Section 21 tenant eviction – understand what it means and what you have to do

If you are a landlord you will be familiar with the highs and lows of earning a living by providing a roof over a tenant’s head.

For the most part, tenants are amenable. As long as you maintain the property and adhere to compulsory health and safety checks – gas and electricity for example – and the ground rules are communicated effectively at the start of every new tenant contract issued, then you shouldn’t have too many concerns.

But then there’s always risk of the unruly occupier. If you haven’t already, you will probably encounter an unreasonable tenant at some point who simply will not comply with the rules. When you do, you may wish to take steps to take your property back.

Tenants have rights, but so do you as a landlord. Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 offers an option for the landlord to serve an eviction notice after a written fixed term contract or periodic agreement has ended.

In fact, as a landlord, you don’t actually have to give a reason to claim your property back – there’s no place on the form to give a reason – you may have the perfect tenant and issuing a Section 21 would still be fine.

What is a Section 21?

There are three stages to a Section 21 notice, designed to help landlords evict an assured shorthold tenant:

  1. Issue a written Section 21 notice
  2. Issue a court order possession
  3. Certified bailiff eviction

After the Section 21 notice has been issued the tenant will usually have two months (or an agreed date) to leave your property. Unfortunately, it’s not compulsory that the tenant pays rent during these two months but you would hope that they would leave quickly and quietly.

If the tenant does not leave within the two-month period, or agreed date, the next stage is to apply to the court for a possession order. The tenant may decide to defend the order in which case the court decided whether or not they would be evicted. In most cases, a defence form is not provided therefore an accelerated possession procedure can be instructed using a N5B possession claim form.

An accelerated possession procedure does not earn the landlord the right to collect rent arrears.

At this stage the tenant has fourteen days to respond. It’s worth noting that the tenant can delay the eviction up to 42 days even if they do not defend their case.

Ensure your Section 21 notice is valid

The tenant will have rights so it’s important to follow the proper channels and to check all details. In order for a Section 21 to stick you must:

  • Have copies of an official tenancy agreement signed by the tenant
  • Protect the tenant deposit in a government-backed deposit scheme (for all tenancies after April 2007)
  • Issue the correct Section 21 notice expiry date

A Section 21 notice cannot be issued against a tenant who lives in a ‘house in multiple occupation’ classified home.

The bailiffs

Sending in the bailiffs is the final stage. The court will set a date for your tenant to leave the property and issue paperwork to this effect. If they do not leave by the required date then a licensed court bailiff will be instructed to remove the tenant and their belongings from the property. Again, paperwork will be issued and the bailiff will ensure your property is returned to you empty.

At this stage, you should enter and review your property immediately and changing the locks should be your first priority.

We hope you never find yourself in the situation of having to evict a tenant but if you do and it’s the first time you have approached this procedure, it’s highly recommended to take professional advice first.

If you would like to know more about a Section 21 procedure, please call us on 0800 652 3737.