In Northern Ireland, once you have served your notice to quit and the notice period has expired (and any further notices or requests have been ignored), if the tenant still refuses to leave the property, then the only way you will be able to remove the tenant from the property is to obtain an order for possession from the High Court.
It is important to remember than in order to commence court proceedings, you must have served notice on the tenant to quit the property. If your order for possession application is successful then the tenant may be liable for your legal fees.
You will need to retain a solicitor who will handle the application to the High Court. This is a costly process and you should therefore try and resolve the issue with the tenant before proceeding with this course of action.
If the tenancy is a fixed tenancy then you will need to provide copies of the notice to quit and any subsequent correspondence to the tenant (or from the tenant) together with proof of the rent arrears or evidence of the breach of any of the conditions under the tenancy agreement.
If the tenancy is a periodic tenancy then there is no need for the landlord to give any reason for ending the tenancy, however, a notice to quit should still have been served on the tenant and this will need to be provided. If you are unsure of the difference between a periodic and a fixed-term tenancy, see below under the heading 'What is the difference between fixed term and periodic tenancies?'.
This information will be sent to the High Court in support of your application for an order for possession together with your (or any agent or other person involved) sworn statements (affidavits).
Landlords should note that the tenant can oppose the claim for possession once they are served with notice of the proceedings in the High Court
The tenant will have 14 days from the date your claim is served on them by the court to lodge their defence (if any) in the court. The court will provide you a copy of the defence.
What is the difference between fixed term and periodic tenancies?
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).
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 or may have naturally arisen by the expiry of a fixed term tenancy.
You, or your legal representative, must attend a court hearing to present your case. The tenants must also be present at this hearing. The outcome of the court hearing will vary depending on the circumstances at the time of the court hearing.
Once the court issues an order for possession, the order will specify a date by which the tenant must leave the property. If the tenant does not vacate the property by this date then you must apply to the Enforcement of Judgments Office in order to have the order for possession enforced.
Once the order for possession has been enforced, the Enforcement of Judgments Office will arrange for enforcement officers to evict the tenant from the property and remove their possessions. It is only at this stage that you will finally be able to regain possession of their property.
You should note that this is not a quick process and can take a considerable length of time and cost a considerable amount of money, which you may not be able to recoup or may never recover from the tenant. This should be taken into consideration before commencing any legal proceedings.