NOTE: Any new or renewal contracts signed on or after 1 October 2015, landlords now have to wait four months before serving a section 21 notice.
Section 21 notice must: be delivered in writing and give tenant at least two months’ notice, be on a special form if tenant signed a new contract or a renewal agreement on or after 1 October 2015.
Eviction of assured short hold 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.
Eviction rights for assured shorthold tenants
A landlord must follow a set of straightforward rules to lawfully evict an assured shorthold tenant. Your landlord can use a Section 21 notice to give you two months’ notice to leave. This is often known as the assured shorthold ground. After the notice period expires your landlord must apply to a court for a possession order. The Section 21 notice must be valid. If it is valid the court must make an order telling you to leave. If you don’t leave by the date in the order your landlord can ask the court to send bailiffs to evict you. Your landlord can also take you to court to evict you for reasons such as rent arrears or antisocial behaviour.
When a section 21 notice is not valid
A Section 21 notice is not valid if any of these apply:
you paid a tenancy deposit but it has not been protected in a government approved tenancy deposit scheme;
your tenancy deposit was protected but more than 30 days after you paid it to your landlord/agent;
your landlord hasn’t given you the required information about the tenancy deposit scheme used;
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);
A Section 21 notice is also not valid if your landlord gives you a new fixed term tenancy after they served the notice.
When a Section 21 notice is valid
For a section 21 notice to be valid, it must be in writing and at least two months long. The notice does not have to be in any special form. Extra rules apply if you have always had a periodic tenancy (your landlord has never given you a fixed term tenancy), when the notice must also: end on the last day of a tenancy period (this is usually the day before your rent is due) and
state that it is being issued under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
Court action using a Section 21 notice
You do not have to leave when the notice period in a Section 21 notice expires. To evict you, the landlord must take you to court to get a possession order. They can do this any time after the notice period expires.
If you have a fixed-term tenancy (for example for 6 months or one year), your landlord must wait until the fixed-term has expired before starting court action, unless there is a ‘break clause’. This is a clause that allows you or the landlord to end your tenancy early.
Your landlord can usually apply for a court order to evict you without the need for a court hearing. This quicker route to possession can only be used to evict assured shorthold tenants and is called the accelerated possession procedure. This procedure can’t be used if your landlord wants to claim for unpaid rent.
Otherwise, there will be a court hearing where the judge decides if you should be evicted.
Eviction not using a Section 21 notice
Your landlord could give you a notice seeking possession. This is sometimes called a Section 8 notice. This notice can be given at any time, including during the fixed term of your tenancy. Your landlord can only do this if there are legal reasons called grounds for possession. These include rent arrears, breaking your tenancy agreement and damage to the property. The grounds that landlords can use to evict you are split into two groups, mandatory grounds and discretionary grounds.
If a mandatory ground is proved, the court must make a possession order that will usually tell you to leave in 14 days. The most common mandatory ground is ‘Ground 8’. This is used if you have rent arrears of at least 8 weeks (if you pay your rent weekly), or 2 months (if you pay your rent monthly), when the landlord gives you notice and at the date of the court hearing.
With a discretionary ground, the court only makes a possession order if the ground is proven and the court considers it is reasonable to do so.
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.
Notices when not using section 21
Your landlord must serve a written notice seeking possession. The notice must be in a special form and state which grounds for eviction are being used. The notice has to be for a set length of time. This is between 14 days and two months, depending on the reason why your landlord is trying to evict you. A notice could take effect immediately if your landlord wants to evict you because of antisocial behaviour, but not if the written notice says they want possession on a mandatory ground for antisocial behaviour (ground 7A). After the notice ends your landlord can apply to the court for a possession order.
The notice is valid for one year after the date the notice was served on you. The landlord has to serve a new notice if they don’t start court action within this time.
Your landlord can ask the court to order bailiffs to evict you if you still have not left the property after a court order telling you to leave takes effect.
Illegal eviction and harassment
A landlord who harasses you or tries to evict you without following the correct procedure is likely to be breaking the law. You can take action to stop harassment or illegal eviction.