Landlords can evict an assured shorthold tenant after giving two months' notice using a Section 21 notice and getting a court order. Most private rented tenants are assured shorthold tenants.
Eviction rights for assured shorthold tenants
A landlord must follow a set of straightforward rules and procedures to lawfully evict an assured shorthold tenant.
The landlord must give correct notice to leave and apply to a court for a court order. If you don't leave, the landlord can then ask the court to send bailiffs to evict you.
The landlord of an assured shorthold tenant can use a Section 21 notice to give you two months' notice to leave. This is often known as the assured shorthold ground. If this notice is valid, the court must grant a court order that requires you to leave.
When the section 21 notice takes effect depends on whether you have:
- a fixed term tenancy – for a fixed period of time (eg 6 months or 1 year)
- a periodic tenancy – running indefinitely from one rent period to the next (eg from week to week, or month to month)
Your landlord can also take you to court to evict you for reasons such as eviction for rent arrears or antisocial behaviour.
When a Section 21 notice is valid
For a section 21 notice to be valid, it must be in writing and at least two months long. The notice does not have to be in any special form.
Extra rules apply if you have always been a periodic assured shorthold tenant (your landlord has never given you a fixed term tenancy), when the notice must also:
- end on the last day of a tenancy period (this is usually the day before your rent is due) and
- state that it is being issued under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988
You do not have to leave when the notice period expires.
To evict you the landlord must take you to court to get a possession order. They can do this any time after the notice period expires. If you have a fixed-term tenancy, before starting court action they must also wait until the fixed-term has expired, unless there is a 'break clause'. This is a clause that allows you or the landlord to end your tenancy early
When a section 21 notice is not valid
A Section 21 notice is not valid if any of these apply:
- you paid a tenancy deposit but it has not been protected in a government approved tenancy deposit scheme
- your landlord hasn't given you the required information about the tenancy deposit scheme used
- you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) that should be licensed by the council but isn't (many houses with bedsits or bed and breakfasts are HMOs)
A Section 21 notice is also not valid if your landlord gives you a new fixed term tenancy after they served the notice.
Eviction not using a Section 21 notice
Your landlord could also give you a written notice seeking possession. The landlord can only do this if there are legal reasons called grounds for possession. These include rent arrears, breaking your tenancy agreement and damage to the property.
The landlord can use this method to try to evict you at any time, including during the fixed term of your tenancy.
The ground that landlords can use to evict you are in two groups. These are mandatory grounds and discretionary grounds.
With a mandatory ground, the court has no choice but to make a possession order and order your eviction if the ground is proven. This includes if:
- you have rent arrears of at least 8 weeks (if you pay your rent weekly), or 2 months (if you pay your rent monthly), when the landlord gives you notice and at the date of the court hearing
- your landlord's mortgage lender is repossessing the property, unless your tenancy started before your landlord took out the mortgage
With a discretionary ground, the court only makes a possession order if the ground is proven and it considers it is reasonable to do so. This includes if you:
- are regularly late paying the rent
- have broken the terms of your tenancy – for example by being a nuisance to your neighbours
- have allowed or caused the condition of the property, communal areas or furniture to deteriorate
Notices when not using section 21
Your landlord must serve a written notice stating which ground for eviction is being used. The notice must be in a special form.
The notice has to be for a set length of time. This is between 14 days and two months, depending on the reason why your landlord is trying to evict you.
After the notice ends your landlord can apply to the court for a possession order.
A notice could take effect immediately if your landlord wants to evict you because of antisocial behaviour, but not if the written notice says they want possession on a mandatory ground for antisocial behaviour (ground 7A).
The notice remains valid for one year. This means that your landlord can start court action to evict you at any time until exactly 12 months after the date the notice was served on you. The landlord has to serve a new notice if court action is not started within this time.
Your landlord can ask the court to order bailiffs to evict you if you still have not left the property after a court order telling you to leave takes effect.
Illegal eviction and harassment
A landlord who harasses you or tries to evict you without following the correct procedure is likely to be breaking the law. You can take action to stop harassment or illegal eviction. The council may be able to take action against your landlord.
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