Court eviction tenant landlord

Take notice: how does eviction work?

In this blog, we take you through the eviction process so you don’t feel left out in the cold if the worst happens.

Eviction can be a scary word – more than 170 tenants were evicted every day in England and Wales in 2015 alone, according to Ministry of Justice figures. Here, property manager Louise Rock takes us through just what it means, what can trigger it and just how long it can take before a landlord can take possession once again.

There are two types of eviction notice as highlighted below. There are also different types of each notice depending on when and why these are served, and so it's always best to check with a solicitor first.

Section 21 notice of eviction

This is an eviction notice which doesn’t require any reason to be served.

Louise said: “It could be anything from disruption to neighbours, to rent arrears, or just down to the owner not getting along with their tenant.

“The only reason a tenant cannot be evicted is if there are any outstanding repairs to be completed. But they have to have proof of those in writing from before the eviction was issued – it isn’t enough to say they had a conversation about it.”

If an eviction notice is served while repairs are due, that could come under malicious eviction – and if it eventually went to court, chances are it would be thrown out.

A section 21 notice also cannot be served during the fixed term of the lease, meaning the landlord must wait until after the tenant's initial 6 months (or longer if specified in the tenancy agreement) is up first.

The typical notice period for a Section 21 is two months, or eight weeks if rent is paid weekly.

Section 8 notice of eviction

These can be served at any point, but must have a reason described under a series of clauses.

If it is served on the grounds of missed rent payments, the arrears have to be equal to two months or eight weeks unpaid dependent on whether they pay monthly or weekly.

“If it is due to damage to the property caused by the tenant, then photo and video evidence and witness statements must be given too. There has to be proof it was them.”

The typical notice period for a Section 8 is between 2 weeks’ and 2 months’ notice depending on which terms have been broken (for rent arrears, it's 2 weeks).

But what happens if the tenant hasn’t left by the time notice has ended?

Once that deadline hits and the tenant hasn’t moved, the landlord cannot change the locks. It doesn’t mean the property automatically reverts to back to them.

“If the landlord thinks their tenant has vacated, they best option is to put a notice of abandonment on the door, giving a minimum of five days for them to get in touch. If they don’t, the owner can then change the locks and go in, at which point a further ten days is given for the tenants to collect their belongings from inside.

“If they do get in touch, it cancels the notice of abandonment and the landlord must apply to the courts for possession. This can be done either via an accelerated or traditional possession, of which there are differences".

Different types of possession - the basic outline

Accelerated possession

  • Issued on the basis of a S21 notice only
  • Recover possession only - any rent arrears or damages must be pursued separately/via the traditional possession
  • 14-21 days before receiving court notification that the claim has been issued, 2 further working days for the papers to be formally deemed served upon the tenant, 14 days for the tenant to file a defence
  • Usually a 14 day possession is awarded in cases where no defence is filed, otherwise it takes an average of 4 weeks to arrange a hearing
  • 21 days for a court bailiff to attend site if required
  • The Judge can order the tenant to cover fixed costs to be paid to the owner, this is the only amount that can be claimed using this procedure
  • Typical procedure - 6 to 12 weeks

Traditional possession

  • Issued on the basis of either a S21 or S8 notice
  • Recover possession and arrears (including damages and interest)
  • A hearing must take place. The date can be issued online within hours, however under the Court's own rules they cannot set  the hearing date any earlier than 4 weeks from the date of the issue of the proceedings online
  • The Letting Company are able to attend on your behalf
  • The Court can award all legal costs to be paid by the tenant
  • Typical procedure - 12 to 18 weeks

If the tenant is still in the property after the Judge determines possession, then the landlord must apply for a court bailiff to attend; the Courts do not arrange a locksmith either, so this must be prepared for the same time that the bailiffs attend site. If the tenant refuses to leave, the police can be involved.

What happens afterwards?

After a tenant has been evicted, the landlord is able to pursue any debt - including damages. 

"A lot of tenants are under the impression that their rent balance is cleared once they're evicted, but this isn't the case" Louise explains. "Even if you're evicted through the accelerated procedure, the landlord can still pursue the debt; this just has to be done as a separate case through the Small Claims route".

"We work closely with the team at Direct Collection Bailiffs Limited (DCBL), exclusively featured in the popular Channel 5 TV series 'Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!'. Once the landlord has obtained a judgement from the courts, DCBl have the authorisation to recover unpaid debts on behalf of the property owner. They not only have the power to attend the debtors address but also remove any personal belongings to the same value of the due amount - including vehicles. They also apply their own charges direct to the tenant, which are substantial.

"I don't think people realise how serious rent arrears truly are. In most cases, the landlord has a mortgage to pay on their rental property; without a regular rental income it becomes almost impossible for owners to keep up with payments and the eviction/recovery process becomes the only option left for them".

What can this eviction process be expected to cost?

The eviction process cannot only be lengthy, but incredibly costly.

Louise confirms "Evictions come with a price, as it's a service the solicitors and courts are providing; unfortunately, unlike shopping for groceries, there aren't competitive courts and so the majority of costs are fixed".

Service                                                            Cost
Section 21 or section 8 notice                £72 inclusive of VAT
Section 21 and section 8 notice             £108 inclusive of VAT

Accelerated possession
Solicitor's costs                                           £660 inclusive of VAT
Court issue fee                                            £355 inclusive of VAT
Bailiff fee                                                      £121 inclusive of VAT

Traditional possession
Solicitor's costs                                           £720 inclusive of VAT
Court issue fee                                           £355 inclusive of VAT
Barrister fee                                                £144 inclusive of VAT
Bailiff fee                                                     £121 inclusive of VAT

The landlord is able to avoid the solicitors costs when using the accelerated possession procedure, but only if theyr are willing to attend court themselves without a legal representative.  The court issue fee still applies in this situation, and the bailiff fee too if necessary.

Facts and figures

  • In 2016 alone, 59,260 households were accepted as homeless by their local council – a rise of 22% over the last 5 years.
  • Since 2011, the rise in the number of households evicted from a privately rented home has accounted for 78% of the rise in homelessness.
  • The loss of a private tenancy remains the single biggest cause of homelessness - 18,750 households became homeless after an eviction from a privately rented home in 2016.

Why not read our blog for more information on rent guarantee and how to avoid being caught out by tenant arrears and legal costs - 

Are you a tenant worried about being wrongly evicted, or are you a landlord struggling to evict a problematic tenant? Don't hesitate to call us for advice on 0845 838 2890 - we can definitely help.



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