 Notice informs the tenant that you wish to recover possession of your property.
The first step in this process is to give the tenant no less than two months’ notice telling them you need them to vacate the premises. If the tenant doesn’t comply with the notice, the landlord will need to prove to the court that a notice was served. To do this, it’s important to serve the notice by hand, with a witness and to keep a copy.
If you have a tenant who’s in breach of a term in the agreement, such as non-payment of rent, then you can use a Section 8 Notice. This will then give the tenant two months to leave the property.
The first step is to write a letter to the tenant giving notice that the rent hasn’t been paid and letting them know that if it is not paid immediately you will take action to remove them from the property.
To serve a Section 8 or a Section 21 yourself, be sure you have followed the correct procedure and have all your tenancy paperwork up to date.
It’s worth remembering that, even if you have good grounds for eviction, it might still be worth serving a Section 21, instead of Section 8 if the tenancy is coming to an end or a break anyway.
Once the correct forms have been served your tenant is legally obliged to leave on the specified date. If they don’t, the landlord can apply to the court for a possession order.
A landlord can either keep the tenant on and sue in the county court for the arrears of rent, or can opt for the possession order straight away to terminate the agreement. If it’s not worth going to court for the arrears of rent because the tenant may not have any money, it’s advisable to go for possession straight away.
In all cases, it’s worth remembering that it’s a criminal offence to evict a tenant by any means other than obtaining a court order for possession.
If the tenant fails to vacate, the next option is to use county court bailiffs and this is where following the correct procedure will be open to scrutiny. Depriving someone of their home is a serious matter and judges expect landlords to follow the proper procedure and have perfect paperwork.
If a tenant is looking to be re-housed by a local authority, they won’t usually start this procedure until a possession order has been made.
So, remember to give at least two month’s notice in writing and specify the required date of possession and try to be accommodating and reasonable.
And if the Section 21 Notice has been properly served, the good news is, the landlord is entitled to possession by default.
More information to enable you to do this for yourself can be attained online at: https://www.gov.uk/evicting-tenants/section-21-and-section-8-notices
Amanda Hamilton is chief executive of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP)