Evicting a residential tenant
It is vital that landlords know what to do when they need to evict a tenant, so that they are on the right side of the law. Failure to follow procedure properly could result in you being unable to recover possession of your property or facing criminal proceedings.
The advice contained in these pages will give you the information you need to help you successfully, and legally, evict a tenant and regain possession of your property. Please note that this advice applies only to the following:
- Tenants living in England & Wales who have an assured or an assured shorthold tenancy agreement
- Tenants living in Northern Ireland, where the tenancy agreement has been created since 1 April 2007
- Tenants living in Scotland who have short assured tenancy agreements
What do I need to do?
England and Wales
There are many different grounds you can use to evict a tenant from your property, but the 2 most commonly used grounds are rent arrears and the accelerated possession procedure. Read more about these procedures in our article.
If your tenants are in arrears of rent, but you are able to use the accelerated possession procedure, we recommend that you use this procedure, rather than using the ground of rent arrears. This way, you are able to get the tenants out as quickly as possible and get new tenants in who will start paying you the rent.
However, please note that when you use the accelerated possession procedure, the court will not order the tenants to pay any rent arrears to you. You must instead apply to the county court to try to get the outstanding rent owed to you.
What is the accelerated procedure?
The accelerated possession procedure can be used by a landlord at the end of the fixed term of a tenancy agreement or at any time during a periodic tenancy, provided that the tenants have occupied the property for at least 6 months since the start of the first tenancy agreement, or if a break clause has been used to end the tenancy early.
The procedure involves serving a section 21 notice, and then if the tenants fail to move out after you have served this notice, applying to the court for an order to evict the tenants.
Read more about using the accelerated possession procedure here,.
If you cannot use the accelerated procedure
If you cannot use the accelerated procedure, and you are applying for possession on the grounds that there are rent arrears, then you should read our section on theto take when there are rent arrears to find out what you need to do.
Do not attempt to evict the tenant yourself. You must apply through the courts for them to do this on your behalf. Doing so is a criminal offence and you could be fined and/or sent to prison.
In Northern Ireland, if you wish to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent or for breach of any of the conditions contained within the tenancy agreement, then you must serve a notice to quit on the tenant giving them a minimum of 28 days' notice to leave the property.
In cases of a fixed term tenancy coming to its natural end, there is no requirement to service a notice to quit on the tenant; however, it is good practice to serve a notice of intention not to re-new the tenancy at least 28 days before the tenancy expires, after which, you can proceed with any legal action to remove the tenant.
If the tenant fails to leave the property once the 28 days expires or after further requests, you must apply to the High Court for an order for possession which will then be enforced by the Enforcements of Judgments Office.
Please note it is illegal in Northern Ireland to forcibly evict or remove a tenant from a property, harass a tenant until they vacate the property, or remove the tenant's belongings from the property and change the locks whilst the tenant is absent from the property.
What is the difference between a fixed term and a periodic tenancy?
A fixed-term tenancy is created for a specified length of time, for example, 12 months. If the tenants remain in the property after the fixed term has ended, but do not enter into a new fixed term agreement, then their tenancy will automatically become periodic.
A periodic tenancy rolls on a specific period, such as month to month or quarter to quarter. This arrangement may have been specified at the start of the tenancy, in which case the tenancy is a contractual periodic tenancy. Alternatively, it may have naturally arisen by the expiry of a fixed-term tenancy, making it a statutory periodic tenancy.
In a statutory periodic tenancy, or where the period hasn't been specifically agreed in a contractual periodic tenancy, the period of the tenancy usually corresponds with how often the rent is paid. So, if the rent is paid monthly, the tenancy will be a monthly periodic tenancy.
There are many different grounds you can use to evict a tenant from your property but the 2 most common reasons for eviction are rent arrears, and where the tenancy has reached the agreed termination date but the tenant has failed to leave.
If your tenant is in arrears of rent but the tenancy is approaching the agreed termination date anyway, we would recommend you proceed by seeking removal based on the termination date. To do this will improve your prospects of getting the tenant out as quickly as possible, allowing you to get a new tenant in who will start paying rent.
Even if you proceed on the basis of the termination of the tenancy, you can still claim payment of the rent arrears if you need to go to court for an order for eviction.
How do I start the process of evicting a tenant?
Before a tenant is required to move out, they must be served with legal notices. These notices are mandatory and any court action for an order for eviction will fail if notices have not been properly served.
If you wish to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent or for breach of any other condition of the tenancy, then a Notice to Quit must be served together with a Notice of Intention to raise Proceedings under section 19 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988. We would recommend you serve these notices simultaneously. A minimum of 40 days' notice is required.
If you wish to evict a tenant based on the tenancy approaching the agreed termination date, then a Notice under section 33 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988 is required. A minimum of 2 months' notice is required in advance of the agreed termination date.
If the tenant fails to leave in response to any notices served, then you must apply to the Sheriff Court for an order for possession which will be enforced by Sheriff Officers.