Insights

How Landlords Can Evict ‘Bad Tenants’ (& How to Avoid Eviction!)

Renting out your property is not always a pleasant experience.

While some tenants duly pay their rent and follow the terms of the lease, others can simply be bad tenants, becoming the main cause of the landlord’s headache. However, no matter how frustrated the tenant is, it’s crucial for the landlord to not take the matters into their own hands and forcibly remove the tenant without involving the court. Attempting to do so not only risks failure in eviction but also exposes the landlord to potential criminal charges for illegal eviction.

Proper steps must therefore be followed to evict the tenant legally.

General Guidelines for Evicting Bad Tenants 

Note: This general guide only applies to Assured Shorthold Tenancy (commonly known as an “AST”), which covers most of the private tenancy cases.

Under the Housing Act 1988, the landlord must firstly serve either or both:

  • A Section 21 Notice
  • A Section 8 Notice

Section 21 Notice

Serving a Section 21 Notice to the tenant is the most common way to start the eviction process. This notice is often referred to as a ‘no-fault’ notice because it does not require the landlord to provide a reason for issuing it.

Key requirements for serving a Section 21 Notice:
  • Deposit Protection:
    • The landlord must have protected the tenant’s deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving it. Failure to do so can invalidate a Section 21 Notice.
  • Before issuing a Section 21 Notice, the landlord must provide the tenant copies of:
    • Gas safety certificate
    • Energy performance certificate (EPC)
    • The government’s How to rent guide
  • The landlord of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), such as bedsits and B&Bs, and properties in certain regions, cannot issue a Section 21 Notice unless they possess or have applied for:
    • A license from the council
    • Temporary exemption
  • Correct Form:
  • Correct Notice Period:
    • The landlord must provide the tenant with at least two months’ notice in writing, stating that the landlord requires possession of the property. This notice period can be longer if specified in the tenancy agreement.
  • Minimum Term:
    • The landlord cannot serve a Section 21 Notice within the first four months of the tenancy.
  • Mandatory Information:
    • The Section 21 Notice must include specific details, such as the address of the property, the date the tenant must vacate, and information about the deposit protection scheme.
  • Specific requirement for a fixed-term tenancy:
    • In the case of a fixed-term tenancy, the date specified in the notice for the tenant to vacate must be after the end of the fixed term, unless there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement. In other words, the landlord can only request the tenant to leave the property after the term ends, subject to a break clause.
  • Not a “revenge eviction”:
    • The landlord cannot issue a Section 21 Notice for 6 months after they get either an improvement notice or an emergency works notice from the council.
    • The landlord also cannot issue a Section 21 Notice immediately after the tenant complains to the landlord about repairs or poor conditions and they then receive an improvement notice or an emergency works notice from the council.
    • Upon receiving a Section 21 Notice, the tenant has several options, to vacate the property, to negotiate with the landlord or to challenge the notice for not complying with the above requirements.

*Please be aware that if the Renters Reform Bill becomes law, there will be significant changes in this area of legislation. Most notably, there will be a complete ban on the use of Section 21 “no fault” evictions. For more details, please see our blog “Renters Reform Bill: Summary & Guide”.

Section 8 Notice

Alternatively, the landlord can issue a Section 8 Notice to start the eviction process. Unlike a Section 21 Notice, this notice can be served at any time during the tenancy, but the landlord must provide the tenant with reasons or “grounds for possession” when issuing the notice.

Mandatory grounds for possession: 

If the landlord can prove these grounds for possession, the court must order the tenant to leave the property. These grounds include:

  • The landlord seeks possession either because they previously occupied the property as their main home or because they now intend to use the property as their main home.
  • The property is under a mortgage, and the mortgagee now has the right to execute a power of sale.
  • The tenancy is for a fixed term of no more than 8 months, and the property was previously used as a holiday let.
  • The tenancy is for a fixed term of up to 12 months, and the property is student accommodation rented out when not in term.
  • The property is owned by religious bodies.
  • The property requires redevelopment.
  • The tenant has died.
  • The tenant is in rental arrears for more than 8 weeks if the rent is paid weekly or fortnightly, 2 months if paid monthly, one full quarter if paid quarterly or 3 months if paid yearly.
Step 1: Identify grounds for possession:

If the landlord can prove these grounds for possession, the court may order the tenant to leave the property. These grounds include:

  • That there is suitable alternative accommodation available for the tenant once possession is granted.
  • The tenant is in rental arrears for less than the period specified in ground 8.
  • The tenant has persistently delayed rent payments, regardless of whether the rent is currently overdue.
  • The tenant has breached terms of the tenancy, other than payment of rent.
  • The property has deteriorated due to the tenant’s conduct.
  • The tenant is causing a nuisance or annoyance to residents or visitors at the property or is using the property for illegal or immoral purposes.
  • The tenant has allowed the landlord’s furniture to deteriorate because of their improper care or mistreatment.
  • The tenant was previously employed by the landlord but has since terminated their employment.
  • The landlord granted the tenancy based on a false statement made by the tenant.

Upon receiving a Section 8 Notice, the tenant also has several options, to vacate the property, to negotiate with the landlord or to challenge the notice by disagreeing with the above grounds for possession.

Step 2: Wait for the Notice Period to Expire

The landlord must wait for the specified notice period to expire, typically around two months, allowing the tenant time to either comply with the terms of the tenancy or leave the property.

Step 3: Apply for possession order

If the tenant fails to comply with the terms or leave the property after the notice period ends, the landlord can then apply for a possession order to evict the tenant from the court. The start of this process is normally called “possession proceedings”, which involves filing the necessary court forms, providing supporting documents to explain the case to the court, and paying the court fees. 

Step 4: Court hearing

Once the case has been scheduled by the court, the landlord will receive notification of the hearing date. Typically, the landlord is represented at the court hearing. If the case is uncontested, the court may issue a possession order following the hearing. The landlord can then enforce the possession order, compelling the tenant to leave the property.

Step 5: Enforcement

Following the court hearing, the tenant usually isn’t required to leave the property immediately but will be given a specified period to leave the property, usually 14 to 28 days. If the tenant still doesn’t leave by the date specified in the possession order, the landlord can obtain an eviction warrant from the court and send bailiffs to make the tenant leave. Again, the landlord should not remove the tenant on their own or without obtaining an eviction warrant first.

Our Advice

Eviction procedures can be complex, and failure to follow them correctly may result in unnecessary costs and potential criminal liability. Therefore, it’s always advisable to seek legal advice before initiating the eviction process.

If you’re experiencing difficulties in evicting a tenant, MSR Solicitors offers a specialized team of solicitors experienced in property disputes, ready to provide prompt advice and assistance to you.

Contact us today for a consultation.

*This article is not legal advice but provides a general overview. The specific details of your case will determine the best course of action.