Recovering possession of residential property against a tenant

As a landlord, you may occasionally find that it is necessary to take action to recover possession of a property against your tenant(s).

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As a landlord, you may occasionally find that it is necessary to take action to recover possession of a property from your tenant(s). This factsheet sets out the some of the points you should consider, and the action you need to take, when dealing with the sensitive issue of tenant evictions. The information provided is intended for guidance only, and relates to the law currently applying in England and Wales.

When you have a problem tenant

Renting out property can be a financially lucrative activity; but unfortunately the process doesn't always go as smoothly as it should. Some of the more common problems which can be experienced by landlords might include:

  • An existing tenant who is not paying their rent
  • A tenant who has disappeared without paying their rent
  • A tenant who is refusing to leave a property, even though the tenancy agreement has ended
  • A tenant who is carrying on a trade in a residential property in breach of the tenancy agreement
  • A tenant who is causing a nuisance or disturbance

To safeguard against potential problems, it is advisable to make sure from the outset that a properly drafted tenancy agreement is in place, which will fully protect your rights as a landlord, as well as being compliant with the appropriate legislation.

While you may wish to raise any issues with your tenants directly in the first instance, it is important to keep on top of the situation and to ensure that you follow the correct procedures. Whatever the nature of the problem, it is essential to act swiftly, as the longer an issue is left without action, the more costly and time-consuming it is likely to become.

In order to recover possession of the property you will have to serve a notice on the tenant that you want them to leave.  Depending on the tenancy agreement you have, there will be strict time limits and requirements as to when you may serve the notice of termination and on the length of notice you must give.  

Taking action

Assuming you have served the correct notices of termination, landlords may apply to the County Court to recover land or property, plus compensation for rent arrears or damage caused to the property. Proceedings must be started in the court covering the area where the property is based, and a fee is applicable. Before raising a claim, you are advised to contact an experienced legal advisor as you will first need to establish what type of tenancy you have so that you know which procedure to follow to recover possession.
Depending on the nature of the problem, there are a number of different types of possession cases which can be raised:

  • Rented residential premises - this is the standard procedure for repossessing rented property and claiming rent arrears. To begin the procedure it is necessary to complete a Claim Form for possession of property (N5), and a Particulars of Claim (rented residential premises) N119, and submit them to the court office. The process will involve a court hearing.

  • Accelerated possession procedure - this is a quicker way of obtaining an order for possession of a property, and it may also negate the need for a court hearing. The procedure applies if the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy. However, it will only allow you to obtain possession and recoup the costs of applying for the order, and will not allow you to claim for rent arrears. The court will consider the documentary evidence provided by you and your tenant when reaching a decision, so it is essential to ensure that you have all of the necessary information available, including the tenancy agreement, and any relevant correspondence. To apply for the procedure, you will need to complete the Claim for Possession (accelerated procedure) Form N5B.

When considering any form of legal action, you should always consult an experienced legal professional for advice.

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For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.

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