How to Evict a Tenant Legally: A Guide for Landlords

mariam-abu-hussein
Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 28th February 2024
Evicting a tenant

As a landlord, deciding to evict a tenant is a big decision. Whether it's due to rent arrears, damage to the property, nuisance, or personal reasons like selling or moving back in, every eviction must follow strict rules and procedures to avoid legal issues.

At Lawhive, we understand the complexities of eviction laws in England and Wales and our network of experienced landlord lawyers is on hand to provide quick, accessible legal advice and representation should you need it.

While this guide is designed to hep you understand how to legally evict a tenant, if you're unsure about the process or need practical help with any eviction-related issues, contact us today for a free case evaluation and no-obligation quote.

Table of Contents

How will the Renters Reform Bill affect eviction processes?

The Renters (Reform) Bill is an important piece of legislation for private landlords and their tenants.

Introduced to parliament on 17th May 2023, it is currently undergoing a lengthy parliamentary process before it becomes law.

In the context of tenant eviction, the bill in its current form will:

  • End assured shorthold tenancies and remove section 21 'no-fault' evictions;

  • Amend and strengthen landlords' ability to repossess properties, particularly in cases of anti-social behaviour or repeated rent arrears.

How to legally evict a tenant in 2024

If you want to evict a tenant or tenants, you have to follow the law. If you don't, you could be accused of harassing your tenants or illegally evicting them.

In this guide, we'll walk you through the steps you can take to legally evict a tenant.

Although the government has reaffirmed its intention to ban no fault evictions in 2024, the Renters (Reform) Bill has yet to pass through the House of Commons.

This guide will reflect the current laws on tenant eviction and will be updated to reflect any new laws when they are in place.

Eviction procedures for different types of tenancies

The type of tenancy agreement your tenant has will affect how you can evict them and what notice you need to give them.

The most common type of tenancy agreement is an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), which can be either fixed-term or periodic.

However, there are different tenancy agreement types which have different eviction processes including:

  • Excluded tenancies or licences;

  • Assured tenancies;

  • Regulated tenancies

Evicting tenants with an assured shorthold tenancy

A fixed-term AST runs for a set amount of time, usually 6 or 12 months.

A periodic AST runs on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis with no fixed end date. It can be created when a fixed-term AST expires and is not renewed, or when there is no written tenancy agreement.

If your tenant has an AST, you can evict them using either:

  • A Section 21 notice: If you want the property back after a fixed term ends

  • A Section 8 notice: If your tenants have breached (broken) the terms of the tenancy agreement.

Which notice you serve depends on your reason for the eviction. We will explain these notices in more detail below.

Evicting tenants with an excluded tenancy or licence

If your tenant has an excluded tenancy or licence, such as if they live with you or share facilities with you, you do not have to go to court to evict them.

You only need to give them reasonable notice to quit, which usually means the length of the rental payment period.

For more information on this, check out our guide on how to evict a lodger.

Evicting tenants with an assured or regulated tenancy

If your tenant has an assured or regulated tenancy, which are less common types of tenancies that started before 1997, they have more protection from eviction.

You can only evict them on certain grounds and you will need to go to court.

You can check what type of tenancy agreement your tenant has using Shelter’s tenancy status checker.

How to evict a tenant using a Section 21 notice

You can use a Section 21 notice to ask your tenants to leave:

  1. When their fixed-term tenancy ends (provided there's a written agreement) or

  2. During a tenancy without a set end date (periodic tenancy).

Giving tenants a Section 21 notice

You can give tenants a Section 21 notice by using Form 6a or creating your own notice with the same information.

A section 21 notice must give tenants at least 2 months' notice to leave the property.

However, you may need to give a longer notice period if you have a fixed term tenancy that has ended, but included a clause to continue as a periodic tenancy. If that is the case the amount of notice you give must be the same as the rental period if this is longer than 2 months.

For example, if your tenant has a periodic tenancy and they pay rent every 3 months, you have to give them 3 months' notice in the section 21.

When can't you use a section 21 notice to evict tenants?

You can't use a section 21 notice to evict tenants if:

  • It's been less than 4 months since the tenancy started or the fixed term hasn't ended;

  • The property is an HMO and doesn't have a licence from the council;

  • The tenancy began after April 2007 and you haven't protected the deposit;

  • The council issued an improvement notice on the property in the last 6 months;

  • The council have notified you in the last 6 months that emergency works to be carried out on the property;

  • You haven't refunded illegal fees or deposits;

  • You did not provide tenants with a copies of the property's energy performance certificates, the government's How to rent guide, or a current gas safety certificate at the appropriate times.

If you don't meet these conditions, a section 21 notice might not be valid, and you might not be able to evict your tenant.

If you're unsure or not confident on any part of the process, you should find a solicitor to help you or get help from a housing adviser before using a Section 21 notice to avoid complications.

What happens after you give a tenant a section 21 notice?

If you give your tenant a valid Section 21 notice, they should leave the property by the specified date.

If they don't, you'll need to apply to the court for an accelerated possession order. This is a quicker and cheaper way to get a possession order compared to using Section 8. However, you can't claim any unpaid rent from your tenant using this method. If you want to recover rent arrears, you'll need to use Section 8.

If the court grants you an accelerated possession order and your tenant still doesn't leave, you'll need to apply for a warrant of possession. This allows bailiffs to evict your tenant from the property.

How to evict a tenant using a Section 8 notice

A key and a house

You can use a section 8 notice to evict a tenant if they have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement. For example if your tenant:

  • Owes at least two months' rent.

  • Has damaged the property;

  • Caused trouble for your or your neighbours;

  • Has violated other terms of the tenancy agreement.

The are 17 ground for eviction listed in the Housing Act 1988. Some are mandatory, meaning the court must grant a possession order if proven, while others are discretionary, meaning the court may grant a possession order if it seems fair given the evidence.

Giving tenants a Section 8 notice

You can give tenants a Section 8 notice by using Form 3.

The Section 8 notice that sates:

  • The ground or grounds for eviction

  • The facts that support the ground or grounds

  • The date by which your tenant must leave the property

The notice period you must give when serving a section 8 notice depends on your reasons for eviction. It could be as short as two weeks or as long as two months.

What happens after you give a tenant a section 8 notice?

Providing the section 8 notice is valid, tenants must leave by the deadline in the notice.

If tenants don't leave, you can apply to the court for a standard possession order. There is a fee for this and you will have to attend a hearing to present your case to a judge. You can also claim any unpaid rent using this eviction process.

If a court grants you a possession order and your tenant still refused to leave, you'll need to apply for a warrant of possession, which allows bailiffs to evict the tenant from the property on your behalf.

What process should I follow?

Evicting a tenant legally can be a complex and stressful process but you must follow the rules and procedures carefully and avoid making any mistakes that could invalidate your notice or doing anything that may be seen as illegal eviction.

You may also face resistance or challenges from your tenant.

This table may be helpful to understand what method is the most appropriate for your case:

Method

Type of notice

Reason for eviction

Notice period

Court order

Rent arrears

Section 21

Form 6A or letter

No reason needed

At least 2 months

Accelerated possession order

No

Section 8

Section 8 notice

Breach of contract (one or more of 17 grounds)

Depends on ground (2 weeks to 2 months)

Standard possession order

Yes

Excluded tenancy or licence

Verbal or written notice to quit

No reason needed

Reasonable notice (usually length of rental period)

No court order needed

No

Assured or regulated tenancy

Section 8 notice or notice to quit (depending on ground)

Breach of contract (one or more of 17 grounds) or landlord needs property back for personal reasons

Depends on ground and type of tenancy (2 weeks to 2 months)

Standard possession order

Yes

What is a standard possession order?

You can get a standard possession order to reclaim your property if tenants owe you rent This costs £355 and you can apply online or by post.

For claims before August 3rd 2020, you should complete an N244 form.

What is an accelerated possession order?

An accelerated possession order is a legal process you can use to regain possession of your property if your tenants haven't vacated by the specified date in your Section 21 notice, and you're not seeking rent arrears.

It's typically faster than the standard possession order process and usually doesn't require a court hearing.

The application fee is £355.

Do you have to go to court to legally evict a tenant?

With Section 21 and Section 8 notices, if the tenant leaves the property by the specified date then it is not necessary to attend a court hearing. However, if a tenant contests the eviction or refuses to leave after receiving a notice, court proceedings become necessary to get a standard possession order (although this is not usually the case for accelerated possession orders).

What are the possible outcomes of a court hearing for eviction?

Possession hearings could result in one of three outcomes:

  1. Dismissal: If there's no valid reason for eviction or if correct procedures haven't been followed;

  2. Adjournment: If the judge believe more time or information is needed to make a decision;

  3. Order: The judge may issue an order, outlining what should happen next.

What types of order can a judge make after a possession hearing?

Judge can issue different types of orders, each with specific implications for landlords and tenants:

Order for Possession

Also known as an 'outright possession order,' this requires tenants to leave the property by a specified date, typically within 14 or 28 days after the court hearing. If tenants don't leave by the given date, landlords can apply to the court for a warrant of possession to complete the eviction process.

Suspended Order for Possession

With a suspended order for possession tenants can stay in the property as long as they meet certain conditions or make required payments outline in the order. If they fail to do this, landlords can request eviction.

Money Order

If the judge issues a money order, tenants have to pay a specific amount. If they don't the court can take various actions, like deducting money from their wages or sending bailiffs to seize their belongings. If tenants fall into rent arrears after a money order is issued, landlords can see a possession order to evict them.

Possession Orders with a Money Judgment

In addition to possession, tenants owe a specific sum, typically including rent arrears, court fees, and legal costs. If tenants don't pay, landlords can request enforcement of the order and the judgment. If tenants clear their arrears and the amount specified in a suspended possession order, the money judgment doesn't apply.

Can you appeal against a possession hearing decision?

If you believe the judge made errors during the original possession hearing, you can seek permission to appeal at the end of that hearing.

If permission is granted, you must apply for an appeal hearing. A court fee is typically required, unless you're eligible for financial assistance.

Consider getting help from a solicitor if you're thinking about appealing. The appeals process can be complex, so it's important to make sure it's the right choice for you.

How can landlords enforce eviction if tenants refuse to leave?

If, after possession proceedings, tenants ignore the move-out date in the possession order or breach the terms of a suspended possession order, you can apply to the court for a 'warrant for possession.'

Once the court issues a warrant for possession, tenants will receive an eviction notice with a final leave-by date. If they still don't go, bailiffs can step in to enforce the eviction legally.

How to get a warrant for possession

To request a warrant for possession you can use either Form N325 or the Possession Claim Online service (if you used if for the original possession order).

The cost of this is £130.

Once a court issues the warrant, you'll get a warrant number and an EX96 'notice of appointment' form which will tell you the final eviction date. You must complete and return this form to the court to confirm the eviction.

What does it mean to transfer a warrant to the High Court?

If you have a warrant for possession you can choose to transfer it to the High Court where it becomes a writ of possession. This allows High Court enforcement officers to handle the eviction, potentially speeding up the process.

To transfer a warrant to the High Court, you may need to get permission from the county court first, which costs £71.

Can tenants delay an eviction?

Tenants can ask a judge to suspend a warrant for possession. If granted, this can delay the eviction or allow tenants to stay in the property if they start making payments again.

What is classed as illegal eviction?

Illegal evictions happen when landlords do not give tenants the proper notice or forcibly remove them without a court order.

How can Lawhive help with evictions?

Our team of landlord lawyers is available to offer quick legal advice and representation when needed. Reach out to us today for a free case evaluation and a no-obligation quote.

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