Gone are the days when landlords could simply walk into their property, pack up their tenant’s belongings, turf them onto the streets, and change the locks. Agree or disagree, the power is now very much in the hands of the tenant when it comes to repossessing your property.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, new timescales were introduced for the period of notice you must give your tenants in order ‘reclaim’ your property under section 21 or section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. The new timescale is currently 4 months from the date of the notice being served on the tenant. This means you cannot force your tenant to leave, issue court proceedings, or carry out any other action, until this notice has expired. Once the period of 4 months has passed and if your tenant has not left the property, you can issue proceedings in the County Court for repossession of the property.
Should I choose Section 21 or Section 8 to serve notice under the Housing Act 1988?
A Section 21 notice is a blameless repossession; it does not require your tenant to have done anything wrong to end the contract. There are however several important points that must be considered and followed before being able to utilise the Section 21 route. These include:
- Protecting your tenants deposit in a registered scheme;
- Having a valid EPC certificate on the property;
- Having a valid gas safety certificate at the property.
Unlike the Section 21 notice, a Section 8 notice is the blame-based repossession and therefore there must be a reason for you to be serving your tenants with a notice to quit the property. The reasons range from anti-social behaviour and non-payment of rent to the property being used by a minister of religion. With this sort of request to repossess, it is important to discuss your options with a solicitor prior to sending a Section 8 notice to your tenants.
Drafting the notice is by no means for the faint hearted considering this is a legal document proposing the end of your tenants right to reside in the property. If the Court finds that the notice is defective in any way, you can be ordered to restart the entire process and pay the tenants costs for the errors occurring.
What happens when my Section 21 or Section 8 notice goes to Court?
Dependant on the facts of the case and the allegations against either the tenant or the landlord, the Court will list the case for a ‘substantive hearing’ where the parties are invited to try and reach a compromise or agreement before going in to see the Judge. These hearings can prove beneficial where the issues are negligible.
However, it is not uncommon for cases with wild and damning allegations to proceed to the next stage which could be a formal hearing where evidence is heard from each party and a determination is made by the Judge as to what happens and when. It is recommended that your solicitor attends court with you in order to properly convey your points across to the Judge and ensure your case is dealt with in the most effective manner.
What happens if a Court grants me the right to repossess my property?
If a court grants you the right to take back possession of your property, then the tenants will be given between 7 and 28 days to clear their belongings from the property, vacate the property, and return the keys to you or your solicitors office. What if my tenants won’t leave my property? Firstly, you cannot remove them or their belongings from the property. Only a bailiff or high court enforcement agent can remove the tenants from the property and whilst this is a straightforward process of instruction, it is important to get the paperwork right first time to avoid delays.
The bailiff or high court enforcement agents will usually attend in a quick fashion and enter the property to give the tenants a set amount of time (usually just a few hours) to collect their belongings and leave the property. The tenants have no choice but to leave and it becomes a criminal offence to refuse to leave the property. The bailiff or High Court Enforcement Agent will ensure that they leave. Once they have left, it is advisable to change the locks and check the property. If there is anything missing or damaged, or the property is in dis-repair then this can be investigated as a separate matter.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulting in many delays being encountered, from seeing family and friends to going for a haircut, and delays have been experienced also in having your case heard in the County Courts. Currently the wait on housing cases within the West Yorkshire area is between 3 and 6 months meaning that it is imperative you act quickly if you are looking to gain possession of your property and seek to evict your tenants.
It is important to note that none of the information contained within this blog post is intended to constitute legal advice. You should contact our offices for detailed advice on the specifics of your case and any assistance you may require. The process outlined above can vary from case to case, the ’picture painted’ is for information / insight into the process only.
If you wish to discuss your matter further then please call us to make an appointment at any of our four West Yorkshire based offices.
Call our Wakefield office on 01924 290 029
Call our Garforth office on 0113 246 4423
Call our Ossett office on 01924 586 466
Call our Sherburn in Elmet office on 01977 350 500