Investing in property is certainly an expensive venture. One would expect the property to guarantee a steady flow of income as soon as construction is completed. However, as a landlord, you will get all sorts of tenants. That is why it may be necessary to do some screening to help eliminate potentially bad tenants. There are also well-meaning tenants who struggle to pay rent on time. Here’s a step by step guide of how to deal with these problems when they get out of hand – when all else fails, and it’s time to evict.
Decide on a type of notice Section 21 or 8
There are Section 21 and Section 8 notices, either of which can be used for landlords seeking to regain possession of a property. This needs to be decided on a case by case basis. Section 21 notices must be served at least 2 months in advance of the intended eviction date and cannot expire before the end of the tenancy. If the period has expired and the tenant refuses to leave, a Section 21 does not require a court hearing, so you will receive a Possession Order within 6 weeks of application. The Section 21 relies on correct paperwork, cannot be defended and possession will be granted. However, you must wait 2 months for the notice to expire and if you haven’t protected the tenancy deposit, you are not entitled to use this notice type.
On the other hand, a section 8 has a notice period of only 2 weeks – much faster. Section 8 allows the landlord to ask for his property back because the tenant has defaulted as stipulated under the tenancy agreement. Mostly, the tenant may have defaulted in paying rent or may have violated any of the grounds provided by Schedule 2 of the 1988 Housing Act. You would have to have a hearing, and are likely to receive a County Court Judgment for the rent arrears. This is therefore preferable for those who have had rent payment issues with their tenants. Unfortunately, however, if the tenant does pay up with less than two months of rent owing, you cannot get a possession order. So if there are likely to be ongoing payment issues, this may not be the best route. You also have to go to court and the tenant can defend the claim.
Serve the tenants an official notice
Once you have decided on the appropriate method, you must serve the notice. The notice needs to be written in a particular way to be valid, and it’s best to establish this early on to avoid problems in court down the line. Given this, it is recommended that you engage a legal person to help you draft and serve the notice.
Attend Court (for a Section 8 or in the event of non-compliance)
Most tenants served a Section 21 or Section 8 will leave before the allocated date. However, if the tenant does not leave, the landlord can move to the courts, where a judge evaluates the papers submitted by the landlord. This is for the purpose of applying for a possession order. If the notice was served inappropriately and did not comply with the law, the entire process is nullified and the process must be repeated. If the papers are in order, however, the landlord will be granted permission to repossess his property. The process then takes some weeks before the court issues the possession order – it can feel lengthy, but you have to ensure you are following the steps carefully in order to have a valid claim to repossess the property. The court formally writes to the tenant ordering him to leave the premises. Ideally, the court may require that they vacate within 14 days. However, if it can be demonstrated that the tenant will suffer from exceptional hardship as a result of the eviction, they may receive an extension and be ordered to vacate within 42 days.
The court may require that the landlord or his agent attend the hearing so that they the judge can verify the facts. If there is proof that the tenant breached the tenancy agreement, the court will grant possession. In a case where there are rent arrears, the landlord’s lawyer may seek orders from the court to recover the money. If the order is granted, the tenant will receive a written order for payment.
At this stage, the bailiff is sent to remove the tenant from the property once the time expires (unless they have left willingly upon order of the courts). Section 8 allows the court to grant leave and instruct the high court sheriff to institute the eviction instead of using a bailiff. If the leave is not granted and the landlord uses operators to unlawfully evict the tenant, the tenant can sue the landlord for damages. This can feel like a very unpleasant part of the process, but unfortunately, if you have attended court, received a possession order, requested eviction and still do not have success, bailiff removal of the tenant will become necessary.
As a landlord, avoiding this outcome is always preferable. It can be a slow process, taking between 2- 6 months to evict a single tenant. It can always help to try and incentivise your tenant to leave of their own accord earlier – this might involve a monetary incentive. Offer to discount or write off a debt in favour of swift removal of the tenant from the property. Try to maintain a good relationship, ask them to leave peacefully or opt to go through the formal eviction process. Just ensure that you understand and follow the proper rules and the legal down procedures.