However, things don’t always go to plan and for one reason or another the only way to remove a tenant from your property is to issue an eviction notice.
Before talking about eviction, first clarify why your tenant is overstaying. If you haven’t given them the proper notice period or are retaining their deposit for some reason, they may be finding it difficult to secure other accommodation. Make sure you have fulfilled your obligations in both of these cases before you start the eviction process.
However, if for various reasons you need your property back and your tenants are refusing to budge, you'll have to think about eviction.
Make sure you know which agreement your tenant is on. A periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) runs week to week or month to month and all you have to do is give a notice to quit.
It doesn’t have to be in writing and is usually a single rental period long. If the agreement runs week to week, you only need to give one week’s notice.
The more common AST is fixed term and this term usually lasts for the first six months. People who continue to rent the property after six months are usually doing so on a rolling month-to-month basis and so all the notice that is needed is one month.
When evicting a tenant there’s a pretty strict timetable you have to stick to.
First of all, you can serve an eviction notice, often referred to as a Section 21 notice.
This gives the tenant two months’ warning that they need to leave the property. You can’t serve them this notice within the fixed period of their lease unless the tenancy agreement specifically allows for it.
This can be followed by an accelerated possession procedure where you pay a fee and apply to a County Court.
If it’s not disputed, there’s no case to be heard and possession is given. However, your tenant can challenge it, particularly if you haven’t followed the correct procedure in letting the property to begin with.
Landlords can also serve what is called a notice seeking possession or Section 8 notice, usually because of rent arrears.
At the time either of this notice or the court hearing, the tenant has to be at least eight weeks behind with their rent payments.
The notice period for a Section 8 can be shorter than Section 21, depending on the reason.
If the tenant still hasn’t left your property, your next port of call is the courts to get hold of a possession order. This can’t be issued during the first six months of any tenancy.
The court will look for good reason to issue a possession order, and this is most often simply that the initial Section 21 notice has been ignored.
Anti-social behaviour is another good reason to apply for a possession order through the courts, although this does require a degree of proof and more than just one neighbour’s word against your tenant.
Not everyone needs good neighbours but people have a right to stay in their homes, even if the person next door has taken a dislike to them.
Actively doing things to make themselves disliked is another matter, however. Loud music, excessive rubbish and threatening behaviour are common causes for complaint.
Your tenant can’t 'refuse' to accept an eviction notice. If they won’t open the door to take the notice from you, you can take a witness with you who can testify that they saw you put the document through the letterbox, or alternatively pay to use a professional process server. It’s not expensive and you’ll have a certificate that you can use in court as a result.
If you’ve gone through the eviction process above and still your tenant won’t budge, you can get bailiffs involved. They will visit your property and make sure the tenant leaves.
If you do have to resort to bailiffs you do still have to write to your tenant and warn them that you are applying to the High Court to do so.
It’s very rare to have to resort to such extremes but if you’ve followed all the rules regarding letting your property then it’s your right to have it back.
Bailiffs sound extreme but they are not allowed to use violence or offensive language. They will visit the property during a normal working day and are sensitive to the needs of families with children or the disabled.
They will not take nor do they have the right to damage any of your tenant’s property and property can only be taken in respect of rent arrears using a separate court application.
For more advice on evicting a tenant, there are many landlord associations that can help and offer further information on your own particular eviction situation.