When Should You Evict a Tenant?

No landlord ever hopes that their relationship with a tenant will deteriorate to the point of eviction but sometimes there is no other choice. The specifics of when, and how, a landlord should evict a tenant will depend not only on where they live in the UK, but on the type of tenancy involved as well. The reasons that most assured tenants (tenants of an assured shorthold tenancy, the default type of tenancy in most of the UK) can be evicted are many. Both mandatory and discretionary grounds can be used to evict a tenant, but all evictions must go through the courts. If you are considering evicting a tenant, be sure to consult a legal expert who will be able to provide you with more advice and information on the laws of evicting tenants in your area.

Mandatory Grounds for Evicting a Tenant

Courts will make a possession order for a landlord (in effect, order that the landlord may take possession of the property that they own) in a few situations. As long as it can be proven that such a mandatory ground for eviction exists, a possession order may be issued when:

  • A tenant is at least eight weeks in arrears for paying rent.
  • A mortgage provider will be repossessing the property and prior notice that this might occur was given to the tenant
  • The property is going to be redeveloped

Discretionary Grounds for Evicting a Tenant

A landlord may also seek a possession order on discretionary grounds, or more subjective grounds that have to do with the tenancy agreement between the landlord and tenant. Often landlords will seek a possession order and eviction of an existing tenant due to:

  • Late rent payment (a one off)
  • Persistently late rent payments
  • Breach of the tenancy agreement
  • Nuisance or illegal behaviour
  • Deterioration in the condition of the property since the start of the tenancy

Eviction Procedure

Regardless of a landlords reasons for seeking a possession order and eviction of tenants, there are certain procedures that must occur before a legal eviction can take place. Landlords should seek legal counsel to ensure that they meet all procedural requirements, but for the most part, accepted procedure will include:

  • Serving tenants with a notice to quite
  • Serving tenants with a notice of proceedings, or similar
  • Sending tenants a summons advising them of when the case will be heard in court
  • The case being heard in court
  • Officers of the court (or similar) will accompany tenants away from the property, if ordered by the court

Illegal Evictions

As noted above, particular procedures will exist in your area as to how to carry out a legal eviction. Regardless of where you live though there are certain actions that are not a part of a legal eviction. No landlord in the UK should attempt to evict a tenant by:

  • Changing the locks while tenants are out
  • Turning off utilities (gas, electricity, etc.) in an attempt to force tenants out
  • Making a nuisance of themselves by dropping by at odd hours or making threats towards the tenant. Remember, tenants can also start proceedings against landlords based on harassment claims.
  • Asking someone other than a court officer (or similar) to “escort” tenants off of the property
  • Lying in court in order to gain a possession order

If you are a landlord and serve notice on your tenant to leave the property and they do not leave when the notice period expires, you must send your tenant a ‘notice of intention to seek possession’. This lets the tenant know that you plan to apply to the court for a possession order to evict them if they do not leave.
You must give the notice of intention to your tenant before you can apply for a possession order.
If you apply to the court for a possession order, the court will decide whether or not to evict your tenant. If it grants the order, it will either require the tenant to leave on a specific date or will ‘suspend’ the order. If the possession order is suspended by the court, this means that the tenant can stay in the property as long as they continue to meet certain conditions set out by the court.
If your tenant still refuses to leave when you have a possession order, you must apply for a warrant for eviction from the county court. The court will arrange for bailiffs to remove the tenant from the property.

Evicting assured tenants

If the tenancy was started between 15 January 1989 and 27 February 1997 you may have to apply to a court with ‘grounds for possession’ to remove your tenant. These grounds are reasons why you need your property back, for example you need to sell the property to pay the mortgage back.

Evicting regulated tenants

If your tenant moved in before 15 January 1989 they will have a regulated tenancy. In these cases, you must show the court that you want the property back for a reason, for example you or a member of your family wants to live in the property. You must also show the court that you let the tenant know this in writing before the tenancy started.
If you want the property for a different reason, the court will decide whether you can get a possession order. You must always tell your tenant the reasons you want the property back.

Evicting a tenant through accelerated possession

If your tenant has an assured shorthold tenancy (the most common type of tenancy, starting on or after 15 January 1989) you can also consider the ‘accelerated possession procedure’. This is a quicker way to get back possession of your property, and usually does not need a court hearing. You can only use the procedure if you have a written tenancy agreement and you have given the required written notice – in the right form and giving at least two months’ notice. The notice you give cannot ask a tenant to leave before the end of a fixed-term tenancy.

Applying for accelerated possession

You should apply directly to the county court for accelerated possession and complete the ‘claim for possession’ form (form N5B). You will need to include the following information:

  • names and addresses of you and your tenant
  • the property you want possession of
  • dates of the tenancy agreement and when notice was served
  • when the notice period ended

You should also send copies of the tenancy agreement, the notice sent to your tenant, and any other relevant documents.
The court will base its decision on the written evidence supplied by both parties. You must ensure you include all relevant information when you first make the application.
If the courts award possession to you, you may be able to get your costs of making the application back from the tenant. However, you cannot claim any other costs, such as rent arrears or unpaid deposits.
The possession order will normally take effect two weeks after the decision unless the court decides that this would cause the tenant exceptional hardship. In that case, the judge may delay the order for up to six weeks. However, the judge will set up a hearing beforehand which you can attend, to hear the tenant’s application.

Harassment and illegal evictions

Getting advice
Housing advice helpline by Shelter:
0808 800 4444
Community Legal Advice helpline:
0845 345 4 345

It is a crime for landlords to harass or to try to force a tenant out of the property without using court procedures. Tenants that have been harassed or illegally evicted have a right to claim damages through the court.

What is harassment?

Harassment can be anything a landlord does, or fails to do, that makes a tenant feel unsafe in the property or forces them to leave. Harassment is a broad term but can include any of the following:

  • stopping services, like electricity
  • withholding keys, for example there are two or more tenants in a property but the landlord will only give out one key
  • refusing to carry out repairs
  • anti-social behaviour by a landlord’s agent, for example a friend of the landlord moves in next door and causes problems
  • threats and physical violence

Landlords are able to evict tenants for a variety of reasons, but they must do so by following proper procedure and involving the courts. The information presented above is simply a general overview of most evictions in most of the UK, but before you consider evicting a tenant you must seek professional advice regarding your specific case. Good luck.