Abide by Eviction Rules or Go to Jail without Passing Go
Are you thinking about evicting a tenant? In the UK there are strict proceedings for starting the eviction process. Not following the rules as a landlord can land you in big trouble, with huge legal costs and even a criminal record. In this article, we discuss your landlord rights when evicting a tenant.
Sheffield Landlord Prosecuted and Fined for Evicting a Tenant
A landlord in Sheffield who illegally evicted their tenant has been prosecuted and fined, and now has a criminal record.
The landlord, Zubair Khan, changed the locks on his buy-to-let property and would not allow his tenant to re-enter the home. His tenant then filed an injunction against him in county court to gain re-entry.
Mr Kahn was taken to court where he pleaded guilty to the charges of illegal eviction. His defence told the court that he was not an experienced landlord and he had not previously rented this property, so was not familiar with the correct proceedings for evicting a tenant.
Because he was found guilty, he was made to pay £4,000 in legal costs and fines, and he now holds a criminal record. In addition, his tenant has the right to file for a rental repayment order and claim up to 12 months’ worth of rent from him.
Khan could be said to have got away lightly. If you are found guilty of illegally evicting a tenant, you could be fined up to £5,000 and be jailed for as long as six months.
What Can You Do If You Need to Evict a Tenant?
If you have a troublesome tenant that you want to evict, there are strict proceedings that you need to follow. The exact procedure also depends on the tenancy agreement you have with your tenant.
Assured Short-Term Tenancies
- If you want your property back after the fixed term laid out in the tenancy agreement, you must send a Section 21 notice (though this option is likely to be removed soon, as discussed below).
- If your tenant has broken the terms of your tenancy agreement, then you must send a Section 8 notice.
- You must apply for a possession order from the courts if your tenant has not left the property by the specified date on your Section 21 or Section 8 notice and they owe you rent.
- If your tenants still refuse to leave, you then apply for a warrant of possession from the courts which will allow bailiffs to remove the tenants.
Excluded Tenancies or Licences
If your tenants are on an excluded tenancy or licence, you are only required to give ‘reasonable notice’ to evict them. Reasonable notice can be subject to interpretation but, in general, it refers to the length of the rental payment. For example, if your tenants pay their rent monthly, then you are required to give one month’s notice.
Assured and Regulated Tenancies
If you have a long-term tenant whose tenancy started before 27 February 1997, they may be on an assured tenancy. This gives them increased protection and requires you to go through a specified process to file for eviction. You can only evict tenants on assured tenancies if you can prove a legal reason to the court.
Section 21 Ban
Section 21 notice that may currently be used to evict tenants when the end of their tenancy arises is set to be banned by the UK government.
The reason for the ban is to create a more secure rental sector for all and to stop no-fault evictions which, according to the Ministry of Justice, have been on the rise over the past decade. It is thought that many tenants do not complain about the poor state of the properties they live in for fear they will be evicted with a Section 21 notice, so the government is hoping the ban will improve property conditions and reduce homelessness.
However, the government has indicated that in the process of removing the Section 21 notice, they will strengthen the powers of a Section 8 notice, which allows you to evict tenants for faults such as not paying their rent.
The ban is creating fear among landlords that they will not be able to regain their properties in legitimate circumstances once Section 21 is abolished. Section 21 will no longer be an option as a backstop for landlords to overcome the slow and ineffective Section 8 process. It is hoped that the strengthening of the Section 8 notice will allow landlords to quickly regain their properties from tenants who should be evicted for legitimate reasons, and that court proceedings will be expedited for such cases.
The life of landlords in the UK is about to change. Evicting tenants has always been seen as a drawn-out and costly process. The Section 21 ban will see the process change again. Whether this weakens or strengthens a landlord’s ability to evict wayward tenants remains to be seen – it really depends upon other measures that the government may put in place.
In the UK there are strict proceedings you must follow as a landlord hoping to evict your tenants. If you do not follow them to the letter, then you could face hefty fines and a criminal record like the landlord in Sheffield. As a buy-to-let landlord, it is vital to stay abreast of the law so that you know yours and your tenants’ rights always.
The eviction laws in the UK are undergoing significant changes. Don’t become the landlord who breaks the law through ignorance – the court won’t care, and you could be jailed for your mistakes.
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