Although landlords are often accused of regularly evicting tenants, this is actually a rare occurrence. However, with more families renting in the private sector and landlords being accused of using a Section 21 notice to evict tenants for ‘no fault’ of their own, the government in England has decided to follow Scotland’s lead and scrap Section 21.
How are tenants currently evicted?
For those who let via an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement (AST), there are two ways of evicting tenants:
- Issue a Section 21 notice which can be used to advise a tenant at the end of their fixed term or agreed notice period.
- Issue a Section 8 if there are specific reasons to evict the tenant, for example, they aren’t paying their rent. You can use a Section 8 notice even within a fixed term tenancy
How long does it take to evict a tenant?
Latest figures from 2019 suggest that it can take some time to evict a tenant, unless they leave when requested.
According to the Residential Landlord Association it can take in excess of 30 weeks in places like London – in 2018 it was just 23 weeks.
This suggests if Section 21 is scrapped and no additional resource is invested in justice system to cope with the additional workload, it could result in it taking even longer to evict a tenant if you need.
Should you DIY or get professional help to evict a tenant?
This really depends on whether you have the experience and time. If it’s your first eviction, it’s probably not wise to do this yourself unless it’s very straightforward and you are confident that a tenant will leave. If a tenant decides to fight the eviction, your paperwork needs to be up to date, not just for the eviction, but at the start of the tenancy too.
Potential pitfalls when evicting a tenant
Evicting a tenant has become much more difficult than it has been in the past, even though you can still currently use a Section 21 notice. The law has been tightened to ensure if you have the right to evict a tenant, you are acting within the law as a landlord and have issued the correct paperwork including:
- The government ‘how to’ rent a property guide
- Gas safety (if in the property)
- Confirmation the deposit has been protected and prescribed information given
In addition, bear in mind that you will need to have carried out Right to Rent checks on all tenants prior to letting them rent your property.
What can you do to protect yourself?
There are several ways of ensuring you don’t ever have to evict a tenant. Firstly, it’s about making sure you reference the tenant extremely well. This doesn’t just mean buying a cheap online reference service, but meeting your tenant, checking their bank statements to make sure they can afford the rent – and ensuring that they’ll have the means to meet the additional bills to live in the home.
Your insurance company can also be quite helpful, but your policy needs to be specific for landlords, including items such as contents and buildings cover and consider having malicious damage cover.
You’ll also need to consider rent guarantee insurance and cover if you need to evict a tenant so you don’t have to worry about the paperwork if your tenant gets into arrears.
When will S21 be scrapped?
As of February 2020, we are waiting for the government’s conclusions on next steps from their consultation and you can find out the latest here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/a-new-deal-for-renting-resetting-the-balance-of-rights-and-responsibilities-between-landlords-and-tenants#history
Once the conclusions have been discussed with ministers, a plan will be put forward to change the eviction process. It is likely to take around two years or more for any changes to be implemented.
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