If you live in privately rented property and are afraid that your landlord may ask you to leave or try to evict you without notice, then you should seek legal advice as soon as possible and speak to a qualified and experienced solicitor. They will be able to tell you exactly what your rights are, and whether your landlord has followed all the correct legal procedures to regain possession of the property. The law as it stands is relatively straightforward on this issue, but case law is changing all the time, so consultation with an expert is always advisable.
What steps does a landlord have to follow to obtain vacant possession?
There are certain steps or legal formalities that landlords have to follow when evicting private tenants. However, it should be pointed out that not all tenants who rent privately have the same rights at each stage of the eviction process.
Landlords must give notice asking you to leave
The first step your landlord has to take to be able to evict you from the property is to formally ask you to leave. Most tenants are legally entitled to receive a written notice to leave a property: this applies even if your landlord did not give you a written agreement to live there in the first place. The main exception to this is if you are an excluded occupier, who occupies the property on a temporary basis, or shares living accommodation like kitchens and bathrooms with a landlord. If you fall into this category, then your landlord need only give you verbal notice. Where a written notice is required, it must contain the following information:
- the specific length of the notice period
- state the date that your landlord wants you to vacate
- give reasons why you are being asked to leave
- specific information about where you can get advice and information.
For most types of tenants there are rules about how long your landlord has to give you before you have to leave and when the notice can be given.
Landlords must apply for a court order
If you haven’t left the property by the time the notice expires, your landlord will usually have to apply for an order from the county court which will tell you to leave. This is known as a possession order. Whether a court order is necessary will depend on the type of tenancy you have. You solicitor or legal adviser will be able to explain this to you. Most tenants are entitled to stay in their accommodation until the possession order takes effect. Sometimes landlords can get possession orders immediately if mandatory possession grounds are provable, but at all other times they will need to provide a justified reason for the award of possession to the courts. Depending on the circumstances, there may be a hearing that you will be expected to attend; though you will be able to take your solicitor with you should you choose to do so.
Landlords can ask the court to send bailiffs to evict you
If you haven’t vacated the property by the date the court says you have to, your landlord can ask the court to arrange to send a bailiff to evict you. Bailiffs are employed by the court. You will receive a letter from the court saying when the bailiffs will arrive. Bailiffs can physically remove you and your belongings from the property but must not use violence or unreasonable force in doing so.
Nobody other than a bailiff acting for the county court is allowed to physically remove you from the accommodation. If anyone else attempts to do this they are probably guilty of illegal eviction, which is a serious offence. It is sometimes possible to apply to the court to stop the bailiffs from evicting you. You should get specialist advice immediately if you want to do this.
This article was submitted by Jones Gough Solicitors