Drafting & Serving Legal Notices of Eviction
Landlords who wish to regain possession of a residential property from a tenant must initially serve the tenant with a notice. There are two main types of eviction notice:
- Section 8 notice - requires the tenant to vacate within two weeks (although some grounds may require four weeks)
- Section 21 - which gives a tenant two months to vacate the property
Section 8 notices are used where the tenant has broken the rules of the tenancy in a serious manner - for example, where they owe two months’ arrears of rent, have used the property for an illegal purpose, or have caused damage to the property. This form of notice usually requires the tenant to leave within 14 days, although this depends on the legal grounds you rely on to carry out the eviction.
A section 21 notice is served when the landlord simply wants the property back. There is no need in this case to prove any breach of the tenancy terms, but this can only be used at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy, or at any time during a “periodic tenancy” (which has no fixed end date.)
As such, it is very important that a Section 21 notice is served at the right time and that the correct wording is used. There is a prescribed form of wording which must be used.
Failure to serve a notice correctly will mean the landlord will have to start from the beginning. If Court proceedings have been issued, they could be rejected by the Court because the landlord failed to comply and valuable time and costs will have been lost. If the Landlord has to issue a new notice because of irregularity, it may take a further two months for a Section 21 notice, or two weeks for a Section 8 notice, to start again. This means that rent for these periods could be lost. It makes economic and common sense for a landlord to pay for our expertise at the start to get it right. Our legal costs for drafting the notices are:-
- Section 21 Notice - £150.00 (£125.00 + VAT)
- Section 8 Notice - £210.00 (£175.00 + VAT)
We are experienced in dealing with possession proceedings, which can occasionally become very technical and difficult. Our experience will enable you to find your way through what can be a difficult and complex process.
We have vital knowledge of the local Courts and can issue the possession claim, prepare witness evidence and attend Court to represent you at a final hearing.
Once a Section 8 or Section 21 notice has expired we would recommend a landlord issue the possession proceedings through an expert solicitor. A landlord must then take possession proceedings through the courts to obtain possession. Failure to do so, i.e. attempts to evict a tenant without a court order, can amount to illegal eviction or harassment - these can be treated as criminal offences.
A landlord who takes a deposit must protect it immediately in a recognised tenancy deposit scheme and provide the tenant with prescribed information about the scheme. Failure to do so has the following consequences:
- The landlord will not be allowed to issue a Section 21 notice.
- The tenant can bring proceedings against the landlord for failure to protect the deposit. This can potentially lead to the landlord having to repay the deposit to the tenant and, in addition, having to pay compensation of up to three times the value of the deposit.
Possession proceedings and the rules relating to Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements and notices can be very difficult, and our knowledge and experience will be invaluable in guiding you through the possession process.
How PHR can help
Serving a notice can be complicated, and understanding which one to serve and how to serve it can often be difficult. The solicitors at Percy Hughes & Roberts can help you with all aspects of this process, supporting you every step of the way to meet your legal responsibilities and uphold your tenant's rights while serving a valid notice requiring possession.
Our team has significant experience supporting landlords in the Wirral, Merseyside, Liverpool and throughout the North West, providing vital legal support and services. Whether you need to recover rent arrears, respond to a tenant causing a nuisance, prepare a thorough and binding tenancy agreement, or serve a legally valid eviction notice, we can discuss your desired outcome and identify the best way to help you to achieve your goals.
FAQs About Serving an Eviction Notice
Do I need to serve a notice in order to evict tenants who are causing problems?
Yes, you must serve an eviction notice in order to regain control of a property in the UK under almost all circumstances. This includes if tenants are causing a nuisance, are in rent arrears, or breach the tenancy agreement. Even if you are concerned that tenants will damage the property if you serve them with a notice, you must uphold their rights. The tenant will be legally responsible for any damage they cause, and the costs associated with repairs can be claimed from the tenant's deposit, from your landlord insurance provider, or in some cases, through legal action against the tenant.
What should I do if a tenant has abandoned the property?
In cases where a tenant appears to have abandoned the property, landlords must respond with caution. There can be serious legal consequences if you proceed based on the assumption that the property is abandoned (for example, by entering the property and cleaning up), but the existing tenants then return.
While your first instinct may be to try to enter the property to check whether or not it is abandoned; this is a violation of the tenant's rights and you could face legal consequences for doing so. Similarly, you have a legal obligation to take care of any possessions left behind by the tenant during this time, until such a time as you have regained control of the property. By removing the tenant's property or retaking control of the property without following the appropriate legal procedures, you may be accused (and found guilty) of carrying out an illegal eviction should the tenant return, which can result in serious consequences.
This inability to act may be frustrating, but if the tenant has not taken the formal steps to end their tenancy agreement early, they will still be liable to pay rent during the period of abandonment, until the agreement ends. As such, you should consider that the tenancy is proceeding as normal until you have completed your legal obligations to regain possession.
Your first step should be to attempt to contact the tenant via all possible means, including by phone, email, and post, using any contact details you have.
If the tenant remains unreachable, you may decide to serve an Abandonment Notice to the property, notifying the tenant of your intention to reclaim possession of the property by a specified date. Typically, you should give at least two weeks' notice - while there is no legal specification for this, you need to give the tenant a reasonable amount of time to contact you and inform you that the property has not been abandoned.
Collecting this evidence can help your defence in cases where you are accused of carrying out an illegal eviction, as this demonstrates that you had every reason to believe that the property had been abandoned by the tenant.
If the tenant has stopped paying rent and rent arrears are more than 2 months, you can use a Section 8 notice to evict them on the grounds of rent arrears.
What is the minimum notice period I need to give?
In most cases, you must give a tenant two weeks’ notice to vacate the property using a Section 8 notice, and two months’ notice using a Section 21 notice. Speak to a landlord solicitor for more information based on your specific circumstances, as the details of each case will affect which notice you should serve on your tenant.
Should I serve a Section 8 notice or a Section 21 notice?
Currently, there are two legal mechanisms through which a landlord in the UK can evict tenants: Section 8 Notices, and Section 21 Notices. These notices are fundamentally different in their purposes and requirements, and it is essential to understand their distinctions to ensure a legally compliant eviction process.
A Section 8 notice can be used when there are legal grounds to regain possession of your property from a tenant. This may be because they have breached the terms of their tenancy agreement, broken the law, failed to pay rent or for other reasons. The grounds for eviction are specified under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, and landlords can rely on more than one ground to ensure they carry out the eviction legally.
On the other hand, a Section 21 notice allows a landlord to regain possession of their property at the end of a fixed-term tenancy, or at any time during a periodic tenancy with no set end date. You do not need to provide any specific reason or grounds for the eviction when using this method. However, it is still vitally important that you uphold the tenant's rights at all times, and as such, you must follow specific legal procedures in order to carry out this process successfully.
What are the legal grounds for evicting tenants with a Section 8 notice?
There are 17 grounds that a landlord can cite when issuing a Section 8 notice. This process can be more complicated than serving a Section 21 notice, but may be the only way to carry out your eviction legally in the middle of an assured shorthold tenancy. You may need to collect evidence of your tenant's behaviour in order to justify the eviction, so it is important to understand the legal grounds you can rely on.
Some of the most common grounds include:
- The property is subject to a mortgage, and the mortgage lender intends to sell the property.
- The tenant is in rent arrears (equivalent to at least eight weeks for weekly rent payments, two months for monthly rent payments, or one quarter for quarterly rent payments) or has persistently delayed rent payments.
- The tenant has breached one or more terms of their tenancy agreement.
- The tenant has allowed the property to deteriorate or caused damage to the property (including any furniture provided).
- The tenant has engaged in anti-social behaviour, been a nuisance to neighbours, or used the property for illegal or immoral purposes.
The evidence you can gather to support your action will depend on your chosen grounds for eviction, but could include records of rent payment, written complaints from neighbours, any written communications between you and the tenant, or photographic evidence of any property damage.
Remember that you cannot legally enter the property without giving the tenant suitable notice - even if you suspect the tenant has damaged the property and intend to gather evidence, you must inform them of your intention to enter at least 24 hours in advance.
Can I reclaim rent arrears by evicting tenants?
You should approach the process of reclaiming rent arrears from a tenant carefully, for a number of reasons. It is important to ensure that you meet all of your legal obligations as a landlord to avoid the risk of a tenant taking legal action against you, and it is sometimes possible to remedy such situations without damaging your relationship with the tenant.
In short, you can reclaim rent arrears during the process of evicting a tenant, but this is not the ideal approach. In fact, while a legal route may ultimately prove to be your only recourse, it should still be a last resort wherever possible.
Your first step should be to speak to your tenant about the situation and see if you can resolve things amicably. Depending on your circumstances and your desired outcome, you may be able to recover a partial payment or implement a payment plan that will enable a tenant to repay you over time. Ensure that the plan is realistic and achievable, taking into account the tenant's financial situation and your own financial needs.
A landlord has no legal obligation to offer this, but it is one way to recover the money you are owed without the risk of a dispute arising with the tenant.
While discussing the matter, you can also explain to them what the next steps will be, and warn them that they might face legal action if they keep failing to pay. This may incentivise the tenant to prioritise paying their debt.
If the tenant does not pay even after you have spoken to them about the situation, you may need to take legal action. You will need to present legal action during a court hearing to support your case - as such, it is important to maintain records of any rental payments that tenants make. We would recommend that you keep a spreadsheet document of rent payments you receive from the tenant from the commencement of the tenancy; if this is not possible, try to reconstruct this for at least the last two years of the tenancy. You need to show a Court that there were more than two months’ rent due at the time of service of the Section 8 notice of the tenant and annexe the rent statement to the notice. It is vital to seek legal advice before taking this action, to ensure that you have the best possible chances of success.
It is important to bear in mind that obtaining a High Court order or County Court judgement for rent arrears can be time-consuming, and if you are at risk of falling behind on your own debts - for example, if you use rental income to pay the mortgage on the property and payments are due - we can advise you on the best approach to meet your obligations and claim the money you are owed.
If you need to reclaim rent arrears urgently, you may be able to claim unpaid rent from your insurance provider. If your landlord insurance policy includes rent guarantee insurance or a similar clause, you may be able to claim a payout that will cover the missed rent payments and prevent further financial challenges from arising.
This may be necessary in cases where you are forced to take legal action to claim the money you are owed, as this process can be time-consuming. It is always best to resolve matters with clients amicably and through communication, wherever possible.
The point at which you can evict tenants who have not paid rent depends on their payment schedule. You can evict tenants who pay monthly when they owe two months' rent, and tenants who pay quarterly when they miss a payment for one quarter. You must serve a Section 8 notice, at which point a court hearing will be arranged. The tenant must owe two months' (or one quarter's) rent when you serve the notice, and also on the date of the court hearing - otherwise, the eviction will not be granted, unless you have provided more than one valid reason with your Section 8 notice.
As such, if you aim to evict the tenant, you should rely on more than one legal ground in these cases, if you are able to do so. If your intention is to recover the money you are owed and you are not concerned about the tenant remaining in the property, there are other legal processes that may be more successful in achieving your aims.
Evicting a tenant should be considered a last resort in reclaiming rent money owed, both because it is not always successful, and because it is best to maintain a positive and communicative relationship with tenants. It is generally more beneficial for both parties to pursue other methods of resolving rental arrears, such as open communication, payment plans, and mediation. These approaches can not only help you reclaim the owed rent but also prevent the need to find a new tenant or to undergo what can be a complicated legal process.
What happens if a tenant refuses to leave the property?
In most cases, a tenant will accept an eviction notice and make plans to leave during their notice period. However, in some cases, tenants simply refuse to vacate the property and return control to the landlord. In such cases, legal action may be your only recourse.
Provided you served a legally valid notice, and provide sufficient legal grounds for the eviction, the court will usually rule in your favour and will make a possession order. This can be enforced by issuing a Warrant of Possession directing the Court Bailiff to evict your tenant on an appointed date.
If the tenant refuses to leave the property, the landlord should not attempt to forcibly remove the tenant, as this could be considered an illegal eviction. Instead, the landlord should seek a possession order from the court.