One of the most difficult aspects of being a landlord is dealing with a tenant who has not paid their rent. Many other disputes such as the condition of the property or facilities in the property can be settled by an agreement between the two parties. However, when a tenant is not paying the rent to the landlord action will have to be taken.
A landlord must ensure that he or she follows the correct procedure for eviction as the courts often do not look favourably on landlords who try to do this by their own means.
If a landlord has failed to extract payment from a tenant – or the guarantor on behalf of the tenant – and there seems that there is no possibility of a negotiated settlement then the time will come to pursue matters further bringing with it the inevitable court action.
It is a criminal offence for a landlord to evict a tenant without a court order. Therefore it may be advisable for a landlord to obtain specialist legal advice in this area to ensure that all procedures are followed to the letter.
The law in England and Wales regarding tenancies for the private sector is provided for in the Housing Act 1988.
Under the act a court can award a repossession order in relation to that particular property which enables the landlord to force the tenant to vacate the premises.
A repossession order can be granted under the Housing Act if the tenant owes more than two months or eight weeks rent.
The first thing that a landlord should do to start the repossession process is to issue a Section 8 Housing Act 1988 notice. This notice will give the tenant 14 days in which to respond.
When a landlord serves a Section 8 Housing Act notice on a tenant this must be done in the correct manner. If the notice is not served correctly then this may cause a delay in the repossession process. Accordingly it is wise that a landlord seeks appropriate advice before serving the Section 8 notice by seeking the advice of a solicitor, a letting agent or through a specialised landlord service.
The Section 8 notice will provide the tenant with 14 days to respond to the notice and in some situations will result in the outstanding rent being paid or the tenant vacating the premises.
Often this is not the case, however, requiring further action.
Once the Section 8 notice has expired and the tenant has not paid the money due or has moved out of the property then a landlord may apply for a hearing at a County Court.
The purpose of this hearing is to enable the judge to award a repossession order if the rent remains unpaid and in arrears of over two months or eight weeks at the time when the hearing is held.
There are exceptions to this rule in relation to the property being in disrepair or if the reason for the rent arrears is due to a delay in a Housing Benefit claim. If this is the case the issue should have been dealt with through the Local Authority and not through an application to the court.
Once a repossession order has been handed down by the court, the tenant will be required to leave the premises. In most cases the tenant will do this willingly but in some cases they will not.
If a tenant still refuses to leave the premises following the provision of a repossession order a landlord can arrange for Court bailiffs to enter the premises and remove a tenant.
It is perfectly legal for a landlord to arrange for court bailiffs to remove a tenant from the premises following the repossession order. This is because the tenant is in clear breach of the order. However, if a landlord were to try and evict a tenant by forced means prior to the court ordering a repossession order then the landlord would be guilty of a criminal offence.
It is therefore advisable that if a landlord wishes to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent they must go through the appropriate legal channels.
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