Our lawyers have many years’ experience helping private landlords obtain possession of their rental property. We can advise upon the most appropriate method for obtaining possession based upon many factors and circumstances.
Many landlords unsuccessfully try to obtain possession themselves. Because this area of law is fairly complex a mistake can set you back months. That can mean months with no rental income. The expertise that our lawyers provide can avoid unnecessary setbacks and delays, and as we are solicitors some of the fees can, in principle, be recovered from the tenant. Therein lies the value in instructing one of our solicitors to deal with the possession procedure.
Our lawyers can assess your situation and advise as to whether your strategy should be to recover possession only or to also seek some additional remedy such as a county court judgment for rent arrears or damages. We will then advise upon the most appropriate procedure based upon each individual landlord’s circumstances. Those circumstances include:
Whether or not there is any fault on the part of the tenant
Whether the landlord is seeking to recover rental arrears
Whether the landlord has complied with his regulatory obligations (failure to do so can debar the landlord from using some of the methods).
*Note: The regulatory obligations include providing the tenant with certain information, protecting the deposit on an authorised scheme and serving energy performance and safety certificates. Failure to comply with these obligations can leave a landlord unable to use the Section 21 procedure and will therefore have to prove one of the many Section 8 grounds most of which require there to have been some fault on the part of the tenant.
Once we have established the circumstances and the aims of the landlord there are 4 basic stages to follow, which are:
Preparation and service of a notice to end the tenancy agreement
Issuing possession proceedings at court
Obtaining a court order for possession
Instructing a bailiff to obtaining possession
Preparing the notice
Whichever possession method is to be used the first step will always involve the service of a notice.
The 2 main methods of possession are the Section 21 Procedure (no tenant fault) and the Section 8 procedure (tenant fault). There are pros and cons to both. There is also an accelerated version of the Section 21 procedure which is generally the quickest and cheapest method however there are certain conditions that must be met before that procedure can be used and a claim for rental arrears cannot be included.
The notice periods vary depending upon the procedure to be used and that is another factor our lawyers consider when advising a landlord on the best course of action as court proceedings cannot be commenced until the notice has expired.
Under the Section 21 procedure the notice period is always at least 2 months. Under the Section 8 procedure the notice period can be as short as 14 days in the case of rent arrears.
Issuing possession proceedings
If the tenant does not leave the property after expiry of the notice, then we will issue a claim for possession in the local court, relying on the notice served.
Order for possession
Once the claim has been issued the court will list the claim for a hearing and the tenant will have opportunity to raise any defence that they may feel that they have. The hearing will usually be listed 4 – 8 weeks after the claim was issued. In some cases our lawyers will need to assist the landlord with further evidence and a witness statement at some point between the commencement of the claim and the hearing, particularly if the tenant has raised some form of defence to the claim.
The exception to this is the ‘accelerated’ Section 21 procedure. This does not require a hearing and the court will consider the claim on paper once the time limit for the defendant to reply has passed. This makes it the quickest and cheapest method for those landlords for whom it is suitable and available.
Provided the court is satisfied on the evidence that all the necessary requirements are met it will make an order for possession, usually requiring the tenant to vacate the premises within 14 or 21 days.
If the tenants do not comply with the court order it will then become necessary to instruct bailiffs to attend the property and remove any persons present. It will usually be a further 4-8 weeks to the bailiff’s appointment depending upon their workload. It is advisable to arrange for a locksmith to also attend with the bailiff to change the locks.
It is worth noting that even if a landlord chooses not to include a claim for rent arrears with the possession claim (usually to speed the process up) a separate claim can still be made in the county court.