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Need help in evicting a tenant?

Most landlords who serve an eviction notice do so quite reasonably, either because the tenancy has ended (section 21 notice) or because the tenant has breached the tenancy agreement, such as not paying rent or damage to property (section 8 notice). Regardless of the reason for an eviction, landlords must follow the strict legal process, as set out in the Housing Act 1988, and this brief guide sets out the steps that landlords must follow if they want to possess their property legally. If landlords choose to take matters into their own hands, they may have to pay thousands of pounds in damages for illegal evictions or face additional costs and delays due to failure to comply with key deadlines. or not following correct procedure.

Consult our landlord and tenant solicitors in Eastbourne and Hastings

For clear, expert advice on evicting a tenant, please contact a member of our landlord and tenant team for a no obligation discussion:

Step 1: Review the application and send notice to the tenant

There are various notices you can send to your tenant to gain possession of your property. You can serve a section 8 notice or a section 21 notice. It depends on the type of rental and why you want your property back.

When you first ask us, we will review your tenancy agreement, any guarantor agreements and any other documents, and draft the appropriate notice on your behalf. We'll also let you know if certain steps need to be taken before sending the notification. For example, if you want to serve a section 21 notice on a tenancy created after 1 October 2015, you must check that you have submitted your EPC, Tenancy Instructions and Occupant Gas Safety Certificate. If you have not done so, you must serve them on the tenant before serving the section 21 notice. Failure to do so will result in the notice being invalidated. This requirement only applies to section 21 notices and not section 8 notices.

You must also secure any deposits received under the rental deposit program and provide required tenant information. If you do not do this within 30 days of receiving the deposit, the tenant can claim compensation from you.

It is essential that you provide accurate and compliant notices. We have seen many occasions where a landlord has served their own notice, waited the notice period to issue proceedings, and then found out their original notice is not compliant and had to instruct us to serve it again, and wait for the notice period to expire once again. This delays the process and can be costly, particularly if the landlord is not receiving rent.

Step 2: Issue proceedings

If the tenant refuses to vacate once the notice expires (and the notice period depends on what ground you seek possession), then you must issue proceedings with the court to remove your tenant.
The most common notice periods are at least 2 months for a section 21 Notice, and 2 weeks if the tenant owes 2 months or more worth of rental arrears. There are other grounds with different notice periods, depending on the reason for evicting your tenant. You should never enter the property yourself and evict the tenant, as you could face a claim against you for illegal eviction and ultimately be forced to compensate the tenant for the amount thousands of pounds.

Step 3: Attend the hearing (unless it is an expedited hearing under section 21)

The tenant has the opportunity to defend the claim, explaining why they did not vacate the property before the possession hearing. Most tenants do this very rarely and seek advice from a solicitor who will provide them with free advice in court on the day.

Expedited possession occurs when there is no outstanding debt or the owner is not interested in collecting the debt and the process is done on paper and there is no in-person hearing.

If the documents are in order and in accordance with the cause of possession, it is unlikely that the tenant will be able to defend the possession proceedings. If the tenant raises issues about disrepair in the property being the reason that they are not paying rent (which they have complained about numerous times to the landlord), then the matter may be relisted and head to trial.

If the tenant is only in arrears by a small amount and the court is satisfied they will be able to clear these in a short period of time and continue to pay the rent, then the court may order what is called a “Suspended Possession Order”. This means that as long as the tenant pays the agreed rent to catch up with the arrears, the court will not order Possession but if they default on payment, Possession is either automatically granted, or the landlord could apply for Possession without having to issue a further claim.

The usual time period for the court granting possession of a property will be 14 days. However, if the tenant can prove to the judge that they would suffer “exceptional hardship” if possession was granted in 14 days, then the judge can consider extending this period up to a maximum of 42 days. Judges have no legislative power to exceed this date. Poor health is often a factor considered when judges determine whether exceptional hardship applies.

Step 4: Enter assets/get ownership certificate

If the tenant returns the keys to you or your real estate agent, they have relinquished possession and you can enter the house and change the locks. However, if the tenant has not returned the key, you should be careful when entering the house. If there are any signs that the tenant is still in the house, you should not enter.

If you cannot be sure that they have disappeared then you must apply to the court for a recovery order, which means that an appointment will be made for a bailiff to attend the premises on an agreed date. intend to evict the tenant. You and the tenant will be notified of that date and you will need to get a locksmith involved. Bailiffs can use reasonable force to evict tenants.

Once the tenant leaves, you can change the locks and do what needs to be done to your property.

If any items are left in the property, you should carefully dispose of them and seek legal advice. Otherwise, you could be sued for throwing  them away!

Future changes to section 21 notices

As part of its commitment to “levelling up”, the government is proposing to introduce new legislation, the Tenants Reform Bill, to include changes to section 21 notices. The Bill is described as delivering “the biggest change to tenancy law in a generation – improving conditions and rights for millions of people in the private and social sectors”. It proposes to ban “no-fault” evictions under Section 21 and prevent unscrupulous landlords from taking advantage of tenants, while strengthening the legal basis of landlords who have a legitimate reason to seek eviction export. There is no specific timetable for the introduction of this legislation, but we will closely monitor developments and provide updates at the appropriate time.

Speak to our landlord and tenant solicitors in Eastbourne and Hastings

From our offices in Eastbourne and Hastings, our team advises landlords all across East Sussex, including in Bexhill-on-Sea, Hailsham, Polegate, Battle, Pevensey and St Leonards-on-Sea.

To find out how we can help with section 8 notices and section 21 evictions, please contact our expert team now:

How can we help you?

Call us today on 01323 644222 to get the specialist help you need.