Wednesday, 9 April 2014

How can landlords evict tenants quickly?

The quick answer is that in the vast majority of cases you can’t get them out quickly, unless you can persuade them to move out voluntarily.

So, for example, if you offered them £5,000 to move out next week they might go. Depending on whether they had anywhere else to go to and how important it was for them to have £5K right now.

It might not be, or (particularly if they have a protected tenancy) it might be more cost effective for them to remain in your property. In which case they won’t leave and you will have to get a court order for possession (if you can).

Most people will go if you pay them enough money – but their price may be higher than you are prepared, or able, to pay.

If you go in and change the locks before your tenants have moved out voluntarily (HOWEVER badly they are behaving) this will put you in breach of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

You will be vulnerable not only to prosecution but also to a claim for financial compensation from your tenants.

The ONLY  safe way to evict a tenant is by the Court Bailiff (or High Court Sheriffs) acting under the authority of a court order for possession.

But what about the accelerated eviction procedure?

People often get confused about the accelerated procedure. It is badly named.

First – it is not really that quick. It generally takes between six to ten weeks from issuing the proceedings to getting the court order. Personally I would not describe that as ‘accelerated’ although maybe it is compared to some other court proceedings.

Second – you can ONLY use it to get possession based on section 21. So to be able to use it you need to have served a s21 notice first (which has a minimum notice period of two months) and the fixed term must have ended.

So if you have just found out that your tenants have lied to you on their tenant application form and it is two weeks into a 12 month fixed term – you can’t use it. Not for the next 11 ½ months anyway.

Note by the way that you can only use the accelerated procedure to evict assured shorthold tenancies (as you can only use s21 for ASTs).

A standard eviction

Assuming you have an AST (as most landlords do) a standard eviction will generally take between three (if you are very lucky) to six months, or maybe longer (if you are unlucky or have got something wrong).

You can’t really hurry this. Attempts to speed up the system generally result in more delay.

All you can do is deal with things promptly and make sure that your paperwork is perfect so there is nothing to prevent your case going ahead as normal.

Emergency situations

There are no situations that I am aware of which will entitle a landlord to go in and change the locks on a residential tenant without a court order – apart from situations where it is clear that the tenant has already left.

To find out more about this, read this post on implied surrender.

So if the tenant has gone mad and is smashing up the property – call in the police or social services as appropriate, and instruct a solicitor to apply to court for an injunction.

If the emergency is that the property is on fire or there is a gas leak, this sort of situation does allow the landlord to enter the property – but only to deal with the emergency, not to evict the tenant!

Anyway in this sort of situation the landlord is best advised to call the relevant authorities (ie the fire brigade or the National Grid’s Gas Emergency service – Freephone number: 0800 111 999)

Quick answers to common situations

I am selling the property and need the tenant to go – unless you can persuade the buyer to buy the property with the tenant in situ, you will need to get a court order in the normal way. There is no special “I want to sell the property and need the tenants out quick” ground for possession.

I am unable to pay my mortgage if the tenant fails to pay my rent – all you can do is explain this to the tenant and say that if they don’t pay you, they risk being evicted by your mortgage company

The tenant is doing something illegal in the property – report this to the police, but remember that if they are arrested and jailed, this does not of itself entitle you to go in and change the locks.

In conclusion

Once a tenant has been given the keys and moves in, you lose control over that property. You can ONLY get it back if the tenant moves out voluntarily or if you get a court order for possession. This will normally take you several months.

This is why it is CRITICAL that you take care in choosing your tenants. Once they are in it may be hard to get them out again.

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