Starting possession proceedings against your tenants can be stressful. By the time you navigate the possession order process, you’ve potentially already dealt with rent arrears, property damage and/or anti-social behaviour. Even if it’s a “no-fault eviction”, you might be unsure of the steps you need to take.
If you’re not sure where to start, then don’t worry. We’ve created this streamlined guide to help you understand how possession proceedings work for private landlords. That includes everything from seeking legal advice from experienced landlord solicitors to preparing for court hearings.
Serving a possession notice
To begin the possession process, you’ll need to serve your tenants with a possession notice. You have a choice between serving a section 21 or section 8 notice.
You can serve a section 8 notice if your tenants have breached the tenancy agreement.
To serve this notice, you’ll need to fill in form 3.
Section 21 notices are commonly referred to as “no fault” eviction notices. With this notice, you don’t need to provide a specific reason for evicting your tenants. It’s only applicable to assured shorthold tenancies.
For this notice, you must use form 6A, or serve a similar document detailing the same information required by this form.
There are many strict guidelines for submitting a valid section 21 notice, including providing at least two months of notice. It’s also essential that you fill in the forms correctly, or your claim could be delayed or denied. Private landlord solicitors can advise you about filling out the possession claim forms.
You’ll also need to ensure you retain proof of serving your notice.
Filing a possession claim
If your tenant remains in the property past the date on your possession notice, then the next step is to apply for a possession order.
Standard possession claims
For standard possession claims, you have two options for filing your claim. If you are reclaiming your property on rent arrears grounds and have online access, then you can use the possession claim online service. In all other cases, you can use the paper based application process. Both options cost £355 to serve.
Once the claim has been issued by the courts, your tenants will be able to file a defence. If they do file a defence to the possession claim, you will be required to attend a possession hearing.
Accelerated claims procedure
Alternatively, for section 21 claims that don’t involve a claim for rent arrears, you can file for an accelerated possession order. To apply, you’ll need to fill in the N5B form, and send it to the county court that manages housing cases where the tenancy property is located. It also costs £355 to serve.
If the tenant submits a defence, the court will provide you with the details, and set a date for the hearing. If you’re unsure about this process, it can be helpful to speak with a landlord and tenant solicitor.
Preparing for the court hearing
You’ll need to attend a hearing for standard section 8 and 21 possession claims. However, accelerated section 21 cases typically only require a hearing if the tenants mount a defence to the possession claim.
Always ensure you’ve sent an electronic copy of the case documents to the court, including the tenant’s defence, where applicable. This should arrive at least two weeks prior to the hearing.
Ensure you bring all the relevant documents to the hearing. Depending on the judge’s discretion, the hearing may have one of several different outcomes.
For example, if the judge feels there is not enough information or time to resolve the case on that date, the hearing may be adjourned.
If your claim is successful, then the judge will either make an outright or suspended possession order. With the outright order, your tenant will be provided with a specific date by which they will need to vacate the property. Suspended and postponed possession orders require your tenants to meet a set of conditions. If they don’t meet the conditions, you can apply to the court for an eviction.
If your claim is unsuccessful, then the judge will dismiss it. You’ll need to restart the court process to issue another possession claim, and you may be ordered to pay the tenant’s court costs. In some cases, you may be required to serve a new notice to begin the process again.
If your tenants don’t leave your property by the date specified in the possession order, or don’t meet the conditions of the suspended possession order, then you can apply for a warrant of possession. If you previously used the possession claim online service, then you can use this to apply directly. For all other options, you’ll need to send your request and fee to the court where the possession hearing took place. The fee is £130.
The courts will then send you Form EX96, which will provide notice of the date and time when bailiffs will repossess the property. You must send confirmation by returning the tear-off slip on the form. In some cases, the bailiff will also require you to submit a risk assessment (Form EX97A).
It’s also important to be aware that your tenant may apply for a suspension of the warrant. In this situation, you should speak with a legal advisor at the nearest opportunity.
Advice on possession proceedings from experienced landlord solicitors
Serving an invalid possession notice can be disastrous. Seeking advice from experienced landlord solicitors ensures that your claim is accurate and within legal guidelines. Plus, whether you need support with tenancy negotiations or representation at a hearing, Osbourne Pinner Solicitors are on hand to advise you through every step.
It’s important to note that this blog post is for informational purposes only. To get the ball rolling and talk to a solicitor, simply fill in our online form below. If you’d rather speak with our team, give us a call on 0203 983 5080, or send us an email at [email protected].