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How to protect yourself when evicting a tenant from your rental property

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If you want a tenant to leave your property for whatever reason, there are steps you need to take to stay on the right side of the law. Miss a detail or fail to follow the process, and you’ll find evicting a tenant is more difficult than it needs to be. Read on for our landlord’s guide to the dos and don’ts of the eviction process.

Evicting a tenant 


How do I evict a tenant?

There is a clear procedure for evicting a tenant and you’ll need to follow it step by step. This advice applies to assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs), both:

  • Periodic tenancies, which run week by week or month by month with no end date and
  • Fixed-term tenancies, which run for a set amount of time.

You have two means of legally evicting a tenant at your disposal – serving a Section 8 notice or a Section 21 notice under the Housing Act 1988.

Should I use a Section 21 or Section 8 notice?

When to use Section 21

A Section 21 notice isn’t technically an eviction. Serving a Section 21 notice means you are giving notice to your tenant that you intend to regain possession of the property. Currently, you can use Section 21 to give notice of possession without providing a reason.

You can use a Section 21 notice at the end of a fixed term tenancy or at any time during a periodic tenancy with no fixed end date.

It’s worth noting that before the December 2019 general election, the government indicated its intention to end Section 21 evictions.

When to use Section 8

If your tenant has done something to break the terms of their tenancy agreement, such as failing to pay their rent, damaging your property or causing a nuisance, you can serve them a Section 8 notice.

Be aware that your tenant may dispute your grounds for seeking possession. Protect yourself against these claims by pulling together clear evidence before you start.

Even if you have grounds for eviction, you may choose to use a Section 21 notice instead, as long as the tenancy’s fixed term is coming to an end.

If you aren’t sure which notice to serve, you should get proper legal advice.

Protecting yourself when serving a Section 21 notice

A Section 21 notice must be served correctly, or the court will not enforce it.

The rules to remember are:

  • You can’t serve a Section 21 notice during the first four months or a tenancy.
  • A Section 21 notice lasts for six months – you must begin proceedings within this time or you’ll need to serve another notice.
  • If your tenant makes a valid complaint about the condition of the property, and you do not act, they may take their issue to the local authority. If this happens, any Section 21 notice issued after the tenant’s initial complaint may be invalid.

You have certain obligations as a landlord, which you must meet. Fail to do so, and you won’t be able to successfully evict a tenant using a Section 21 notice. These include:

Failing to give your tenant copies of the property’s energy performance certificate, gas safety certificate or the government’s How to rent guide.

There is a full list of everything you must do on the government website.

How to serve a Section 21 notice

You must give the tenant no less than two months’ notice that you need them to vacate the premises at the end of the tenancy.

You must serve the notice using form 6a from the government website. Serving a notice means handing the correct form directly to the tenant. If they don’t answer the door, you should put the notice through the letterbox before 5pm, in the presence of a witness. In these circumstances, the notice is deemed to have been served the following day.

Even if your tenant becomes difficult or refuses to accept the notice, you mustn’t behave in a way that could be seen as harassment.

If you are uncomfortable about serving the notice yourself, you can use the services of a professional notice server.

How to serve a Section 8 notice

To evict your tenants under Section 8 of the act, you must give them written notice by completing a Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy form.

You must specify which terms of the tenancy have been broken – whether failure to pay rent, damage to property, causing a nuisance or something else.

You must give between two weeks’ and two months’ notice depending on which terms have been broken.

If your tenants don’t leave by the date you’ve given, you can apply to the court for a possession order.

Bear in mind that it is possible that the court will rule against you, especially if the tenant has since put right the breach in the tenancy agreement. This is why using Section 21 is often a better option, if you are approaching the end of a fixed term tenancy or have a periodic tenancy.

How to make an order for possession

If your tenants refuse to leave after being served an eviction notice, there are two routes you can take.

1 Standard possession claims

Make a standard possession claim if you served either a Section 8 or a Section 21 notice, and you want to claim back rent arrears from the tenant.

You can use the government’s possession claim service to do this online. It costs £325.

2 Accelerated possession order

If you served a Section 21 notice, there is a written tenancy agreement and you are not making a claim for unpaid rent, you can apply for an accelerated possession order.

Accelerated possession may be a quicker as it does not usually involve a court hearing.

You will need to complete the N5B form and send it to the nearest court dealing with housing possession.

The court will send your tenants a copy of the application, giving them 14 days to challenge it. A judge will then decide to either issue a possession order stating your tenants must leave the property (this is normally the case) or have a court hearing (this sometimes happens if there is an issue with paperwork or the tenant raises an objection).

These proceedings normally take between six and 10 weeks.

Apply for a Warrant for Possession

If the tenants still refuse to leave, you may apply to the court for a Warrant for Possession. This allows bailiffs to remove the tenants from your property.

For full and up to date details of the process, visit the government website.

If you are a landlord, Assetgrove’s guaranteed rent scheme provides you with a fixed income for up to five years, plus we take care of the stresses and strains of renting out property, including evictions. Find out more or contact us today.

Neil Jennings

Neil is the Operations Director at Assetgrove Lettings, London's Leading Rent Guarantee Company, providing Landlords with no voids, property maintenance, fee-free property management and stress-free service.

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