It is every landlord’s worst nightmare. You get a new tenant and everything seems fine at first. Then the problems start…
Unpaid rent. Neighbours complaining about music being played at 2.00am…loudly. Rubbish piling up in the backyard. Strange plants growing in the garden. And this is before you get a glimpse of what they have done to the inside of the property.
The most important thing to remember if you have been unfortunate enough to gain a tenant from hell is there are legal steps you can take to get them out of your property and out of your life.
The Slow (but cheapest) Route
The traditional way to evict a tenant in the UK is to issue a ‘Section 21’ notice. You must serve this notice at least two months before you wish to re-take possession of the property. It must be in writing and state the date in which you will take possession of the property.
If your tenant refuses to budge after receiving the Section 21 notice, then you will need to apply to the Court to obtain a ‘Possession Order’. If your tenancy is an ‘Assured Shorthold Tenancy’, (the most common type, and the structure of all tenancies that started on or after 15th January 1989), then you need to;
- have grounds to seek eviction of your tenant; and
- have served a Section 21 notice
before you apply to the Court for a Possession order.
The Accelerated (sometimes) Route
If you are desperate to be rid of a tenant who is hundreds of pounds in arrears of rent and has the police around so much you are thinking of charging them as they may as well live at the property, then you may be able to use the Accelerated Possession Procedure to gain occupation quicker.
However, the Accelerated Possession Procedure does not always live up to its name and can take just as long, (if not longer) as the traditional route.
To apply to the court for Accelerated Possession, you still need to serve a Section 21 Notice two months before the date you with to take possession. The reason the procedure is ‘accelerated’ is rather than require a court hearing, the Judge will make his or her decision based on the paperwork provided by your solicitor.
Delays can occur if:
- your paperwork is not perfect
- the tenant puts forward a credible defence to the reasons cited for eviction
If either of these factors occurs the Judge may set a date for a hearing, or dismiss the application altogether, (forcing you to start again with the serving of a Section 21 Notice).
However, if all goes well, you will receive and order for possession and the tenant will be required to pay your court costs.
Enforcing the Possession Order
Once the possession order is granted, notice will be served on the tenant by the Court. If he or she fails to leave the property, the Court can send a bailiff to the premises to remove him or her. However, it is important to note that this can take up to four to eight weeks, especially in the Greater London area, due to the increasing workloads court bailiffs are experiencing at present. During this time you are unlikely to be paid any rent.
In cases of an extremely stubborn tenant who uses every trick in the book to delay or circumvent a possession order, a landlord can apply to transfer the enforcement of a Possession Order obtained at the County Court via a writ of fi fa to the High Court. If successful, a High Court Sheriff will turn up on the tenant’s doorstep within seven days of the writ of fi fa being issued, without any prior notice given. They also have the power to seize goods if rent arrears are owned.
High Court Sheriffs are much more expensive than County Court bailiffs, but you may find, when balancing up the loss of rental income, not to mention the personal stress experienced waiting for a bailiff to execute his or her duties, the cost is well worth it.
Evicting the tenant from hell is not a straight-forward process, but with good legal advice the procedure can run smoothly and efficiently, leaving you free to recover your lost sleep and sanity and obtain new, responsible, law-abiding tenants who will care for your property and pay their rent on time.
Written by Fraz Butt of Saracens Solicitors in London- http://saracenssolicitors.co.uk/
For legal help with all types of buy to let issues, contact Saracens Solicitors residential property department on 020 3588 3500 or at www.saracenssolicitors.co.uk