When tenancy agreements go sour: help for landlords

Evicting a tenant who has stopped paying their rent or broken the terms of the tenancy agreement can be more difficult and time consuming than many people imagine.  In many cases, landlords must go to court to regain possession of their property.

According to the latest Tenant Arrears Tracker compiled by chartered surveyors Templeton LPA, the number of tenants in severe financial difficulty climbed by 8% in the second quarter of 2012, with over 7,000 more tenants over two months in arrears than during the first three months of 2012.  In the second quarter of 2012, an average of 100,400 tenants in England and Wales were in severe arrears – an increase of 24% compared to one year ago. This is the highest number on Templeton LPA’s records, which date back to 2008.

Whilst some rental arrears cases can be resolved by agreeing a repayment plan with your tenant, there will always be those tenants who cannot – or will not – pay their rent, and who also refuse to vacate your property.

The first step in the eviction process is to issue one of two notices under the Housing Act 1988.  If your property is managed by letting agents, they will be familiar with these notices and will be able to serve them on your behalf.

A Section 8 notice can be served on your tenant if you wish to regain possession of your property during the fixed term of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (“AST”).  The fixed term is usually six or twelve months.  However, you must have legitimate grounds such as non-payment or persistent late payment of rent, and breaking the terms of the tenancy, for example by growing cannabis or illegally subletting.  If your grounds involve rent arrears, the notice can only be issued once a certain amount remains unpaid.  If rent is payable monthly, the amount is two months’ rent. 

A Section 21 notice can be served on your tenant if you wish to regain possession of your property at the end of an AST or during a periodic tenancy.  You do not have to specify a reason for asking your tenant to leave, although you must give them two months’ notice. 
If your tenant ignores either notice, you will then need to obtain a court order before steps can be taken to evict the tenant. 

Unlike Section 8 proceedings, Section 21 proceedings are limited to obtaining an order to evict a tenant from your property.  If you also wish to recover rent arrears or make a claim for damage to your property, you will need to bring a separate money claim or take Section 8 proceedings.

Getting your case heard in court can take several months and it is not unusual for cases to be delayed due to errors in the landlord’s paperwork. 

Alison Hume, Legal Assistant in the Litigation department at Hughes Paddison Solicitors, can explain the services which Hughes Paddison provides to landlords who wish to remove a tenant from their property, and can give a breakdown of the costs involved. She can be contacted on 01242 574244 or at