Government Announces Plans to Review Tenant Eviction Rules – What Do Tenants and Landlords Need to Know?
THE recent announcement that the government will consult on changes to the rules surrounding tenant evictions is seen as one of the biggest overhauls for renters in a generation. The announcement is likely to see the government scrap ‘no-fault evictions’ – meaning that landlords would no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice without good reason – and has been welcomed by housing campaigners.
But what will the proposed changes mean for landlords and tenants and how do they navigate the minefield of legalities? Simon Roberts, a solicitor at DAS Law explains what tenants and landlords need to know…
1) For Tenants
My landlord is threatening to evict me – how do I ensure he is acting within the law?
If you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST – most tenancies are ASTs) the landlord cannot evict you from the property without a court order. If you have been threatened with eviction please seek immediate legal advice.
What legal processes does my landlord need to follow in order to evict me?
The first step by the landlord in lawfully evicting a tenant will be the serving of a notice to quit. The notice will either be a section 8 notice (requiring grounds) or section 21 notice (requiring no grounds).
Should the tenant not leave following the expiry of the notice the landlord will need to apply to court for a possession order. The order will generally be issued following a hearing and will set a date for the tenants to leave the property. Should the tenant not vacate the property, the landlord will have to return to court to obtain warrant for possession of land, allowing the landlord to appoint bailiffs to evict the tenant. The landlord is not permitted to change the locks without going through the courts.
What should I do if I receive an eviction notice from my landlord?
Generally, a landlord can only bring a tenancy to an end by serving either a section 21 or a section 8 notice. A section 8 notice has to be in a prescribed form and for breaches of tenancy, such as non-payment of rent, the landlord is required to give 14 days’ notice.
There are various requirements that have to comply with when issuing a section 21 notice, including ensuring that the landlord has complied with the duty to protect the deposit within 30 days. Depending upon locality, a section 21 notice may also require the use of a prescribed form.
Failure to comply with the legal requirement could render the notices unenforceable. Should you receive a notice to quit or possession order you should seek legal advice to ensure that the notice you have been served with is the correct length and has been served on the prescribed form, and that all other legal requirements have been met by the landlord.
Can I appeal an eviction notice?
You cannot appeal a notice to quit but if the notice served was not valid the landlord is unlikely to secure possession of the property. You may be able to appeal against a possession order but only if you can show that the judge made an error of judgment in the possession hearing.
I am up to date on my rent but the landlord wishes to sell the property. Can I be evicted before the end of my lease?
Provided that there are no other issues (e.g. breach of the tenancy), the landlord will have to wait for the fixed term to expire and cannot require you to leave before that date.
I have made improvements to the property during my tenancy – can I ask for compensation of the costs if I am being evicted?
It would depend on the agreement with the landlord. In most residential tenancies (i.e. AST) the tenant is required to seek consent from the landlord to undertake any work in the property, thus it is very unlikely that the tenant will be entitled to any compensation. They may, however, be required to undertake more work to put the property back into its original condition.
I have heard that I should force the landlord to go to court to evict me as this will help me being re-housed by the local authority. Is this true?
It is not uncommon for councils to advise tenants to stay in the property until the landlord obtains a possession order or bailiffs are instructed to evict the tenants.
How do I evict a tenant who is behind in their rent?
A landlord is required to serve a notice to quit on the tenants. If the tenants are behind on rent you can serve a section 8 notice requiring that the tenant leaves the property within 14 days. However, if the tenancy is still within the fixed term you should check the tenancy agreement to ensure that there is a provision in the agreement allowing you to ask for the property back, pursuant to serving a section 8 notice.
If a tenant refuses to leave – what are my next steps?
If the tenant does not leave the property you will need to apply for a possession order from the court. Should the tenant remain in the property following the grant of the order, an application for warrant for possession of land will need to be made and, ultimately, bailiffs may need to be appointed to remove the tenants should they still refuse to leave. In certain circumstances, it may be more appropriate to serve a section 21 notice. You should seek legal advice before issuing a notice as failure to comply with the strict statutory requirements will likely result in possession not being granted.
Can I evict a tenant on the basis of behaviour problem?
If the tenant – or anyone living with or visiting the tenant – is guilty of conduct which has caused a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours the landlord may be able to seek possession pursuant to section 8. However, possession is not guaranteed.
If it is a periodic tenancy, the landlord could serve a section 21 notice instead. Unlike section 8, section 21 does not require any grounds for possession and the landlord is usually guaranteed to gain possession of the property.
I wish to sell or use the property but the tenant is still within their lease period – can I evict them before the end of the term?
You will have to wait until the fixed term ends. You may be able to serve a section 21 notice but it cannot expire before the end of the fixed term of the tenancy.
The tenant has made improvements to the property – do I need to compensate them for the costs if I plan to evict them?
This will depend on the term so the tenancy agreement. Generally, there is no obligation to compensate the tenants for unauthorised work.
My tenant is insisting on me taking them to court to evict them as this will help them being re- housed by the local authority – is this true and is there anything
I can do to avoid going to court? Some councils do advise the tenants to stay in the property. Unless the tenant moves out voluntarily the only lawful way to secure possession of the property is to take the tenants to court.
I have legal expenses insurance with my landlord policy – can I use this to help me evict a tenant?
The insurance may cover possession proceedings; it is certainly worth checking with the insurer directly.
How much do I have to spend on legal fees?
The current court fees are:
• County Court possessions – £355
• Possession Claims Online (PCOL) – £325 (PCOL can only be used for possessions concerning
rent or mortgage arrears).
• To issue a warrant of possession (recovery of a property or land) – £121
Solicitor’s fees vary, so you would need to seek a quote from a solicitor, or seek the support of any legal expenses insurer in relation to legal fees.