Let’s Start at the Very Beginning
The first step of the eviction process is serving a notice to the tenants. There are two types of notices you can serve on your tenant.
A section 8 notice, which is served on a tenant when they are in breach of their contract. A tenant can breach their contract through:
- Anti-social behaviour,
- criminal activity,
- property damage,
- lack of cleanliness,
- rent arrears, and
- subletting the property.
The length of the notice period would be affected by the reason the contract was breached.
A section 21 notice, which is served on a tenant to end their agreement where the fixed term has expired. When serving a section 21 notice there should be a review of the tenancy to ensure the tenant has received all of the required information. Deposit information, How to Rent guides, EPC and Gas Safety Certificates should all be given before the notice can be served.
Onto the Next Step of the Eviction Process…
The second step is issuing court proceedings. This can be done if your tenant has not vacated as per the notice or satisfactorily rectified the breach i.e., cleared or reduced the arrears.
There are currently two different court procedures: Accelerated court proceedings or Standard court proceedings.
Accelerated court proceedings follow the expiry of a section 21 notice. Which is a claim for possession of the property and an order for legal costs. The claim is dealt with on paper by the Judge and usually takes between 6 to 8 months. It’s hardly accelerated, and it depends on the individual court and their capacity to process the claim. Some courts are experiencing considerable backlog and delay. There is no hearing unless the Judge decides to list a hearing, perhaps for a query in respect of the paperwork or a defence raised by the tenant. This is why it’s so important that the paperwork is in perfect order before submitting a claim to the court.
Standard court proceedings follow an expired section 8 or section 21 notice. Which is a claim for possession of the property and an order for rent arrears (if necessary), interest and legal costs. This process does require a hearing. And again, the claim usually takes between 6 to 8 months, although this very much depends on the individual court and their capacity. The landlord/agent will need to attend the hearing to provide evidence of rent arrears.
In both cases, the Judge will usually grant a 14-day possession order. If the tenant can convince the Judge that exceptional hardship will be caused if a 14-day order is granted, then the Judge can order up to 42 days for the tenant to vacate the property.
The third step…
What if the tenant does not vacate the property? If this happens (which it often does), then it may be necessary to instruct a county court bailiff to attend the property.
The bailiff cannot be instructed until the possession order has expired. And it usually takes about 4-16 weeks to secure an appointment. The landlord or agent will need to attend the eviction and arrange for a locksmith to be present to change the locks. If the tenant leaves items in the property, a legal process must be followed before the items can be disposed of.
There is an alternative to using a county court bailiff. Landlords can instead instruct a High Court Enforcement Officer to evict the tenant which can speed up the process. The procedure includes issuing a separate application for permission to effectively fast-track the eviction.
The final step, dealing with the judgment for rent arrears and legal costs…
If the tenant does not pay the rent arrears or legal costs as ordered by the court, then you may need to take further action against your tenant. At Woodstock our first approach is always to see if a plan to pay can be agreed with the tenant. If that doesn’t work, then there are various methods of enforcement available to recover the outstanding money owed. There is no one size fits all and the best method depends on your tenant’s financial situation. It’s a matter of assessing the position and choosing the method with the best prospects of recovery.
You may also need to claim against your tenant for losses arising from damage caused to the property. Which may only become apparent once possession is obtained. Again, it’s always advisable to try and agree a sum payable by your tenant. But, if a resolution cannot not be achieved by agreement, then it may be necessary to apply for an additional county court judgment against your tenant.
Your Questions about the Eviction Process
If you have any questions about the possession process or need help recovering sums owed by your tenant, then please feel free to get in touch and we will see what we can do to help you. Remember, you have 6 years to enforce a judgment against your tenant, and individual financial circumstances and ability to pay debts change over time.