When troublesome tenants won’t leave, what should you do? This month, we highlight how important it is for landlords to follow the correct eviction procedure…
The court has granted me a possession order, but my tenants won’t move out. Is there anything I can do while I’m waiting for bailiffs to evict them?
I’m sure it comes as no surprise to most landlords that the eviction process can be costly and relatively time-consuming.
It can take six months to progress from serving notice to a bailiff eviction, which is a long time to wait for formal possession of your property. However, the Housing Act 1988 clearly states that shorthold tenancies continue until a court order is obtained and executed. This means the occupants have a perfectly valid tenancy until the bailiffs come knocking on the door.
There are two ways to evict tenants, starting with the delivery of a Section 8 or 21 notice. The former has to be based on the grounds of rent arrears or a breach of your agreement and gives the tenants two weeks to vacate the property. If they fail to leave, a claim can be made to the court for a possession order. A hearing will usually be arranged within two months and if you are successful, the tenants then have around 14 days after that to leave.
Landlords who require possession of their property without the above grounds being met must serve a Section 21 notice, which states tenants have two months to vacate. Again, if they fail to leave, you must ask the court for a possession order. Once it has been granted, the tenants will be expected to go on or before a date fixed by the judge, usually within 14 days of the hearing.
In both cases, if the tenant still refuses to leave, you must apply for a warrant granting permission for bailiffs to forcibly regain possession of the property. An eviction date will usually be set within four or five weeks, depending on demand.
There is legislation in place preventing landlords from carrying out evictions themselves, even if your tenants no longer have a right to occupy the property. Even if they gave notice willingly, should they subsequently decide not to leave, you will still need a court order to remove them.
My advice is to accept that possession often takes several months and to hold your nerve, whilst avoiding taking matters into your own hands by attempting an eviction or changing the locks. Even if it appears your tenants have moved out while you are waiting for the bailiffs, they may well still have belongings stored at the property. If you attempt to remove them, they could bring an unlawful eviction claim against you, which would protract the situation further and inevitably lead to additional costs.
If you would like to discuss a problem tenant or the eviction process in more detail, don’t hesitate to get in touch.