The notice you may need to serve on your tenant to start eviction or possession proceedings will depend on whether you are using the accelerated possession procedure or the rent arrears procedure. If you are unsure, read our article onfor more information.
The first step in the accelerated possession procedure is to serve a notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (the 'section 21 notice'). This article will explain the procedure for serving this notice.
The section 21 notice must be given to the tenants at least two months before you intend to repossess the property. If the tenants fail to leave the property at the end of the notice period, then you can apply to the county court for a possession order.
A landlord can serve a section 21 notice on the tenants any time after the tenancy has started to confirm that they intend to repossess their property when the tenancy agreement expires. However, they cannot serve a section 21 notice before the tenancy commences or it will be invalid, nor can they set a date for repossession in the first six months.
The best way to serve a section 21 notice is by hand or post. If you choose to serve the section 21 notice by post, you should do so using recorded delivery.
The period of notice that a landlord is required to give to their tenants will depend upon whether they granted a fixed-term or periodic assured shorthold tenancy.
a) A fixed-term tenancy
A fixed-term tenancy will be created for a specified length of time, for example, 12 months. However, if the tenants remain in the property after the fixed term has ended, and they do not enter into a new fixed-term agreement with their landlord, then their tenancy will automatically become periodic (see below).
For fixed-term tenancies, a minimum of two months' notice must be given of the date that the landlord intends to regain possession of the property. This date can't be before the end of the term unless there is a break clause allowing this. The notice period will commence when the tenant receives the section 21 notice. If you are sending the section 21 notice by first class post, you should allow at least three extra days on top of your notice period to account for delivery time.
b) A periodic tenancy
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 (this is called a 'contractual periodic tenancy') or may have naturally arisen at the expiry of a fixed-term tenancy (a 'statutory periodic tenancy'). Tenants must receive at least 2 months' notice of the date that the landlord intends to regain possession of the property. However, if the tenancy is a contractual periodic tenancy, a landlord must also make sure that that the notice period will end at the same time as the rental period. The notice period for a statutory periodic tenancy doesn't need to end at the same time as the rental period, but must be at least 2 months.
If it is necessary for a landlord to start possession proceedings, they will be expected to provide a copy of the section 21 notice that they have served. Therefore a landlord should keep a copy of the section 21 notice as well as any proof that it has been sent to the tenants.
If more than one tenant lives in the property, then a landlord should serve a copy of the section 21 notice on each of them. This is not a legal requirement, but is a matter of best practice, as the landlord will be able to show that each tenant was given the required length of notice.
The right to repossession using a section 21 notice is lost if the deposit has not been safeguarded in an authorised tenancy deposit scheme, unless the deposit is repaid to the tenant before the section 21 notice is served. You should get legal advice if you haven't protected the deposit.
If any of the tenants fail to leave the property after the section 21 notice expires, you may apply to the court for an order to evict the tenant.
If you are applying for possession on the ground of rent arrears, and you have already taken the first steps listed in our article, you will need to serve a section 8 notice on your tenant.
If your tenant has failed to pay rent after you have made requests for them to do so, you should consider serving a notice under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (a 'section 8 notice'). This notice will demand that your tenant pay any rent arrears in full within a certain period (minimum of two weeks).
If the tenant does not pay the rent within the period stipulated on the section 8 notice, you may apply to the court for an order to evict the tenant. The order will also demand that the tenant pay you any outstanding rent and may also demand that he/she pay your costs in applying to the court.
Before you use the section 8 notice, it is important that either your tenancy agreement contains an address for service in England & Wales as required under section 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 or that you have separately served a section 48 notice.
Your tenancy agreement with the tenant will contain the necessary information as required under section 48 if it lists an address in England & Wales where the tenant should serve any notices on their landlord. If you are unsure whether your agreement contains the appropriate clause, you should seek legal advice.
If your tenancy agreement does not contain such a clause, then you have to serve a notice under section 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987. There is no prescribed format for the section 48 notice - a letter to the tenant specifying an address in England & Wales where notices may be served on the landlord will suffice. You can then proceed to serve the section 8 notice. However, you will not be able to apply to the court for a possession order without having done so.
If the tenant doesn't pay the rent arrears within the period stipulated in the section 8 notice, you may apply to the court to evict the tenant.
Under no circumstances should you attempt to evict the tenants yourself without a court order, for example, by changing the locks. Doing so is a criminal offence and you may be fined and/or sent to prison.