When you’re a landlord, always remember that even the best tenants can fall on hard times and run up rent arrears, especially in the current economic climate. And, at some point, you may have to start to evict your tenant.
Evicting tenants will involve legal expenses and a period where you won’t receive any rent (as tenants rarely pay rent if they are facing eviction). So try to guard against the costs of rent arrears and tenant eviction by keeping a special fund which you can dip into to pay for expenses should you have to evict your tenant for rent arrears.
But when tenants get into rent arrears, how do you go about evicting tenants?
1. Once rent arrears have occurred, contact your tenant without delay.
Always monitor your tenant’s rent payment to avoid rent arrears building up. But if you find out that your tenant is in rent arrears, immediately get in touch with your tenant and impress the urgency that rent arrears should be paid. When you’re addressing your tenant about rent arrears, make sure that you get it in writing.
Offer help to your tenant to reduce their rent arrears. You may be able to assist your tenant in getting Housing Benefit to help them pay off their rent arrears.
When evicting tenants for rent arrears, or any other reason, you must have a ‘ground’ for evicting the tenant and have served the proper tenant eviction notice on the tenant before legal proceedings are started.
The two grounds for evicting tenants which are most commonly used are:
The shorthold ground
This shorthold ground is used as part of the tenant eviction court process called the “accelerated possession procedure”.
You can only use the shorthold ground to evict a tenant if the tenancy is:
- an assured shorthold tenancy (AST)
- there is a written form of tenancy agreement
- you have served a Section 21 Notice on the tenant
- the fixed term has expired (or six months, whichever is the greater)
Serious rent arrears (ground 8)
This rent arrears ground (ground 8) is used as part of the ‘normal’ fixed date eviction procedure (where a court tenant eviction order can only be made after a court hearing which you’ll have to attend to give evidence).
You can use this rent arrears ground to evict a tenant if:
- the tenant is in rent arrears of more than two months (or three months in Scotland)
- you have served a Section 8 Notice on the tenant
For more information on serving a Section 21 Notice and a Section 8 Notice, see our article “How to terminate a tenancy agreement in England and Wales”.
3. Issue tenant eviction proceedings through the courts.
Once you have served the Section 21 Notice or Section 8 Notice on your tenant in rent arrears, you need to obtain a possession order through the courts. There are two court procedures for evicting tenants:
The accelerated possession procedure
This procedure to evict a tenant can be used after you have served a Section 21 Notice.
When applying for a possession order, you should use the special accelerated possession procedure form and make sure that copies of all relevant documents are sent to the court.
If you win your eviction case against the tenant, you’ll receive a possession order and an order that the tenant pays fixed costs.
Advantages of the accelerated eviction procedure:
- It’s quicker than the rent arrears eviction procedure because you don’t have to attend a court hearing.
- The tenant cannot stop you gaining possession of the property, as you’re allowed possession as of right after the end of the fixed term.
- The tenant eviction process isn’t that quick; it still takes about eight to ten weeks to evict the tenant.
- You cannot use the accelerated procedure to claim rent arrears and obtain a money judgment.
If evicting tenants is more important than reclaiming rent arrears, you may want to serve a Section 21 Notice and wait for the longer tenant eviction notice period to expire. Then you can use the accelerated possession procedure so you’re certain that you’ll get a tenant eviction order.
This would also be a better course of action if there is a chance that the tenant will raise a defence and counterclaim for compensation on the basis that your property is in poor repair.
Normal ‘fixed date’ proceedings
This procedure for evicting tenants involves a court hearing where you’ll have to attend and present your case to the judge, giving evidence to the court of the rent arrears due at the date of the hearing.
You’ll also normally be entitled to a money judgment for any rent arrears due at the date of the hearing, and an order that the tenant pays future rent until the tenant vacates your property.
If the tenant’s rent arrears remain unpaid, you can enforce this judgment through the courts and you’ll also be entitled to an order for costs.
Advantage of the fixed date eviction procedure:
- The fixed date procedure can be used if the tenant is in rent arrears and the tenancy still has several months or longer to run (as you cannot evict a tenant under the shorthold ground during the fixed term). This procedure for evicting tenants can save you from serious financial losses.
- You cannot obtain a possession order when using the rent arrears ground if the rent arrears are paid (e.g. by Housing Benefit) before the hearing date. This is all right if you simply want to reclaim the rent arrears, but may be annoying if you actually want to evict the tenant.
More rent arrears and tenant eviction advice
- Download all the tenant eviction forms you need with the Tenant Eviction Kit
- Read our eviction expert’s ‘top tips’ on preventing tenant rent arrears
- Read our eviction expert’s ‘top tips’ on evicting tenants here
- For more information on eviction, see Tessa’s book “Residential Lettings: The Complete Guide”