Gaining possession of a rented property is not as easy as you think – even if the tenant is breaking your agreement. In this month’s column, Sarah Coates-Madden discusses the difficulties of forcing an eviction…
Will a court adjourn my possession application if the tenant pleads housing benefit problems?
If your tenant has substantial arrears, you must have served the requisite notice before you can apply to the court for possession.
The Housing Act 1988 requires you to issue a notice explaining the grounds upon which any future action will be based. This act details certain situations when possession can be granted and if your reasons are upheld in court, you will receive your order. The tenant must be either eight weeks or two months in arrears, depending on the type of tenancy you have.
Although the same legislation enables the court to adjourn, it does state that if rent arrears are in excess of the above periods this discretion is removed. In theory, if your tenant pleads problems sorting out his housing benefit, but the arrears are more than eight weeks or two months, you should still be granted a possession order.
It is worth noting that if the tenant reduces the arrears prior to the hearing, the court can exercise its right to adjourn. Unless you or your solicitor is fully armed with the relevant legal arguments, you may find the system will still bend over backwards to help the tenant.
I am receiving complaints from neighbours about my tenant. Is this enough to regain possession of the property?
The Housing Act 1988 does cover situations in which your tenant may be unsuitable due to the nuisance they are causing neighbours or visitors to nearby properties.
You would need to seek possession on the grounds of the nuisance, although it is up to the courts to decide whether the alleged problems are sufficient to justify an eviction.
Isolated incidents are not likely to persuade the court to give possession, whereas long running, well-documented disturbances might. Ask neighbours to keep diaries and provide details of historical events.
Evidence should be sought to prove who or what is causing the disturbance. It may not be the tenant, but a frequent visitor that is the issue and if the tenant has little or no control over the visitor, the courts are unlikely to penalise him.
The Housing Act also gives the courts the power to order possession against a tenant who has committed an offence at the property or is using it for immoral or illegal purposes. Once again, these claims will not be successful unless sufficient evidence is available.
Sarah Coates-Madden is a specialist in property litigation at Taylor&Emmet. For more information, telephone (0114) 218 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.