Most private rented tenants are assured shorthold tenants. They can be evicted with just two months' notice using a Section 21 notice but landlords must follow certain rules and procedures.
Eviction rights for assured shorthold tenants
Assured shorthold tenancies allow landlords to evict tenants quite easily, as long as they follow certain rules and procedures. When and how your landlord can evict you depends on whether your tenancy is:
- a fixed term tenancy – for a fixed period of time (eg 6 months or 1 year), or
- a periodic tenancy – running indefinitely from one rent period to the next (eg from week to week, or month to month)
In some circumstances, the landlord can simply give a tenant two months notice to leave. This is often known as the assured shorthold ground and uses a Section 21 notice. There are rules about when this notice can be given and what dates it can end on. After the notice period expires the landlord can apply to the court to evict you.
A Section 21 notice will not be valid if it is served by a landlord who has failed to use a UK government-backed tenancy deposit scheme to protect your deposit or has failed to give you the required information about the scheme used.
Your landlord may also be able to evict you for reasons such as eviction for rent arrears, persistent late payment of rent, damage to the property or antisocial behaviour.
Eviction during a periodic assured shorthold tenancy
If your tenancy is for an indefinite period of time (for example running month to month), your landlord may be able to evict you by:
- using the 'Section 21' procedure and giving you two months' notice at any time. This is sometimes called the 'shorthold ground'
- using one or more of the grounds that can be used to evict an assured shorthold tenant during the fixed-term (see 'Eviction during a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy' below)
Section 21 notices
If your landlord uses the shorthold ground to evict you, the notice is often called a 'Section 21 notice'. To be valid, the notice must be:
- in writing
- at least two months long
and if you have always been a periodic assured short hold tenant, in other words your landlord has never given you a fixed term tenancy, the section 21 notice must also:
- end on the last day of a rental period
- state that it is being issued under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
Court action can be taken to evict you anytime after the notice period expires if you do not leave by the end of the notice period. However, if your landlord has given you a new tenancy after serving the section 21 notice, the notice will not be valid.
Section 21 notices if a tenancy deposit is not protected
Landlords of assured shorthold tenants nearly always have a duty to protect a tenant's deposit with a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme, and provide tenants with certain information within a 30 day time limit.
Landlords who fail to do this will be unable to evict their tenants using the 'assured shorthold ground'. Any 'Section 21 notice' they serve will not be valid.
Use Shelter's tenancy deposit checker to check if your landlord should protect your tenancy deposit.
Get advice from a housing adviser or housing lawyer if your landlord tries to evict you when your deposit is not protected or the required information has not been given to you.
Eviction during a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy
Your landlord could give you a written ‘notice seeking possession’ instead, or as well, as a section 21 notice. This is mostly likely to happen if the landlord wants to evict you before a fixed-term tenancy has expired, but it could be at any time. The landlord can only do this if there are legal reasons (which are called ‘grounds for possession’). These include rent arrears, breaking your tenancy agreement and damaged the property.
If certain grounds for possession are proven, the court will have no choice but to make a possession order and order your eviction. 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
For other grounds the court will only make a possession order if it considers it is reasonable to do so. This includes if:
- you regularly are late paying the rent
- you have broken the terms of your tenancy – for example by subletting when you are not allowed to
- you have allowed or caused the condition of the property, communal areas or furniture to deteriorate
- you have behaved in an antisocial way.
Eviction notices for fixed-term assured shorthold tenants
A landlord who wants to evict you from a fixed-term assured shorthold tenancy before the fixed-term ends must provide a written notice stating which 'ground' for eviction is being used, unless your tenancy agreement contains a 'break clause'.
The notice has to be for a set length of time and must let you know that after that time ends your landlord can apply to the court for a possession order. The length of time on the notice depends on the reason your landlord is evicting you, and can be either 14 days or two months, depending on the reason used. However, if your landlord wants to evict you because of serious antisocial behaviour by you, or a member of your household, the notice can take effect immediately.
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. If court action is not started within this time the landlord has to serve a new notice.
Court orders to evict an assured shorthold tenant
Once your landlord has served a correct notice and this has ended they can apply to the county court for a possession order.
Action after a court order for eviction
Your landlord can ask the court to order bailiffs to evict you if you still have not left the property after a court order takes effect.
The council may be able to take action against your landlord, or you may be able to get help from a local adviser. Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre in your local area.