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Taking possession of a rental property

In these difficult economic times for landlords, prompt action has never been more important when it comes to regaining possession of your residential property and recovering debts.

With the courts currently dealing with the huge backlog of possession cases which built up during the Covid-19 evictions ban, taking specialist legal advice and starting notice procedures as soon as possible is key.

How quickly can I evict a residential tenant?

Since March 2020, under Covid-19 legislation, landlords have been required to give all renters three months’ notice (instead of 14 days) if they intend to seek possession – in other words, serve notice they want to end the tenancy.

This extended notice period will apply till at least 30 September 2020 and may be extended again.

However, landlords can get the ball rolling now by issuing possession proceedings or serving the necessary notices to terminate a tenancy.

This is important as the courts are likely to deal with the accumulation of claims on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

How do I end a tenancy?

Landlords can terminate an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) by giving the tenant notice to leave the property by properly serving either a Section 8 or a Section 21 notice.

When do I use a Section 8 notice?

You use this notice when a tenant has broken the terms of their tenancy.

You must specify on the notice which terms of the AST tenancy have been broken – the most common reason is rent arrears.

You can then apply to the court for a possession order if your tenants don’t leave by the specified date.

How much notice do I need to give my tenants?

If you gave your tenants notice before 26 March 2020, the notice period stands at between two weeks’ and two months’, depending on which terms were broken.

If you gave your tenant notice on or after the 26 March 2020, the notice period must be at least three months. This is because of emergency law changes due to coronavirus.

When do I use a Section 21 notice?

Potentially a more flexible tool, this enables you to give a tenant notice without relying on any of the usual grounds for possession.

But to use it, you must make sure you have fulfilled certain criteria as a landlord before the tenant moved into your property, including:

  • Being in line with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme rules including providing prescribed information to the tenant;
  • Providing your tenant with the gas safety and energy performance certificates;
  • Meeting your rights and responsibilities as a landlord by giving the tenant certain AST prescribed information like the ‘How to Rent Guide’.

How much notice do I need to give my tenants?

With a Section 21 notice, it’s normally two months but longer if you have a ‘contractual’ periodic tenancy.

What if my tenant tries to give me back the keys and walk away?

When a tenant who can’t pay the rent moves out, many landlords think that they have no choice but to accept the tenancy is over. In fact, this isn’t the case.

If a tenant hands back the keys, make it clear that you are not agreeing to end the tenancy but are merely accepting the keys to keep the property secure

There is no obligation on landlords to mitigate their losses if a tenant moves out mid-term. You are within your rights to leave the property empty and bring a claim for unpaid rent against the tenants – and their guarantors – either after the fixed term has come to an end or after they have successfully re-let the property, or at any time before then.

Get in touch

For further advice, please contact Richard Darbinian, James Murray or James Taylor who are all highly experienced lawyers in Wards Solicitors’ acclaimed Property Disputes Team.

Or click here to see all our Residential Property Disputes lawyers.

To find the Wards office nearest to you, please click here.

Why Wards?

Our specialist dispute resolution lawyers have years of experience in all types of property dispute, advising home owners, landlords and tenants.

We’re known and respected for our straightforward, pragmatic approach and we’ll talk you through your options, working with you to find practical, cost-effective solutions.

Wards Solicitors’ specialist Disputes Team is singled out for praise in the 2020 Legal 500 Guide.

‘Over the years I have needed legal advice on a range of matters and have never hesitated to use Wards. Every team member in whichever discipline has always proved to be not only an expert in their field but very reactive to the exact needs of the client.’

‘Extremely empathetic, professional and very approachable.’

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UPDATE October 2020

We have now re-opened our branches to clients but all appointments and visits must be pre-booked to comply with government guidance.

Availability for face-to- face meetings in branches will be limited and remote contact with teams – via phone, email or video call – is preferred wherever possible.  Our prime concern remains the safety of our clients and our staff.

Please note that all visitors to our offices must, by law, wear a face covering.

We cannot accept drop-in visits from clients without an appointment being made in advance. If you have documents for us, including for ID certification, please deliver them to our letterbox

How to get in touch:

  • Please email or telephone your usual lawyer or team, or
  • Please telephone the branch most convenient to you between 9am and 5:30pm, or email info@wards.uk.com at any time and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

We look forward to hearing from you.  A list of our 11 branches is available here.

Thank you.

Wards Solicitors LLP