The short answer is yes, landlords can evict tenants who break their tenancy agreement. However, it is vital they follow the correct legal procedures. There are, understandably, a number of measures in place to protect tenants against landlords or their agents harassing them or evicting them illegally.
What are the grounds a landlord can use to evict a tenant?
The most common ground for eviction is failure to pay the rent. Allowing the rent to fall into arrears is a breach of any tenancy agreement.
However, the Housing Act 1988 provides landlords with several more reasons to legally end a tenancy early. It is perhaps easiest to look at these in terms of evicting a tenant at the end of their tenancy and evicting a tenant during their tenancy.
At the end of the fixed term of the tenancy, the landlord does not need a reason to evict a tenant. As long as they have provided the correct notice, they can apply to the court for a possession order. If the possession order is granted and the tenant still doesn’t leave, the landlord should apply for a warrant for possession. A warrant for possession gives bailiffs power to evict the tenant/s from the property.
If the tenant/s have been living in the property for less than 6 months of a fixed term, a landlord can only evict them for certain reasons. These include:
- The tenant/s not paying the rent
- Formal allegations of antisocial behaviour
- Damage or disrepair to the property
- Obvious breach of specific terms in the tenancy agreement
- The exercising of a ‘break clause’ in the contract (as long at the specified time for the break has been reached)
How do landlords legally evict a tenant during a fixed term rental?
If you want to evict a tenant during a fixed term rental, you will need to serve your tenants with a Section 8 notice under the Housing Act 1988.
A Section 8 notice can only be served where the particular grounds for eviction are satisfied. Although a breach of the tenancy agreement – i.e. the tenant has not paid the rent, they have damaged the property or they’re causing a nuisance – provides the required grounds, you should be prepared for your tenants to dispute your claims. This could lead to you having to go to court to provide evidence to support the eviction notice.
Before you get this far, it may be best to try a few alternative approaches. You could speak to your tenant and see if you can reach a mutual agreement as to the date by which they will surrender the tenancy. Or, if the tenancy is approaching its end, it may be easier to wait until the end and issue a Section 21 notice instead.
A section 21 notice (also known as Form 6A) is the document served by a landlord to their tenant to notify them of the landlord’s intention to repossess the property.
The first step towards issuing a Section 8, is to complete a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy’. This will involve you specifying which terms of the tenancy have been breached. You will then need to give your tenants between two weeks’ and two months’ notice depending on which terms have been broken.
If your tenants do not leave by the specified date, you will have to apply to the court for a possession order.
Finally, please don’t think a Section 8 will guarantee eviction. Your tenant could well choose to ignore the notice and, depending on the circumstances, the courts could rule in their favour if you choose to escalate the eviction action.
It is at the stage the action escalates to the court that legal representation will be needed. If you feel you or one of your clients have reached that stage in an eviction case and you would like to discuss your options with one of the experienced property barristers in our Civil Law team, please contact us today.