Evicting a tenant can be a messy business for landlords. As such, the most effective measure for protecting yourself from misbehaving tenants is to ensure your screening procedures are thorough, and that you've performed all the necessary evaluations before signing the tenancy agreement in the first place.
However, if you find yourself in a position where you need to evict a tenant and the agreement has already been signed, here's some information you should know.
You can't just throw the tenant out
Tenants are a protected species; once you've signed over the property to them, they have rights that make it difficult for you to get rid of them on a whim. Forcing the tenant out of the property or attempting to change the locks while they are away is a violation of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, opening you up to serious legal problems.
Unless you and the tenant can come to an agreement, the steps for legally evicting a tenant are as follows:
Serve them a notice of eviction: Under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, you are obligated to give the tenant two months’ notice before you can begin the process of having them legally evicted.
The notice must be drafted very carefully, with the exact date of required possession specified. You must also be able to prove to the court that you served the notice. The date must be after the fixed term for the tenancy has ended. Be sure to take a witness with you when you serve the notice, or else the tenant might deny receiving it.
Possession order: Once the two month notice period has expired, you can apply to the court for a possession order. According to Which?, grounds for possession include but are not limited to:
• The expiration of a shorthold tenancy.
• Rent arrears of more than 8 weeks.
After this, it's up to the courts. A standard eviction will normally take 3 to 6 months to process. The best way to speed up the process is to make certain that all the paperwork is in order and that you've obtained the necessary legal advice.
Accelerated possession procedure
There is the option of applying for an accelerated possession procedure, which is a cheaper and quicker means of evicting a tenant. You will need to go to the county court that has jurisdiction over that particular property, fill in the appropriate forms and wait for the court to issue the paperwork to the tenant. You will also need to pay a legal fee.
Bear in mind that despite the name, the accelerated possession procedure is not really that accelerated. It normally takes about 6 to 10 weeks to get the court order, but the advantage is that there is no court hearing; instead, the judge acts on the paperwork provided.
What about emergency situations?
According to Tessa Shepperson, even if the tenant is destroying the property you are not entitled to take matters into your own hands. The best approach in this case is to contact police and social services.
Tepilo has some more great tenant-related news and advice.