This page contains important information regarding how a landlord and tenant can legally end a tenancy.
Repossession of a property can only be enforced through the courts. It is therefore vital to follow the required procedure. If landlords do not follow the correct procedure this could amount to an illegal eviction, which can be a criminal and civil offence. The first step is for a landlord to serve a notice of their intentions to the tenant. This is required for both assured or assured shorthold tenancies. Notice to end a tenancy must be given in writing.
Once the landlord has served notice, they must start proceedings within 12 months otherwise a new notice must be served. The landlord must state on the notice what ground they are relying on for possession. The tenant is not required to leave the property until the notice expires, and even then cannot be evicted without an order of the court. The landlord can apply to the court to start proceedings as soon as the notice expires. How much notice the landlord needs to give will depend on which ground they use as a reason for getting a Possession Order.
If the tenancy is a fixed-term tenancy the tenant may only leave early if agreed with the landlord or where this is allowed in the tenancy agreement. If the landlord does not agree or there is nothing in the agreement allowing this, then the tenant must pay the rent until the end of the fixed term. However, the landlord has responsibility to try to re-let the property and recover their losses. They may not be able to claim for the whole term’s rent if the tenant leaves early.
No special information needs be included in a tenants notice to quit but to be valid it must:
- Be in writing, and
- Be given at least four weeks before the date it runs out.
The notice must relate to the terms set out in the tenancy agreement, but if the agreement does not say anything about what the tenant should do, the notice -
- Must bring the tenancy to an end at the end of a complete period of the tenancy (for example at the end of a month, if the tenancy is by the month), and
- Will have to be longer than four weeks if the tenancy period is more than four weeks.
Grounds for possession
There are many grounds for possession, which are taken into account by the courts when considering an application for a Possession Order. These grounds are broken down into mandatory and discretionary.
The first 8 grounds for possession are mandatory which means that if a landlord can prove that the ground applies, the court must grant them a Possession Order.
Ground 1 The landlord requires the property back in order to live in it. This ground can only be used if the landlord had lived in the property as their only or main home before the tenancy started.
Ground 2 The property is subject to a mortgage and the mortgagees are repossessing the property for mortgage arrears.
Ground 3 The tenancy is for a fixed period of not more than eight months and the property is occupied as a holiday let and has been used as a holiday let for at least twelve months before the tenancy started.
Ground 4 The tenancy is for a fixed period of not more than twelve months and has been let by an educational establishment (eg university, colleges etc)
Ground 5 The property is used as a home for a Minister of Religion and is needed for another Minister of Religion.
Ground 6 The landlord intends to demolish or reconstruct the whole or part of the property or carry out major works to all or part of it and the works cannot be carried out if the tenant is there. If the possession is granted under this ground then the landlord must pay the tenants reasonable removal expenses.
Ground 7 Where the previous tenant has died and the periodic tenancy has passed to the new tenant under a Will, but the new tenant is not entitled to "succeed" to the tenancy. The landlord must bring proceedings within twelve months of the death of the tenant or twelve months from the date they learned of the tenant's death.
Ground 8 Rent is unpaid at the time of service of notice and at the time of the hearing for a Possession Order, as follows:
- In the case of rent paid weekly or fortnightly at least eight weeks rent is owed.
- In the case of rent paid monthly at least two months rent is owed.
- In the case of rent paid quarterly at least one quarter’s rent is more than three months over due.
- In the case of rent paid yearly at least three months rent is more than three months over due.
The court will only grant a landlord a Possession Order on one of the following grounds if it thinks it reasonable to do so.
Ground 9 That there will be suitable alternative accommodation available for the tenant if a Possession Order is made. If possession is granted on this ground the landlord must pay the tenant's reasonable removal expenses. The tenant can oppose a Possession Order on this ground if the alternative accommodation is not suitable.
Ground 10 Unpaid rent, that was lawfully due from the tenant, and has not been paid by the time the possession proceedings are started and was owed at the time the Notice Seeking Possession was served. If a tenant has been offering the landlord rent and they refused to take it, the tenant will have a defence to the possession proceedings but must pay the amount owed in to the court.
Ground 11 The tenant has repeatedly failed to pay rent on time. There do not need to be rent arrears at the time possession proceedings are started.
Ground 12 The tenant has breached their part of the tenancy agreement.
Ground 13 The tenant, or anyone living with them has allowed the property or parts of it (including common parts) to deteriorate. If someone living with the tenant has caused the deterioration and the tenant has failed to get rid of that person then a Possession Order may be made.
Ground 14 The tenant, a person living with or visiting the tenant has caused or is likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours, their neighbours guests or visitors to the area. The tenant has been convicted of using the property for immoral or illegal purposes or has been convicted for an arrestable offence committed in the area.
Ground 15 Furniture at the property has deteriorated because the tenant or someone living with the tenant has not looked after it. If someone living with the tenant has caused the damage and the tenant has not taken steps to get rid of that person then a Possession Order may be made against the tenant.
Ground 16 The property was let to the tenant as part of their employment with the landlord and the tenant is no longer working for the landlord and the property is needed for another employee.
Ground 17 The tenant, or person acting on the instruction of the tenant has given false information to the landlord, which has made them grant the tenancy.
A landlord has an automatic right to regain possession without giving any grounds after the end of an agreed fixed term provided it is at least 6 months since the start of the original tenancy or at any time during a contractual or statutory periodic tenancy.
If a landlord wants to regain possession of the property before the end of the fixed term they can only do so in cases where:
- A mortgage lender is repossessing the property for mortgage arrears. (ground 2)
- The tenant is seriously behind in their payments as set out in ground 8.
- Discretionary grounds 10 to 15 or 17 apply – relating to rent payment lateness, nuisance, disturbance, deterioration of furniture due to negligence etc, and only then if the terms of the tenancy make provision for it to be ended on any of these grounds.
It will be for the court to decide whether one or more of the grounds for possession apply. Grounds 1 to 5 are prior notice grounds which means they can usually only be used if the landlord notifies the tenant in writing before the tenancy started that they intended to seek possession on one of these grounds if the situation arose. However, the court may grant possession on grounds 1 and 2 without the prior notice if it considers that there were good reasons for not serving such a notice at the beginning of the tenancy.
For grounds 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 16 the landlord must give two months notice but for grounds 3, 4, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17 the landlord must give two weeks notice.
Understanding the Court process
The court process is as follows:
- Notice is served on the tenant.
- Notice expires. The tenant refuses to leave the property and remains in occupation.
- The landlord applies to the court for a Possession Order as soon as the notice expires. The court grants a Possession Order. There are two types of Possession Order:
- An Absolute Possession Order - this is granted by the court on one of the mandatory grounds. The tenant will have to leave on the date specified in the court order.
- A Suspended Possession Order - this is granted on one of the discretionary grounds and allows the tenant to stay on in the property provided they meet certain conditions. The tenant cannot be evicted provided that they meet the conditions. The landlord may apply to the court for an Absolute Possession Order if the tenant breaches the terms of a Suspended Possession Order.
- A Possession Order becomes enforceable and the tenant has not left.
- The landlord applies to the court for a Warrant of Execution of the Possession Order.
- Bailiffs enforce warrant.
The tenant should leave the property on the date specified in the Possession Order, from the court. If the tenant still refuses to leave, the landlord cannot evict the tenant himself and will have to apply for a Warrant of Execution from the Court. The Court will then arrange for bailiffs to evict the tenant.
Accelerated possession procedure
A landlord can apply to the County Court for accelerated possession proceedings. This is a straightforward and inexpensive procedure for a landlord to get possession of their property back without a Court hearing. The Court will decide the case by examining all the documents that the landlord and the tenant provide. In some cases the court may decide that a hearing is required. A landlord can only use this procedure if they have a written tenancy agreement and have given the tenant the required notice in writing that they are seeking possession.
Summary of the main points
If a landlord wishes to regain possession of their property they must serve notice of their intentions in writing using a prescribed format.
The minimum length of notice they must give to the tenant is 2 weeks or 2 months (depending on reasons).
- If a landlord wishes to regain possession of the property during the fixed term they can only do so if certain grounds apply and it was agreed within the tenancy agreement.
- After the notice has expired the tenant must leave only after a Possession Order has been obtained from the Court. When the date on the Possession Order has passed the landlord must apply to the court for an enforcement order. The bailiff will then evict the tenant.
- If the tenant pays rent monthly then the landlord have a ground for possession if the tenant owes two months rent.
- Possession on the grounds of rent arrears is mandatory.
- Persistent lateness in paying the rent is not a mandatory ground for possession.
- If a landlord serves notice on the tenant it remains valid for 12 months.