Trouble Tenants: What Are Your Rights?

As a landlord, the dream is to have perfect tenants who pay the rent on time and cause little disturbance. Unfortunately, that is not…

As a landlord, the dream is to have perfect tenants who pay the rent on time and cause little disturbance. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and a troublesome tenant can cause a lot of stress – both physically and financially. Whether it is non-payment of rent or consistent complaints from neighbours, there can be a multitude of reasons that lead to an eviction. When the worst does happen, you need to know your rights, as well as the fastest way to evict a tenant.

There are many stories in the media regarding landlords being unable to evict tenants, so it is important to be sure of your process and your rights as the property owner. Although possibly the most uncomfortable aspect of being a landlord, it is one that many have to go through at some point. Here, we take a look at the legal process behind a termination of tenancy and how to serve an eviction notice.

What is an eviction and when can it occur?

An eviction is the legal procedure through which a landlord wishes to reclaim their property and remove their tenant from it. The process is often a complicated one, dependant on a range of issues. These can be anything from the type of lease you have agreed upon with your tenant, the building you own, and the inevitable back and forth that is likely to ensue. In any of these cases, being fully prepared with the correct proceedings is the only way to ensure your eviction runs both smoothly and legally.

What do I need to do to start the eviction process?

You, as a landlord, have the right to repossess your property from the end date specified in your tenancy agreement. In order to begin the process of eviction, you will need to serve a possession order to the tenant (Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988). This is not the same as an eviction notice, but rather a notice that you wish to reclaim your property. The possession notice does not have to include a reason for eviction, nor is there a legal requirement to provide one.

A possession order must give a minimum of two months’ notice, so if your tenancy agreement expires at the end of September, and you wish to have your property back from that date, you must serve a possession notice by July 31st.

What if I want to evict them before their tenancy is up?

If you have a particularly bad tenant, and you wish to evict them before their tenancy agreement has expired, you will need to prove that they have breached the terms of their agreement. This could be rent arrears, or disobeying the stipulations you have set (no smoking, no pets etc).

In this event, you will need to serve a Section 8 notice. There are two types of grounds for a Section 8:

  • Mandatory grounds:
    A Section 8 is most commonly served when a tenant falls behind with rent, however it can only be legally served after more than 2 months of non-payment have elapsed
  • Discretionary grounds:
    This refers to a breach of tenancy that is not related to rent, i.e., anti-social behaviour, damage or misuse of the property, or illegal sub-letting.

What comes next?

After you have served the relevant notice, you (or your appointed representative) will be expected to attend a hearing. You must come prepared with all the relevant paperwork, including the tenancy agreement and a record of any arrears that have accrued.

If your case is successful, the tenant will usually get 2 weeks’ notice to leave the property. However, if you have served a Section 8 on mandatory grounds, and the tenant is able to reduce their arrears to fewer than 2 months, you are unlikely to get a possession order.

Your tenant can defend themselves in a few ways; one could be citing some property damage that has not been repaired during their tenancy. Depending on how their defence goes, the judge could give an adjournment.

Unfortunately, there are times when the tenant refuses to leave in spite of the legal action falling in your favour. In this case, emotions can run high and it can be tough not to become stressed at the whole situation. It is in this instance that the High Court will become involved and you will be appointed a bailiff, who will take the eviction process to the next level and act on your behalf to regain access and control over your property.

And as a necessary precaution against any damage to your property, a tailored insurance policy specific to the property itself and the furnishings you provide the tenants should always be in place.