How to evict a tenant who owes rent

If you have a tenant who is not paying you what they should be, and you want to get them out, then there is a strict process to follow. If you don't follow it then your costs will rise and you will likely be stuck with the non-paying tenant in the property, sinking you further and further into debt, until you get either it right or run out of money.

Firstly, before you can take any legal action that is likely to be successful the tenant must owe AT LEAST two months' rent money (or 8 weeks for a weekly tenancy) when you serve the notice and at the court hearing. This is a mandatory ground for possession (i.e. the judge MUST award you possession of the property if you've completed your paperwork properly and at least two months' rent was unpaid at the time you served your Section 8 notice and is owed at the court hearing date - he DOESN'T have to award you possession otherwise). Technically 'at least two months' rent unpaid' means your tenant is one month and one day in arrears.

Let me give you a brief example to illustrate what I mean:

Mr Smith is your tenant and his rent is £600 per month. He moves in on 1st January, paying you his first month's rent of £600 in cash as he moves in. His next payment is due 1st February, but he doesn't pay. He now owes one month's rent. He doesn't pay on 1st March either.

On the 2nd March - presuming he doesn't suddenly pay you anything - he is in enough arrears for you to start the legal process of recovering your property.

Before this time you should be ringing and writing to a tenant with arrears to try and resolve the problem. However, useful as this communication is, it is not part of the legal process. This process starts, with the serving of a notice entitled 'Housing Act 1988 Section 8 as amended by Section 151 of the Housing Act 1996, Notice Seeking Possession of a Property let on an Assured Tenancy or an Assured Agricultural Occupancy'. Unsurprisingly this notice is known simply as a 'Section 8', and we will happily complete one of these notices for you for a small fee. It is reasonably straightforward to complete, but it is crucial that you get the wording, dates and numbers right. If you do not, then your claim will be thrown out of court, leaving you looking foolish, and also leaving you way out of pocket if the tenant continues not to pay, as you will have to start the whole process from scratch. We offer an online Section 8 notice creation service where you only have to enter the tenancy start date, the monthly rent amount and the total rent paid in order to generate a correct and legally sound notice. This service costs less than £20 and could save you untold amounts of money.

Once your Section 8 is completed, it needs to be served. This should only ever be done by first class post (NOT recorded delivery - I'll explain why in a moment) and you MUST take it to a post office and get the staff to supply you with a stamped proof of postage. This provides you with acceptable third-party proof of postage, rather than it just being your word that you posted it. Don't just pop it in a letterbox, as without proof of postage, the tenant could simply just deny receiving it as emphatically as you insist you sent it. If you both swear that you are telling the truth, then how is the judge supposed to know? Don't take the chance. The reason you should not send your Section 8 by recorded delivery is that the tenant could just refuse to sign for it or could be out when the postman knocks. Without the signature, it's useless!

The Section 8 notice expires a fortnight after it is deemed served. While it is expiring you need to be completing your court paperwork. We'll give an overview of completing the paperwork below, but once again, getting every small detail correct is a must, or your claim will be rejected. We are experienced and can prepare your paperwork for you. Once the Section 8 has expired you should send in your court paperwork. There are 2 forms you need to complete for this type of possession claim. The n119 'Particulars of Claim for Possession (rented residential properties)' and the n5.

The n119 is available from here along with some guidance notes for correct completion:

and the n5 is available from here:

Once completed you must send off the completed forms along with the court fees via cheque.

You will get a court date (hopefully sooner rather than later) which you or your solicitor must attend. If you've done everything right (and the tenant doesn't suddenly pay up a load of money to bring the arrears below 2 months' rent unpaid) then the judge will award you possession. If the tenant doesn't leave by the date the judge specifies then you will need to instruct the bailiffs to remove them by completing form n325 and sending in another fee.

When the bailiffs attend, send a locksmith to change all the locks to stop the tenant from simply letting themselves back in.

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