Gaining possession of your property has several steps and procedures that must be followed. It is important to understand the different stages and their corresponding time frames. In simple terms, there is giving notice, court proceedings and enforcement. These are broken down below:
The first stage of gaining possession is giving notice to your tenant(s) that they must vacate the property. There are two different types of notices that can be served on assured shorthold tenants when a landlord is seeking to recover possession – Section 21 and Section 8.
Section 21 notices (though soon to be scrapped by reforms) are to be used when the fixed term of an assured shorthold tenancy has expired unless there is a break clause in the contract allowing it to be terminated sooner. The notice period is at least 2 months’ notice.
There is a lot of law to check to ensure a valid Section 21 Notice can be served. A full list of all the law that needs to be checked for a valid Section 21 is outside the scope of this blog but some of the requirements are checking deposit protection, licensing requirements, and serving certain documents for some tenancies such as an EPC, gas safety checks and How to Rent Guide.
Section 8 notices (soon to also be reformed) have a list of grounds for possession that a landlord can rely on, this could include multiple grounds on the notice. Most commonly, the tenant is not paying rent and accumulating arrears or has breached the terms of the tenancy agreement. Depending on which notice is used, giving notice takes between 2 weeks to 2 months.
The next stage is issuing proceedings in court. Again, there are two types of court proceedings for possession claims – accelerated and standard.
Accelerated claims, as the name suggests, were intended to be a quicker route for landlords to recover possession.
Accelerated claims are used for Section 21 notices if you are not seeking rent arrears, only possession and legal costs limited to a certain amount by the court (£424.50). It is a paper-based application so was theoretically supposed to be quicker as no hearing is required.
Accelerated proceedings can take anywhere between 2-8 months depending on how busy the individual court is. If the tenant seeks to defend the claim, then a hearing can also be listed which results in further delays for the landlord while the court schedules a hearing date.
Unfortunately, these claims can pile up in court while waiting for an available Judge to review them. Judges are in and out of hearings most of the day and must deal with these proceedings outside of this time. Therefore, given the court system is completely overburdened, these proceedings have not been as ‘accelerated’ as intended.
Standard claims are for either Section 21 or Section 8 claims if you are seeking to recover rent arrears. This process is also better if a section 21 claim is more complicated or problematic than normal as there is more room for explanation. The time frame from issuing a claim to receiving a hearing date is around 8-16 weeks depending on the type of hearing listed and the capacity of the court.
Therefore, for some courts, there is not much time difference between accelerated and standard.
Once a possession order has been obtained. the final stage of gaining possession is enforcing a court order. In some cases, despite an order being given, a tenant will not vacate the property.
In such circumstances, you need to either instruct a bailiff or use High Court Enforcement officers. High Court Enforcement Officers can only be instructed once permission from the court has been granted. If a Judge has granted permission, then High Court Officers can usually evict within 2-3 weeks of the possession order being obtained. A bailiff appointment can take anywhere between 4 weeks to even 9 months in some courts. There is added pressure on the county court bailiff due to the recent cancellations of all bailiff evictions due to the bailiffs sourcing PPE.