Letting residential property can be stressful, and perhaps the most stressful situation to be faced with as a landlord is regaining possession of your property. This can be for a number of reason including rent arrears or just wanting your property back. When faced with this situation, action should be taken promptly in order to mitigate the impact of unpaid rent on your investment. We can assist you to take steps to regain possession of your property and recover any rent arrears.
Choosing the appropriate action to be taken
During the fixed term
Provided that there are rent arrears of at least two months, a section 8 notice can be served on the tenant. This notice requires the tenant to leave by a date at least 14 days in the future.
If the tenant does not vacate, the landlord can issue possession proceedings in the county court. If the tenant is still in arrears of at least two months on the date of the hearing, the court must order possession. If the tenants has cleared their rent arrears, the court has discretion as to whether they will order possession. The court will also order a judgment against the tenant for the unpaid rent to assist the landlord in claiming back lost rental income.
This type of hearing would be listed.
If the fixed term tenancy has ended
In addition to a section 8 notice, once the fixed term has ended, a section 21 notice can also be served on the tenant. A section 21 notice is a ‘no fault’ notice and provided that the landlord has complied with its obligations when setting up the tenancy, and the correct procedure is followed, the court must order possession. The section 21 notice will inform the tenant that they must leave by a date at least two months in the future. If the tenant does not vacate, the landlord then has the choice of issuing either accelerated or standard possession proceedings.
Accelerated possession proceedings are a quicker route as a hearing is not listed, unless there are exceptional circumstances. However, taking this route means that the landlord cannot include a claim for unpaid rent. The tenant can file a defence requesting further time to vacate the property (from the usual 14 days up to a maximum of 42 days) and a judge will consider this request without the need for a hearing.
Given that most tenants that are not paying their rent do not have any assets, with which to enforce a money judgment, it may be preferable to take the accelerated route. This would assist in evicting the tenants quicker, so that the landlord can re-let the property to new (paying) tenants. As such, it may be beneficial to take the financial hit on the rent arrears, in order to get the defaulting tenants out as quickly as possible.
How long will each notice take?
The section 8 notice provides the tenant with at least two weeks’ notice. However, the hearing has to be listed. This can take anywhere from one to six months, although the average would generally be two to three months.
The section 21 notice provides the tenant with at least two months’ notice. If the accelerated route is chosen, and a hearing is not listed, the court may return with an order possession within one month. It is however important to also consider that the tenant will have 14 days to file a defence.
Nick Howell helps landlords with possession claims. If you would like advice in this respect, please contact Nick at AMD’s Henleaze office on 0117 962 1205 or by email to NickHowell@amdsolicitors.com