Eviction of assured shorthold tenants

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.

Three steps to eviction landlord must follow

How private landlords start the eviction process

A private landlord must follow rules for an assured shorthold tenant to be lawfully evicted.

There are two ways a landlord can start the eviction process, using a:

  • section 21 notice – for eviction after a fixed term has ended
  • section 8 notice – for eviction at any time, including during any fixed term

Landlords usually use the section 21 procedure to evict tenants. You get at least 2 months' notice to leave.

Landlords may use the section 8 procedure if you have rent arrears or have broken the terms of your tenancy agreement (for example if you have damaged the property).

If you don't leave

Your landlord has to apply to the court for a possession order if you don't leave by the date set out in the notice.

The court decides if you should be evicted. A court won't order you to leave if the notice isn't valid.

For Section 21, there isn't always a hearing. The court can use the accelerated possession procedure to make a decision without a hearing. This speeds up the eviction process when tenants don't send a defence form to the court

If the court decides you should leave, your landlord can apply to the court for bailiffs to evict you.

It's against the law for your landlord try to evict you themselves or harass you.

How to defend possession proceedings

You can defend the case at a court hearing if the section 21 notice wasn't given to you at the right time or isn't legally valid.

You'll need to return a defence form to the court and explain your reasons. You'll usually get the chance to explain your case at a court hearing.

If your landlord correctly serves you with a valid section 21 notice, you won't be able to successfully challenge the eviction. But you can ask the judge to delay eviction for up to 42 days if you can show you would be caused exceptional hardship.

Call Shelter's helpline on 0808 800 4444 if you need urgent help or use Shelter's directory to find a local adviser.

If you claim benefits or have a low income, you may be able to get legal aid to help you challenge eviction, call the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345.

Section 21 notices

Tenancies starting before 1 October 2015

A section 21 doesn't have to be on a special form if your tenancy started before 1 October 2015 and you haven't signed a renewal contract after this date.

The notice must be in writing and give a minimum of two months' notice.

If you have a periodic tenancy (one that runs eg from month to month) and it never had a fixed term, the notice must also:

  • say it's being issued under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988
  • end on the last day of a tenancy period (this is usually the day before your rent is due)

Tenancies starting or renewed from 1 October 2015

For most tenancies starting or renewed from 1 October 2015 your landlord must use a special form to give you at least two months' notice in writing.

Different rules apply for some tenancies (for example when you pay your rent quarterly). In these cases, the notice period must cover at least one rental period and usually has to end the day before the rent is next due.

Section 21 notices: when they can be served

Tenancies starting before 1 October 2015

If your tenancy started before 1 October 2015, your landlord can serve a section 21 notice at any time during the tenancy. The notice must expire on or after the end of the fixed term.

Landlords routinely give you a section 21 notice at the start of a tenancy.

Tenancies starting or renewed from 1 October 2015

Your landlord must wait at least 4 months from the start of your original tenancy before they give you a section 21 notice.

If you sign a new contract to renew your tenancy, your landlord doesn't have to wait another four months, but can give you a section 21 notice at any time.

Section 21 notices: when they are invalid

If the section 21 notice isn't valid, the court won't make an order for you to be evicted.

When your landlord starts court proceedings, you'll need to reply to the court to let them know the notice is invalid. The court should arrange a hearing where you can put your case.

If you sign a new fixed term tenancy

A section 21 notice isn't valid if your landlord gives you a new fixed term tenancy after they served the notice.

If your landlord breaks tenancy deposit rules

In many cases, a section 21 notice won't be valid if you paid a tenancy deposit to your landlord or their letting agent and any of these apply:

  • it wasn't protected in a government approved tenancy deposit scheme
  • the deposit was only protected more than 30 days after you paid it
  • your landlord hasn't given you required information about the tenancy deposit scheme used

If your deposit wasn't protected or was protected late, your landlord has to return your deposit to you in full before giving you a new section 21 notice.

Find out about tenancy deposit rules.

If you complained about repairs or conditions

These extra rules apply only if your tenancy starts or you sign a new contract to renew your tenancy on or after 1 October 2015.

A section 21 notice won't be valid if all these apply:

  • the notice was served after you complained in writing to your landlord about repairs:
  • your landlord didn't deal with the issues
  • you reported them to the council
  • the council served your landlord with an improvement notice or a notice that they would do emergency works

A section 21 notice won't be valid if it's given to you within 6 months of the council serving your landlord with either:

  • an improvement notice
  • a notice saying the council will do emergency repairs

Find out more about the rules for eviction if you complain about repairs.

If your landlord fails to give you information

These extra rules apply only if your tenancy starts or you sign a new contract to renew your tenancy on or after 1 October 2015.

The section 21 notice won't be valid if your landlord didn't give you a copy of all these documents:

  • an energy performance certificate
  • a current gas safety record
  • the government guide How to rent (a paper copy is required unless the you agree to accept notices and correspondence by email)

From 1 October 2015, if you sign up to a replacement tenancy or stay beyond your tenancy's fixed term and the guide's been updated, your landlord has to give you another copy.

If you live in a shared house

A section 21 notice won't be valid if 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.

Section 21: when a landlord can apply to court

Your landlord can only apply to the court after the notice period in the section 21 notice has expired and after any fixed term has ended.

There's no time limit for making the application if your tenancy started before 1 October 2015 and you haven't signed a renewal contract. The section 21 notice does not have an expiry date.

For a tenancy that starts or is renewed on or after 1 October 2015, in most cases, your landlord must apply to court for a possession order within 6 months of giving you a section 21 notice.

If your contract says you must pay your rent every quarter or less frequently, contact our helpline for advice.

Section 21: when a court hearing isn't required

Your landlord can use the accelerated possession procedure for a court order to evict you without the need to hold a court hearing. This speeds up the eviction process.

Your landlord can't use this procedure to claim for unpaid rent.

The court won't let your landlord use this procedure if you send in a defence form that:

  • shows that the section 21 notice isn't valid
  • asks to stay longer than 14 days after the court hearing.

The court will instead arrange a hearing so the judge can decide if you should be evicted.

Section 8 eviction

Your private landlord can use the section 8 process to take you to court to evict you at any time during your tenancy, including during a fixed term.

It's used for example if you:

  • have rent arrears
  • are involved in criminal or antisocial behaviour
  • break other terms of your tenancy agreement like damaging the property

Landlords usually prefer to use the simpler section 21 eviction procedure if they can.

Your landlord must prove to the court that they have 'grounds for possession'. These are legal reasons to evict you.

Grounds for possession are split into two groups:

  • mandatory grounds: if proven, the court has to order you to leave
  • discretionary grounds: the court can decide if you have to leave

Section 8: mandatory grounds

If your landlord proves a mandatory ground, the court must order you to leave, usually in 14 days.

Ground 8 is the most commonly used mandatory ground. It's used if you have rent arrears of at least:

  • 2 months if you pay rent monthly
  • 8 weeks if you pay rent weekly

You must have rent arrears on both the following dates:

  • when your landlord gives you notice
  • when the case is heard in court

Section 8: discretionary grounds

Discretionary grounds include if you:

  • are regularly late paying the rent
  • break the terms of your tenancy – for example by being a nuisance to your neighbours
  • damage your home or communal areas

Your landlord has to prove to the court that a discretionary ground applies and the court decides if it's reasonable to order you to be evicted.

Section 8 notice

Your landlord must serve a written notice seeking possession. This must be in a special form and give the grounds for eviction that are being used.

The notice period will be either 14 days, four weeks or two months, depending on why your landlord is trying to evict you.

After the notice period ends, your landlord can apply to the court for a possession order. The notice is valid for 1 year after the date it was served on you.

Section 8: defending possession proceedings

You may be able to challenge a section 8 eviction if:

  • the notice isn't valid
  • you can prove the amount of rent arrears is wrong
  • you have evidence that disproves your landlord's case
  • you have a counterclaim for disrepair

If you go to court and your challenge is successful, the court could decide to:

  • make a suspended possession order that allows you to stay so long as you repay the rent arrears
  • dismiss the landlord's case against you

If you can't challenge the eviction, you can ask the court to delay it for up to 42 days if eviction would cause you exceptional hardship.

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