How to remove problem tenants
Paul Shamplina has been in the eviction business for over 25 years. His company, Landlord Action, has helped thousands of landlords and letting agents with problem tenants. Here, Paul considers how to remove problem tenants and offers his top-tips.
Landlords may wish to evict their tenants for all sorts of reasons, but it is a criminal offence for a landlord to evict a tenant without the correct legal procedures in place.
An assured shorthold tenancy (AST) can be terminated principally by reliance on fair grounds for eviction laid out in a Section 21 notice or Section 8 notice, either mandatory or discretionary, of the Housing Act 1988.
Section 21 – When the landlord just wants the property back
The most straight-forward ground for eviction is simply that a landlord wishes to regain possession of their property when the tenancy has ended. Under a ‘no fault’ Section 21 procedure, a landlord does not have to give a reason, but the most common reasons are that the landlord wishes to sell, move back in or renovate.
A Section 21 notice must be served two months before the end of the tenancy agreement. If the agreement has rolled onto a periodic tenancy, notice can be served at any time which gives two months’ notice but must expire on the last day of the rental period.
Section 8 – Wishing to evict during a fixed-term
A landlord may wish to evict a tenant during a fixed-term, but in order to do so they must have a valid reason, such as rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or subletting etc.
Grounds under Section 8 are divided into two categories: mandatory and discretionary.
A mandatory ground for possession means, if there are rent arrears of two months or more as of the day the tenant is served notice, and as of the day of the court hearing, then the judge must grant a possession order to the landlord. Discretionary means the court can decide one way or the other.
Top-tip 1 – Serve prescribed information & protect tenant’s deposit – A Section 21 notice cannot be served unless the landlord, or letting agent acting on their behalf, has protected the tenant’s deposit in one of the government backed schemes and provided tenants with an EPC, Gas Safety Certificate and copy of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s booklet ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’. Landlords must also be compliant with The Deregulation Act 2015 and, if applicable, hold a valid HMO licence.
Top-tip 2 – Communication trail – Keep a record of communication between landlord, agent and tenant, including following up any phone calls in writing as this could serve as evidence in court.
Top-tip 3 – Make contact – If a landlord has a reason to evict their tenant, such as rent arrears, the landlord or letting agent should always try to make contact first to see if a resolution can be achieved. Sometimes tenants default through no fault of their own and communication can help to solve the problem before it is taken any further.
Top-tip 4 – Keep proof that the notice has been served – whether Section 21 or Section 8, the courts will require proof that it was served, so deliver it in person and get the tenant to sign, get certificate of postage or use a professional process server.
Top-tip 5 – Instruct legal professionals – Landlords or letting agents can draw up and serve the notice themselves but even the slightest error in the details of the notice can cause a court to throw a case out, meaning the whole process would have to start again. If neither party has previous experience, it is best to instruct legal professionals who specialise in eviction and are regulated by the SRA.
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