A landlord may seek possession for varied reasons. The tenants may have broken the conditions of the tenancy agreement (such as not paying rent), or the landlord may want to use the property for some other reason, let it to other people, or change the terms (such as the amount of rent).
The process for possession of a property begins by serving a written notice to quit.
If tenants keep on possessing the property for longer than 28 days after the notice is served, landlords can apply for a court order.
Then, if the tenants still do not leave, an application must be made to the Enforcement of Judgements Office to get the tenant evicted.
There is a charge for the enforcement, which landlords may be able to recover from the tenant, along with associated legal costs.
If a protected or statutory tenancy is in place, tenants have much more security. A court possession order can only be obtained if there are specific or mandatory grounds for possession. In such cases it is advisable to seek legal advice. Landlords may be prosecuted or fined for attempting to evict tenants other than by due process of law.
Fixed term tenancies
Fixed term tenancies are those with a specified fixed term end date in the tenancy agreement.
Before the end date, landlords may only seek possession of the property if tenants have failed to pay rent or have broken the terms of the agreement.
A written notice to quit must be served, giving the date by which tenants are expected to leave, and the reason for the notice - that is, the breaches of the tenancy agreement that have prompted the landlord to seek possession of the property.
A fixed term tenancy becomes periodic after the specified end date. Landlords do not need to give reasons for eviction from a periodic tenancy, but they do need to give written notice, including a leaving date. The notice period depends on the length of time that the tenant has been renting the property, as follows.
- Up to five years, 4 weeks’ notice
- Between five and ten years, 8 weeks’ notice
- Longer than ten years, twelve weeks’ notice
Obtaining a court possession order
If a tenant remains in the property beyond the notice to quit period, the next step towards gaining possession of the property is to apply for a court order.
At this stage, procedures are usually handled by a solicitor, who will serve a civil bill on the tenant. This document will include the grounds for eviction; any claims you are making for unpaid rent or damages, and whether you seek to recover legal costs from the tenant.
Tenants have 21 days to respond to such a bill, and may file a notice of intention to defend. A hearing date will be set at the County Court. The landlord, or their agent must be in attendance at the court hearing.
If the landlord can prove their case in court and show that they have followed the due legal process, a judge is likely to grant an order for possession of the property, and award any expenses claimed. Legal costs may not be awarded if the tenant’s defence is covered by legal aid.
Enforcement of a possession order
If the tenant does not leave after an order for possession is granted, you must apply to the Enforcement of Judgments Office to serve them a notice of intent to enforce.
This allows the tenant ten days in which to respond. If the tenant does not respond and remains in occupation of the property after this time, you must apply for full enforcement of the possession order.
Possession of the property will then be recovered by an enforcement officer.
Both the notice of intent to enforce and the application of full enforcement require a fee to be paid.