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Possession Orders

and the legal process of getting your home back for private landlords

If you're having problems with a tenant and want them to leave, there's a certain code of practice to follow. Be careful, if you don't follow the correct procedures you could be prosecuted for unlawful eviction! You cannot evict the tenant yourself – only a court bailiff can do that.

Getting possession - If the tenant moved in before March 1997

They will probably have an assured tenancy agreement and that means they have the long-term right to stay in their home. The procedure for evicting someone with an assured tenancy agreement is complicated.

You have to have a good reason for asking your tenant to leave. If the specific reason/s are recognised by the law, they are called grounds for possession. Some grounds for possession are mandatory (the court must agree with your request, as long as you give the court proof first). Others are discretionary (the court does not have to agree with your request if they think it's unreasonable).

Even if you have grounds for possession, you cannot evict the tenant yourself. The general procedure is the following:

Step 1: Give written notice that you intend to go to court to get the property back – you cannot start court proceedings until this notice period is over and the notice period is variable (see below). The written notice must be presented on a special form (commonly called a Section 8 notice) available from law stationers.

Step 2: if the tenant refuses to leave, you can apply to the county court to start legal proceedings as soon as the notice expires.

Step 3: If the court agrees with your request to evict, it will send a court order to the tenant telling them when they must go.

Step 4: If the tenant still refuses to leave the premises, go back to the court to get a bailiff's order – only a court bailiff is allowed to remove the tenant.

Getting possession – If the tenant moved in after February 1997

They will probably have an agreement called an assured shorthold tenancy which will run for a fixed term – usually six or twelve months.

When the fixed term period is over, you can automatically get the property back provided you follow the correct procedure. You don't need to have a reason to remove the tenant.

Step 1: give the tenant at least two months notice in writing which must not run out before the end of the fixed term.

Step 2: If you give the correct notice but the tenant doesn't leave, apply to the court to start possession proceedings as soon as the notice expires. You do not need to prove any grounds for possession and can use a procedure called "accelerated possession" which is straightforward and inexpensive and will let you get the property back without going through a court hearing. The court will make a decision based on documents that you and the tenant supply. You can only use this procedure if there is a written tenancy agreement.

Step 3: If the court agrees that you are entitled to get the property back, it will issue a possession order telling the tenant when they must leave.

Step 4: If the tenant still doesn't leave after getting the order, you must apply for a warrant from the court who will arrange for bailiffs to carry out the eviction.

If the tenant moved in after February 1997 and you wish to remove the tenant before the end of the fixed term you must have a good reason for doing so. The reasons (grounds for possession) and procedure are the same as for tenants who moved in before March 1997.

Grounds for possession

Additional notes:

  • If you suspect the tenant has left without telling you
  • If your tenant is misusing your property
  • If your tenant is acting anti-socially

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