The lobbying organisation ‘Generation Rent’ has called on the government to remove section 21 of the Housing Act 1998 that allows private landlords the option to evict tenants regardless of any fault. This clause causes insecurity and stress for tenants who rent privately and discourages them from complaining about substandard housing.
While nothing has been decided yet, eviction is certainly a difficult issue for landlords and tenants, particularly across London which – according to Ministry of Justice figures – has the highest eviction rate compared to the South West, North East and West Midlands which have the lowest rates of repossession.
If you are a tenant and potentially facing eviction, Simon Roberts from DAS Law has some guidance on the law and what you can do.
My landlord is threatening to evict me – how do I ensure he is acting within the law?
If you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST – most tenancies are ASTs) the landlord cannot evict you from the property without a court order. If you have been threatened with eviction please seek immediate legal advice.
What legal processes does my landlord need to follow in order to evict me?
The first step by the landlord in lawfully evicting a tenant will be the serving of a notice to quit. The notice will either be a section 8 notice (requiring grounds) or section 21 notice (requiring no grounds). Should the tenant not leave following the expiry of the notice the landlord will need to apply to court for a possession order.
The order will generally be issued following a hearing and will set a date for the tenants to leave the property. Should the tenant not vacate the property the landlord will have to return to court to obtain warrant for possession of land allowing the landlord to appoint bailiffs to evict the tenant. The landlord is not permitted to change the locks without going through the courts.
What should I do if I receive an eviction notice from my landlord?
Generally, a landlord can only bring a tenancy to an end by serving either a section 21 or section 8 notice. A section 8 notice has to be in a prescribed form and for breaches of tenancy, such as non-payment of rent, the landlord is required to give 14 days’ notice.
There are various requirements that have to complied with when issuing a section 21 notice, including ensuring that the landlord has complied with the duty to protect the deposit within 30 days.
Failure to comply with the legal requirement could render the notices unenforceable. Should you receive a notice to quit or possession order you should seek legal advice to ensure that the notice you have been served with is the correct length and has been served on the prescribed form, and that all other legal requirements have been met by the landlord.
Can I appeal an eviction notice?
You cannot appeal a notice to quit but if the notice served was not valid the landlord is unlikely to secure possession of the property. You may be able to appeal against a possession order but only if you can show that the judge made an error of judgment in the possession hearing.
I am up to date on my rent but the landlord wishes to sell the property. Can I be evicted before the end of my lease?
Provided that there are no other issues (e.g. breach of the tenancy), the landlord will have to wait for the fixed term to expire and cannot require you to leave before that date.
I have made improvements to the property during my tenancy – can I ask for compensation of the costs if I am being evicted?
It would depend on the agreement with the landlord. In most residential tenancies (i.e. AST) the tenant is required to seek consent from the landlord to undertake any work in the property, thus it is very unlikely that the tenant will be entitled to any compensation. They may however be required to undertake more work to put the property back into its original condition.
I have heard that I should force the landlord to go to court to evict me as this will help me being re-housed by the local authority. Is this true?
It is not uncommon for councils to advise tenants to stay in the property until the landlord obtains a possession order or bailiffs are instructed to evict the tenants.