Strict laws lay down how landlords approach giving notice to a tenant to leave their private rented home. Tenancy agreements give private renters rights over their homes, and landlords must follow the proper procedure to evict them. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the government brought in a ban on evictions which has changed the notice periods
If you give notice to a tenant, you must work by the most up-to-date rules, or a judge will strike out your case in court. When this happens, you have to reissue the notice to quit adding more costs and delay repossessing the property.
This guide follows the latest eviction rules for England for tenants with an assured shorthold tenancy, which covers most renters.
If you are unsure how the rules apply to your eviction, contact a lawyer for professional advice.
Which type of eviction?
How you go about giving notice to a tenant depends on the terms of the tenancy agreement.
Assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) come in two types:
- Periodic – These are rolling agreements with no end date
- Fixed – These run for a set time, for example, six months or 12 months
Why are you giving notice to tenants?
The reason for giving notice to a tenant decides which procedural route you follow.
You have two options:
- Section 8 notice – Serve this if your tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy agreement
- Section 21 notice – Serve this if you want your property returned if any fixed term has ended
A Section 21 notice is often called ‘no-fault evictions.
Consider your options carefully. A Section 21 notice is the favoured route for many landlords even if they have breached the AST because they do not have to prove they have broken the contract.
However, if the tenant is in serious rent arrears – which generally means they owe three months or more rent – you cannot pursue the debt under a Section 21 notice. Instead, to reclaim the money, you must return to court with a separate action.
Weigh the benefit of getting your property back under the easier Section 21 route or pursuing a debt the tenant probably can’t repay with a Section 8 notice.
When you can’t use a Section 21 notice
Landlords cannot issue a Section 21 notice if any of these exclusions apply:
- The tenancy has lasted for less than four months, and any fixed term has not ended unless the AST allows you to serve the notice
- The property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without a licence
- The tenant’s deposit is not in a deposit protection scheme
- You have not served a Form 6a or letter containing the same information as the form
- A council has served an improvement notice or ordered emergency works within the past six months
- You have not refunded any unlawful fees or deposits
- You have not served the following documents on the tenants|:
- An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- The How to Rent guide
- A current gas safety certificate, if applicable
Some of these conditions are date sensitive relating to the start of the tenancy.
Due to COVID-19, if the case goes to court, the judge will want a COVID-19 statement detailing how the pandemic has impacted the tenant. The statement should include a rent statement covering the past two years.
Without a statement, the judge can adjourn any eviction proceedings.
Giving Notice via Serving Section 21 notice
Hand deliver or send a Form 6a or your notice to quit by recorded delivery. Make sure you have the latest version of the form, or the service is not legal.
Keep proof of service by completing Form N215 and or write “served by [your name] on [the date]” on the notice.
The N215 certificate allows you to ask a court for accelerated possession if the tenants do not leave by the end of the notice period.
How long to give your tenants to leave under a Section 21 notice
Because the government is keen no one loses their home during the coronavirus pandemic, notice periods have varied over recent months.
Since June 1, 2021, the notice period is four months.
The notice period varies if you ‘contractual periodic tenancy’. This tenancy covers a fixed term that has ended but continues as a periodic tenancy. This notice period must align with the rental period.
Giving notice via Serving Section 8 notice
Complete the form with the reason for serving notice to quit.
The standard notice period is four months – the same as the Section 21 notice – but is shorter for some specific breaches of contract.
What happens if a tenant fails to leave on time?
If the tenant fails to leave before the end of the notice period, you should take the case to court.
If the tenant owes rent, you should try to agree on a rent repayment plan before serving notice to quit.
Use the possession claim online service to start proceedings.
The fee is £355.
If the tenant disputes the claim, the case goes before a court to consider issuing an order.
If you serve a Section 21 notice and have no claim for rent arrears, you can apply for accelerated possession. This procedure can fast-track your repossession claim as there is no need for a court hearing.
A judge will review the paperwork and typically issues a possession order. In some cases, the judge will order a court hearing.
Possession orders can cover several scenarios depending on your claim:
- Outright possession order – tells the tenants to leave within 14 or 28 days
- Suspended order for possession – allows the tenants to stay as long as they fulfil conditions laid down by the judge
- Money order – tells the client to pay you a sum of money under threat of deducting the money from their wages or sending in bailiffs
- Possession orders with a money judgment – an order for the tenant to pay any rent arrears, court costs and legal fees
Evictions and bailiffs
Evictions and bailiffs are the last resort for landlords.
You can apply for a ‘warrant of possession’ if the tenant does not leave by the date ordered by the court or fails to meet the terms of a suspended order for possession.
When the warrant is issued, the court sets a date when the tenants must leave your property.
If they still fail to go, you can send a bailiff to evict them.
You can also apply to transfer the warrant to a High Court bailiff.
The warrant application is £121, and the High Court transfer fee is £66.
If you are looking for more information about the legal relationship between a landlord and a tenant then you can check out our article on the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.