Reen Anderson Solicitors

What Happens When a Tenant Refuses to Leave?

notice of eviction court papers informing tenant
One of the less pleasant aspects of operating as a property landlord is dealing with tenants who, for whatever reason, have become untenable to carry on renting your property. This could be due to anti-social behaviour, inadequate cleanliness, or being late (or refusing) to pay rent or bills. In an ideal world, the landlord would give notice to the tenant that they are no long able to live in the property and arrange a date for the tenant to move out and hand back the keys. The tenant would then leave on that day. However, what happens when the tenant simply refuses to leave?During the COVID-19 pandemic, the rules were changed to protect tenants during a difficult time, including extended notice periods and suspending a landlord’s right to evict them or repossess the property while the pandemic was at its height. These rules were removed in mid-2021; however, landlords must still follow certain processes to ensure that they stay on the right side of the law when it comes to evicting unwanted tenants.

Step one: Give notice that you intend to evict

Officially called a Section 21 notice, this is a formal notification of your intention to ask your tenants to move out of your property at the end of their fixed-term tenancy. Alternatively, if you want them to move out because they have broken the terms of their tenancy midway through, this is called a Section 8 notice. Either way, this is the first step in setting the eviction process in motion. Notice periods can vary depending on the circumstances in question and the wording in your tenancy agreement. However, this can be as little as two weeks, going up to two months in some cases. There are exceptions to this rule, and it is wise to check out whether these apply to you before proceeding with an eviction notice.
eviction notice document on table 2022 10 24 22 44 30 utc min 300x200
eviction notice document on table 2022 10 24 22 44 30 utc min 300×200

Step two: Seek a possession order

Hopefully, the eviction notice will be enough to set things in motion for your tenant to pack up and leave. If they do not respond favourably, however, and the tenant refuses to leave the premises, you can move to the next stage in proceedings – the Possession Order. You can apply to a court for a Standard Possession Order that will reiterate the requirement for your tenants to leave your property. There may or may not be a hearing scheduled in court for a judge to hear the case. A variant on this stage is an Accelerated Possession Order, which applies if you do not need or wish to claim any unpaid rent. This leads to a quicker resolution, as it doesn’t involve a court hearing. The court will send a copy of the Possession Order to your tenant, who will then have 14 days to respond. If they are in serious difficulties and appeal for more time, the judge can rule to extend that period to account for this.

Step three: Apply for a possession warrant

If the Possession Order doesn’t do the trick, the next stage is for the landlord to apply for a Possession Warrant. This involves bailiffs attending the property to escort the tenants and their belongings out. While it is clearly preferable for the situation to be resolved before this distressing stage, it can sometimes be the only way to resolve the issue legally and empty the property for the landlord to reclaim it once a tenant refuses to leave the property. If necessary, this stage can be accelerated by taking it straight to the High Court, rather than Crown Court if circumstances allow and the landlord is claiming more than £600, including court costs. In that case, the eviction warrant will be served by a High Court enforcement officer.Of course, landlords who try to evict tenants illegally do not have the protection offered by following these three stages. Tenants can claim harassment or illegal behaviour and seek damages of their own in court. This can delay the eviction process considerably while their claim is assessed. Some actions that could be considered as illegal harassment include cutting off electricity, gas or water supplies, withholding keys, refusing to carry out repairs and physical threats or violence. Landlords also cannot change the locks, give insufficient notice of their intention to evict or evict tenants without the correct court order.
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