Landlords must give private tenants written notice to vacate their homes.
The notice period depends on the type of tenancy and the reason to evict. Most tenants occupy their homes under an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreement.
Two notice types can be used for an AST arrangement: a Section 21, or a Section 8 Notice. They may be used at the same time, but landlords must follow prescribed rules and will need to approach the courts to regain possession of a property legally.
If he or she attempts to make a tenant leave in any other way, the eviction may be unlawful.
Section 21 Notice
This the most commonly used eviction notice for periodic tenancies. It is the first step a landlord must take towards regaining possession of a property.
At least two months’ notice is given, but tenants residing under a periodic tenancy must be allowed to stay for the time covered by their final rent payment if that is longer than two months. Tenants continue to have the rights and obligations of their tenancy agreements throughout this process.
A section 21 notice may be used
- when the fixed term tenancy ends, or
- during a periodic tenancy (where there is no end date specified)
A section 21 notice cannot be used
- if the council has served an improvement notice or a notice that they will do emergency works on the property within six months
- if the landlord is in breach of tenancy laws, for example: the tenant’s deposit is not in a tenancy deposit protection scheme (after 2007); there is no HMO licence, but the property is classed as a house in multiple occupation; the tenant has not been provided with statutory information such as a gas safety record, an energy performance certificate, or a copy of the government’s “How to rent” guide.
How is a Section 21 notice served?
Notice must be served using the prescribed Form 6A for all the tenancies whether old or new.
Once notice is served, landlords should record this with the certification of service form (N215). This can be used to accelerate the eviction process later, should the tenants remain beyond the date given in the notice.
The process to evict the tenant
If a tenant occupies the property beyond the Section 21 notice period, the landlord can then apply to court for a possession order.
Accelerated possession order
An accelerated possession order may be used if the landlord does not wish to claim any unpaid rent. The process can be quicker than a standard possession order, with no court hearing; in 2021 it costs £355. A claim for rent arrears may still be made under a separate court claim.
Standard possession order
Standard possession claims may now be made online for cases of unpaid rent; the cost is £325. However some types of standard possession claims - such as other breaches of contract - cannot be made online. These are made by posting a standard possession claim form to the local court, and cost £355.
After an application for a possession order…
The court will then send the tenant a notification including a defence form for the tenants, should they wish to challenge the eviction or remain longer. Tenants have 14 days in which to challenge the application, from the date they receive it.
Once the court has received the landlord’s claim and any defence from the tenant, it will decide whether a hearing is necessary, and issue a hearing date. For standard proceedings, there will always be a hearing, but for accelerated possession proceedings the court will decide whether or not a hearing is necessary.
The court will then decide whether to dismiss the case or order the tenant to leave. If the case is dismissed but the landlord still wishes to regain possession, they will need to begin the process with another S21 notice.
If the court decides to evict the tenant, this is done using a possession order. Tenants are usually given two weeks to vacate, but this may be extended up to six weeks if the tenants are in exceptionally difficult circumstances. The tenant is then usually liable for the costs associated with the eviction procedure.
If a tenant still does not leave by the date in the possession order, the landlord can apply to the court for eviction by bailiffs. A notice giving the date and time of eviction is issued by the bailiffs.
Recent changes to serving a Section 21 Notice
In 2015 the government introduced changes to the S21 regulations.
These changes protect tenants against unfair eviction when they have made a legitimate complaint about the condition of the property, known as retailatory evictions.
The government also introduced a standard form (Form 6A) that landlords must use for no fault eviction of their tenants. The main purpose of this form was to simplify the process of repossessing properties let under ASTs. Initially, these changes were only effective for the tenancies that began on or after 1 October 2015. However, the changes now apply to all ASTs.
Briefly, the changes can be summarised as:
Compliance with prescribed legal requirements relating to the condition of the premises, the health and safety of the occupiers, the energy performance of the property and tenants fees. A Section 21 notice may not be given if the landlord is in breach of any legislation which relates to any of the above.
A requirement of the landlord to have provided prescribed information, specifically, the Department for Communities and Local Government’s booklet entitled "How to rent: the checklist for renting in England". This does not apply to Registered Providers of Social Housing.
Prescribed form of Section 21 notices
The new prescribed form should be used for all ASTs in existence after 1 October 2018. However, this is not necessary for statutory periodic tenancies that continue following the expiry of a fixed-term AST granted prior to 1st October 2015.
Notice cannot be given to evict a tenant within four months of the start of the tenancy. This includes replacement tenancies (where a new agreement is made between the same parties for the same premises). There is also a six-month time limit on possession proceedings from the date that the notice is given.
Preventing retaliatory evictions
Landlords are no longer allow to serve a Section 21 notice if
- there has been a service or suspension of an improvement notice by the local authority within six months
- tenants have made a complaint about the condition of the property, and the landlord has failed to respond within 14 days or has failed to respond adequately.
These restrictions on retaliatory notices do not apply
- to registered providers of social housing
- where the notice is served by the local authority in response to tenant’s breach of tenancy
- if the property is for sale
- if the property has a mortgage from before the start of the tenancy
Repayment of rent where the tenancy ends before the end of a period
Tenants are entitled to a refund of rent they have paid for any period beyond the end date brought about by a Section 21 Notice, if they have not been in occupation for that period.
Section 8 Notice
A Section 8 Notice is used where possession is sought under the grounds for eviction set out by Schedule 2 of the Housing Act (1988). This gives the tenants 14 days’ notice (from receipt of the letter) until court proceedings can begin. Landlords must then gain a court order for the eviction.
Notice must be given using the prescribed form in order to be valid. The form has been amended several times, and as it currently stands, there is a 2016 amendment for use in England, and a 2015 version for use in Wales.