The evection process
Everything seems to go smoothly when you’ve found out that your landlord has already started the eviction process – what’s next?
Your landlord is obligated to follow strict procedures if he or she wants you out of the property. The legal actions that must be taken depend on the type of tenancy agreement you have and the terms emanating of it. If your landlord fails to do so he or she may be found guilty of illegally evicting or harassing you.
The numbers 8 and 21 and their meaning
What is so important about the numbers 8 and 21 – they’re both referring to notices and when we’re talking about eviction you certainly must know the difference.
A Section 8 notice (also known as a
Notice to Quit) can be served by your landlord if you have breached the contract and therefore the landlord has grounds for possession. You can be given a Section 8 notice at any time during the tenancy, including the fixed term if your landlord has a legitimate ground for regaining possession. Depending on the grounds for the notice, it can be immediate, 2 weeks, 2 months or even longer - although this practice is quite uncommon, it will come into action if there are some extraordinary circumstances. A Section 8 can be costly for your landlord and you can contest any given grounds in court.
A Section 21 notice (also known as a
Notice of Possession) cannot set an eviction date before the expiration of the fixed period pointed in the contact between you and your landlord. Section 21 notice cannot be served in the first 4 months of a tenancy (or any subsequent renewal) and is valid for up to 6 months. Still, your landlord doesn’t have to give any reason for serving the notice in order to regain possession.
If your landlord hasn’t: provided you with an AST, a valid gas safety certificate (CP12), a copy of the EPC, and a copy of the
How to rent checklist at the commencement of the tenancy, he or she won’t be able to serve a Section 21 notice.
NB! – Have in mind that it’s possible for your landlord to serve both notices at the same time. Actually, this is a quite common practice.
If you’re under the terms of a periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)
In this case your landlord must give you a properly filled
notice to quit.
- What’s next:
- If you don’t leave at the end of the notice period, the next legal step your landlord must take is to apply to the court for a possession order – this means that they’ll have the right to evict you and take possession of the property.
- If the court gives your landlord a possession order but you still refuse to leave the rental, your landlord will have to apply for a warrant for possession - this means bailiffs can knock on your door and evict you from the property. The costs of doing this will be at your expense.
If you’ve signed a fixed-term AST
In this case as well, it’s your landlord’s obligation to give you a properly filled
notice to quit. The rules will depend on whether the fixed term has ended or not.
- During the fixed term, your landlord can evict you only if there’s a certain reason. The most common arguments are:
- rental arrears
- if you are or have been engaged in some sort of antisocial behaviour
- if you are or have been engaged in any kind of criminal activity
- if there’s a
break clausein your contract, which allows your landlord to take the property back before the end of the agreed period
When the end of the fixed term has come, your landlord doesn’t need a reason to evict you. As long as you were given the necessary notice, your landlord is free to apply to the court for a possession order. If you refuse to leave, the same action as if you’ve signed a periodic AST will be taken.
NB! – No matter if you’re under the terms of fixed or periodic AST - if you haven’t lived in the property for at least 6 months, a possession order won’t take effect.
If you live with your landlord, you’re under the terms of an excluded tenancy or licence
In this case, your landlord doesn’t have to go to court to evict you. He or she should only give you a
reasonable notice to leave for good. The notice doesn’t even have to be in writing – it’s enough to be verbal.
You may wonder what
reasonable means – well actually there’re no certain rules about it.
- The period may depend on:
- for how long you’ve been living in the property
- how often you pay the rent
- and whether your landlord is a decent human being…
In the case of an excluded tenancy, your landlord has the right to change the locks on your rooms without any notice even if your belongings are still there. Don’t worry, your landlord is obligated to give them back but you might find yourself in a rather unpleasant situation with literally nothing to wear.
There’s almost nothing you can do about this mess but still, you can contact your local council if you don’t think you’ve been given a decent proper warning to leave.
When things escalate quickly
If your landlord wants to get rid of you as soon as possible, his option is called
accelerated possession procedure (known as the fast-track possession procedure). In this case, the court hearing is usually unnecessary, which is the reason why this alternative is significantly less time-consuming than the normal eviction. This procedure, however, does not permit any other claims, such as for rent arrears, and can only be used to recover nothing more than possession.
If your landlord wants to apply the accelerated possession procedure, have in mind that
- all of the following conditions must be fulfilled:
- you are under the terms of an AST or a statutory periodic tenancy
- the tenancy began on or after 15 January 1989
- the tenancy is the subject of a written agreement
- the AST does not follow an assured tenancy
- your landlord must have served the required written notice (a minimum of 2 months) in the right, legal form
- your landlord doesn’t ask you to leave before the end of a fixed-term period
NB!- You can stop accelerated possession only if there’s a proof that your landlord hasn’t followed the rules listed above.
If all of the above is properly fulfilled, you will receive a copy of the application if your landlord applies to the court for accelerated possession. You can challenge the application within 14 days of receiving it.
- Afterwards, there are two possible outcomes, which depend on the judge’s decision:
- the court can issue a possession order, which will give your landlord the right to evict you and take possession of the property (this is normally the case) or
- a court hearing can be scheduled (this usually happens if the paperwork isn’t in order or you’ve raised a really important issue). Don’t raise your hopes high because even if there’s a hearing, the court can still decide to issue a possession order.
If the judge makes a possession order, you’ll normally be given 14 or 28 days to leave the property. If there’s proof or a solid reason why this will cause you exceptional hardship, you may be given up to 42 days to leave. If you don’t leave at this point, your landlord can use bailiffs to evict you.
What to expect if there’s an eviction court hearing scheduled
First, you’ll receive court papers, which include copies of the
claim for possession forms, a defence form and the date for your court hearing. You have 14 days to return a properly filled defence form if you have any objections or disagreements with what your landlord has put on the
claim for possession forms. Have in mind that you may have to pay extra court fees if you don’t provide information in the defence form and this results in a delay to your court case.
If you want to have even the slightest chance to keep your home, you should mandatorily attend your court hearing, otherwise, it’s very likely for the judge to decide you’ll have to leave.
If there’s a court hearing on the horizon you should read the advices, provided by the charity Shelter, which will prepare you for the
What happens next is up to the judge’s decision.
If there’s no real reason why you should be evicted, then the judge will dismiss the case. This might happen if your landlord hasn’t followed the correct legal procedure, if your landlord or a representative doesn’t attend the court hearing or if you’ve already paid any rent arrears.
If the case has been dismissed, you can stay in your home, and if your landlord still wants to evict you, he or she will have to start the procedure from the very beginning.
But what happens if the judge issues a possession order. First, you should know that there are several different kinds of them.
- Let’s start with:
- Order for possession or
outright possession order
If the court grants your landlord an outright possession order, you’ll have to leave the property by a certain date, pointed by the judge.
- Suspended order for possession
In this case, you’ll be given the chance to stay in your home, if you make the delayed payments, or obey the conditions, set out in the order. Otherwise, your landlord can ask the court to evict you.
- Money order
If a money order is issued this means that you’ll have to pay your landlord the settled amount. If you don’t make the payment on time, the court can take actions to recover the money, including deducting money from your wages or bank account or sending bailiffs to take away things you own.
- Possession order with a money judgment
This is the last option that the judge can impose. The judge can add a money judgment to any of the possession orders. This means you owe a specific amount of money, usually made up of your rent arrears, court fees and your landlord’s legal costs.
NB! - You can appeal against the decision only if you can show that the judge has made mistakes in the original possession hearing. In this case, you’ll need to ask the judge for permission to appeal at the end of the original hearing. If you’re granted with permission to do so, you’ll have to apply for an appeal hearing very soon afterwards.
- If you don’t leave the property by the date given in an outright possession order, your landlord can ask the court for a
warrant of possession.
- If the court gives a warrant, you’ll be sent an eviction notice that gives you another date when you really must leave your home. Consider this as a final warning shot. If you don’t go, bailiffs can evict you and you’re the one that will have to pay the bill for that.
If your landlord has committed any kind of harassment against you or has tried to force you out of the property without using the proper legal procedures, it is considered a crime. If that’s the case, you have the right to claim damages through the court.
Any actions your landlord takes or fails to take, that make you feel unsafe in the rental property or force you to leave, are considered as harassment.
- Harassment can include but is not limited to:
- stopping essential utilities, like electricity, gas or water
- restraining keys – for example, if there are two or more tenants in the property but the landlord provide only one key for all of you
- refusing to carry out repairs
- any kind of anti-social behaviour
- threats and physical violence or psychological/emotional abuse
Your landlord may be found guilty of illegal eviction as well. So you got to stand up for your rights if you:
- aren’t given the required notice to leave the property or if it’s not filled correctly
- find that the locks have been changed while you weren’t at home and without any warning
- are evicted without a court order
NB! - Have in mind that even if your landlord’s property is repossessed by their mortgage lender, the lender still must give you a notice period so you can find another accommodation before you leave.
If you are a victim of harassment or have been threatened with illegal eviction, or the property you rent is being repossessed, the first step you should take is to talk to your local council. You can find yours here. The local councils can start legal proceedings if enough evidence of harassment or illegal eviction has been found.
- You could also contact:
- a legal adviser
- the Citizens Advice Bureau or
- Shelter’s housing advice helpline
NB! - If any form of physical violence is involved, don’t hesitate to contact the police immediately!
Something you can find very useful in this kind of unpleasant situation you’ve been drag into is the Department for Communities and Local Government’s detailed Guide for tenants facing harassment and illegal eviction.
20 pages may seem like a lot of information to handle but the booklet is actually quite easy to get through and you won’t find yourself lost in tons of legal terms or among unclear, cumbersome paragraphs.
Still, have in mind that the guide can’t provide an authoritative interpretation of the Government’s laws – this can be done only by the courts – so always double check the information and don’t hesitate to seek professional advice.
Don’t forget about the Legal Aid Scheme which can help you with part (if not all) of the cost for legal advice you may need.
Check if you can get legal aid here.
We hope that you've found this complete eviction guide for tenants useful. Don't hesitate to ask us any other questions in the comment section below.