Evicting a tenant can be a stressful and emotional time for both parties. However, there are occasions when a landlord is left with no other option but to evict a tenant. Deciding to evict a tenant from your property is a big step, so how much does an eviction cost?
There will not be a cost if a tenant complies with an eviction notice served by the landlord. However, if the tenant does not comply, the total cost of eviction can range from £1,300 to £2,200. Total costs depend on whether the County Court, High Court, a possession warrant and a bailiff are needed.
If the courts are needed, fees are paid during the three stages of the eviction process.
Court fees are cheaper through the County Courts, but the process takes longer than the faster and more expensive High Court eviction procedure.
Before evicting a tenant, it’s a good idea to understand your obligations as a landlord going through the eviction procedure.
There are several reasons why landlords may need to evict residential tenants from their property. If the tenant falls into rental arrears (typically more than two months) or consistently pays their bills late, landlords may choose to evict their tenants by serving them notice.
If tenants break their tenancy agreement, such as subletting, having pets, or smoking, the property owner can also evict them. In addition, if the tenants are found to be acting unreasonably, with anti-social or illegal behaviour or are causing too much property damage to the rental property, then they can also be evicted.
Furthermore, suppose a landlord or a letting agent finds that the new tenant has obtained the property by giving false statements (such as false references or fake details for credit checks). In that case, the landlord can evict the tenant.
The Tenant Eviction Process
There are strict procedures in place if you want to evict your tenant, and the systems have become more challenging for landlords in recent years due to political pressure on renters’ rights.
A landlord’s exact procedure depends on the type of tenancy agreement that is in place between the tenant and the landlord and the terms of that agreement.
There are three key stages of the eviction process:
1. Serve notice to your tenants
The first and most important stage you will need to go through in the eviction process is serving your tenants with a Section 21 or Section 8 notice, or both.
Section 8 notices are used if a tenant has broken the terms of the rental agreement.
The government recommend that tenants and landlords try to resolve disputes before written notice is served to the tenants. However, this does not always work, and landlords may have no other option than to serve an eviction notice to their tenants.
Section 21 notices are used to evict tenants either when a fixed term tenancy ends or during a tenancy with no fixed end date. As a result, section 21 notices are often referred to in the press as ‘no-fault’ evictions.
Section 21 notices cannot be used in all circumstances, and if you are thinking of using a Section 21 notice to evict your tenant, it is essential to check that these circumstances do not apply to you.
Section 21 notices cannot be used to evict tenants if any of the following circumstances apply:
- The tenancy started less than four months ago, or the fixed term has not ended, and there is no clause in the contract allowing an early Section 21 notice;
- The property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without an HMO licence from the council;
- For tenancy agreements that started after April 2007, if the tenants’ deposit isn’t in a deposit protection scheme;
- If the tenancy started after October 2015, a form called Form 6a, will need to be completed. A copy is available on the Governments’ website.
- If the council have served either an improvement notice or a notice to say that it will do emergency works on the property within the last six months; or
- If the landlord has not repaid any unlawful fees or deposits which have been charged to the tenants (under the Tenant Fees Act 2019).
In addition to the circumstances above, when tenants move into a property, landlords or property managers need to provide tenants with a copy of the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), the government’s How to Rent guide and a current Gas Safety Certificate.
If the tenants have not been provided with these documents, a Section 21 notice cannot be served.
Different requirements apply for Section 21 notices in Wales. For example, if the tenancy started after November 2016, you will need a landlord licence to evict a tenant using a Section 21 notice.
In England, if you are issuing a Section 8 or Section 21 notice, you must give your tenants at least two months’ notice for them to vacate the property.
Under most tenancy agreements, tenants will pay for rent monthly. If it is agreed that your tenant pays less often, beware that this will increase the minimum amount of time you need to give notice.
For example, if your tenant pays for the rent every four months according to the lease agreement, you will need to give four months’ notice.
With Section 8 notices, there are some limited circumstances whereby the minimum notice period is less than two months. This can include serious anti-social behaviour of a bad tenant (4 weeks or one month), if the tenant has no right to rent in the UK (2 weeks) or if the tenant is in serious rent arrears at the time of the notice (2 weeks).
If you are unsure which notice to give to your tenants, it may be worth seeking legal advice. Whilst this will cost you an amount of money initially for legal fees, choosing the wrong eviction notice could delay the eviction hearing process and cause you more money in the long run.
2. Apply to the court if your tenant does not leave
If you have correctly served the notice and your tenant does not leave by the required date, a landlord will need to apply to the courts.
Suppose the tenant does not leave by the specified date and owes non-payment of rent. In that case, you will need to apply to the courts for a standard possession order if you are claiming for overdue rent payments or an accelerated possession order if you are not claiming for unpaid rent.
Legal writ of possession order claims can be made online and cost around £355, but the online form does not cover all circumstances, such as trespass or where the tenants have broken the lease terms.
As the name suggests, accelerated possession orders can be quicker than standard possession orders. The court filing fees are the same at around £355, but there is usually no court hearing involved in accelerated possession orders.
You can combine the two processes, use the accelerated procedure to evict the tenant from your property, then make a separate claim for the non-payment of rent. Whilst this would involve two application fees, it can be weighed against the lost income of having a non-paying tenant in your property for longer.
3. Apply for a warrant of possession
A warrant of possession order requires the tenant to vacate the property by a specific date. It allows bailiffs to enter the property and evict tenants from it.
There are three types of possession warrants:
Outright Possession Order
Under an outright possession order, the tenant must leave by the date set out in the order. If the tenant does not go by this date, the landlord can apply for a warrant of eviction.
Suspended Possession Order
Suspended possession orders allow the tenants to stay in the property. However, if they fail to obey the conditions set out in the order, the landlord can apply to the courts to have them evicted.
Postponed Possession Order
Postponed possession orders are similar to suspended possession orders. However, they require the tenant to make rental payments in full and on time and agree to pay back any previous past due rent owed over a set period of time with a payment plan.
How Long Does It Take To Evict Someone In The UK?
The average time it takes to evict a tenant is around six weeks. Some residential evictions are done quicker than this, but unfortunately, some can take longer. Some landlords have managed to evict their tenants in just 14 days from issuing a notice, whereas others have been known to take up to 6 months.
The length of eviction will largely depend upon the circumstances of the case. As stated earlier, there are different notice periods for other circumstances, which will inevitably impact the time it takes to evict a tenant.
In addition to notice periods, if a tenant challenges your Section 8 or 21 notice, or you’re required to go to court, or you are required to enlist the help of bailiffs, these factors will add to the time it takes to evict someone from your rental unit.
Can You Evict A Tenant Without Going To Court?
Yes, landlords can evict tenants without court action. However, the eviction will need to proceed to the courts if the tenant refuses to leave the property at the date stated within the Section 8 or 21 notice. This is why landlords must ensure their eviction intent is lawful.
Taking your tenant to court can be a lengthy, stressful, and costly process, but you can avoid the need to go to court under certain circumstances.
Giving your tenant plenty of notice of the eviction date and informing them of your reasons for eviction will help reduce the likelihood of having to involve the courts. Good communication is vital!
If your tenant lives with you as a lodger, you may have an ‘excluded tenancy or licence’. Under these agreements, you would not need to take them to court. You would only need to give them reasonable notice of eviction.
Theoretically, it is possible to carry out a self-help eviction. While this may seem an attractive route, extreme caution must be used to avoid lengthy delays and extra-legal costs if you are doing it yourself. In addition, if you make any errors, you could be liable for fines for unlawful eviction action.
If a tenant vacates a property after receiving an eviction notice, the property owner will not need to apply or wait for a court date or court order. For example, a Section 21 notice notifies your tenant that they will be evicted by a specific date. If they comply with the notice, there should be no need to involve the courts.
How Much Does It Cost To Serve A Section 8 or 21 Notice?
Landlords can serve a section 8 or 21 Notice for free if they complete the forms themselves. However, serving a notice through a solicitor’s office can cost upwards of £120 + VAT. Additional court costs to evict the tenant will be payable if they do not leave the property at the end of the notice period.
In England, for Section 21 notices, the government have produced a form called Form 6a, which can be used to serve a Section 21 notice.
It is also possible to create your own Section 21 notice, but you will need to ensure that it covers all of the correct requirements.
Suppose you are serving a Section 8 notice. In that case, you must fill in a Form 3 titled ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy.
The government have produced guidance notes for both of these forms. However, if you are unsure about any aspects of the forms or notices, it might be worth seeking legal advice.
Also, Visum.co.uk provides a service that allows you to serve a Section 8 or 21 Notice, and carefully guides you through the process for a flat fee of £20 + VAT. The website also assists landlords with selecting the correct type of notice, depending on the situation. Eviction Notices are then available to download and serve immediately upon completion.
How Long Do Bailiffs Take to Evict a Tenant?
It usually takes between four and six weeks for a county court bailiff to evict a tenant. The absolute minimum bailiffs can take is two weeks to evict a tenant, as they need to give tenants at least two weeks’ notice of the eviction date. Landlords must use a court bailiff to evict a tenant legally.
Like many other public services, bailiff’s resources are stretched, and as a result, evictions can sometimes take longer than anticipated.
Bailiffs will need to be notified of any risks they may incur at the property. This requires the landlord to produce a risk assessment form before the eviction.
It is essential that landlords fill this form out truthfully and in enough time for the bailiffs to make the necessary adjustments. A delay in the landlord completing the form could delay the eviction further.
High court bailiffs tend to have shorter waiting times than the county court bailiffs, but to use a high court bailiff, your eviction case must have been heard in the high court, which brings higher costs.
Help And Free Advice For Landlords Wanting To Evict A Tenant
Landlordadvice.co.uk is a free advice service that aims to help landlords comply with their legal requirements when serving a notice to evict a tenant. They provide confidential advice, information and reasonably priced services to assist landlords who want to regain possession of a property.
Seeking their advice at an early stage could save you lots of time and money at a later stage, as even a minor error in your notice could render the eviction unlawful, resulting in you receiving a fine.
The government web pages also provide helpful information on the eviction process, and they provide useful guidance notes that accompany the relevant notices.
Hopefully, the information above provides you with a helpful overview of the tenant eviction process and will assist you in reducing the cost of an eviction.