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Eviction Laws UK: Are They Unfair?

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Some claim that it’s too easy to evict tenants and that far too many landlords do not have to even give a reason.

It’s unsurprising therefore that some tenants believe they lack the security of a guaranteed home, and that the eviction process is unfairly loaded in the landlord’s favour.

The government agrees, to a point. It wants to introduce longer tenancies but has yet to reform policies.

Here we examine how tenants can navigate eviction laws UK, and whether they’re unfair.

Eviction ban lifted

In March 2020, bailiff-enforced evictions were temporarily banned and extended several times since. As of 31st May 2021, this has been lifted, and it’s been claimed that 5% of all renters have either been served an eviction notice or have been told they may be evicted – equating to around 400,000 renters.

Bailiff enforcement restrictions have been lifted while from 1st June 2021, notice periods for Section 21, non-egregious Section 8 grounds and rent arrears of less than four months’ rent will drop from six to four months.

What’s more, around 450,000 households are currently in arrears with rent. 18% of these households have been in arrears for over four months, meaning landlords in England will only be required to give four weeks’ notice of eviction when the ban lifts. Many are calling for the government to take action, since they provided a generous tax break with the stamp duty holiday.

Why are tenants evicted in the UK?

Time to take a closer look at the process, for those renting privately, not on housing benefit.

Assuming you’re on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), there are two reasons. The first is when a landlord wants to sell or substantially refurbish the property. This is called a ‘no fault’ eviction.

The second is when a tenant has unpaid rent, or has broken the terms of their tenancy agreement, and the landlord moves to evict.

Section 21

A ‘no fault’ Section 21 notice is when a landlord decides they want to remove a tenant without the tenant doing anything wrong. In most cases it’s because the landlord wants to move back into their property, refurbish, or sell it.

Are Section 21 notices unfair?

Being removed from a home because your landlord has made a financial or lifestyle decision unrelated to you doesn’t just seems unfair to many tenants.

If you have settled into a property and consider it home – particularly if you have children of school age – being evicted through no fault of your own can seem harsh.

Overall, Section 21 notice evictions also give long-term renters the feeling that they can be evicted at any moment once the initial six-month fixed-period is over.

In reality, most tenants agree to move out after being given written notice to vacate by their landlord, which must be two months before the move-out date. The hassle and potential cost of fighting the eviction is usually too much, and it’s why the government believes there’s an imbalance of power within the private rented housing market.

Will Section 21 be scrapped?

The Renter’s Reform Bill was first mentioned in spring 2019, and is expected to ban Section 21 evictions and strengthen the Section 8 eviction process. It also promises to make it less expensive for renters to move home. It was mentioned again in the Queen’s Speech this year, however, it’s evidently slow moving. Many are calling for the government to deliver the solutions it promised.

The eviction process

Many tenants do choose to contest a Section 21 notice and therefore a legal process of eviction begins. Here’s how it works:

  1. Your landlord serves a Section 21 notice using form 6A, giving you at least two months’ notice
  2. If you do not move out then your landlord will apply to the court for a possession order. You will be sent papers including a defence form, which will need to be completed, setting out why you think the eviction is unfair or incorrect
  3. Based on this, and the landlord’s paperwork, a court will decide whether to grant a possession order against you, or whether to proceed with a hearing. This is a second opportunity to make your case to the court, this time in person. You will be given a hearing date by the court
  4. A standard possession order applies if a tenant owes rent and won’t leave. Landlords can apply for an accelerated possession order if not owed rent
  5. If the court dismisses the Section 21 notice you can stay. If not, your landlord will start the eviction process which means you’ll have between two and six weeks to leave the property
  6. If you have not left the property by the agreed move-out date, landlords can apply for a warrant. Bailiffs will arrive and serve a Form N54 by hand which will specify your final eviction date

What is a revenge eviction?

In 2015, legislation was introduced that banned revenge evictions. This is when a landlord evicts a tenant after they complain about a property’s poor state of repair, rather than fix the problem.

If a tenant complains in writing to their landlord or their local authority about a property (or the landlord has been served with an improvement or emergency work notice), a court can refuse to allow an eviction to proceed.

What’s a Section 8 notice?

A Section 8 notice eviction is a much more serious affair and is most commonly used against a tenant who:

  • Has fallen into rent arrears and have refused to leave a property voluntarily
  • Has broken the terms of their tenancy agreement in another way
    • Antisocial or criminal behaviour (such as growing cannabis)
    • Causing damage
    • Subletting the property

A tenant will then be given notice to quit, normally between two weeks and two months depending on the reason for eviction. After that, the landlord can begin possession proceedings.

During the court hearing can give evidence and explain why they shouldn’t be evicted, disprove the landlord’s claims or ask for more time to repay the owed rent. After this the judge will either grant, deny or delay the possession order.

Unfair eviction laws

One unfair aspect of the eviction court process is that if a tenant contests either a Section 21 or Section 8 notice, they may be liable for the costs. This is despite the fact that it was the landlord who initiated the process.

How long after I stop paying rent will I be evicted?

A landlord can give notice to a tenant after a second monthly (or eighth weekly) rent payment is missed.

The average Section 21 notice eviction can be between six weeks at its quickest. A Section 8 can take up to eight months if a tenant takes the process to its ultimate conclusion, fights it at every stage and waits for bailiffs to evict them.

Can I be evicted without a court order?

No, a landlord can only ask you to leave and issue you with a notice to evict if you refuse to move out. A tenant can only be forcibly evicted once a possession order has been obtained and bailiffs instructed.

Are there any other types of eviction?

Most tenants in the UK rent their homes via an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. But, there are a small number who rent their homes through other types of tenancy, and the eviction process is different for them.

Fixed term tenancies

With fixed-term ASTs, the eviction rules depend on whether the the term has ended or not.

Excluded tenancies/licences

These are sometimes used by landlords for lodgers and are usually more informal, but offer much weaker protection against eviction. A landlord only needs to give you a ‘reasonable period’ of a few weeks to find somewhere else to live. If you refuse to leave, they can then quickly obtain a court order.

Assured tenancy

An assured tenancy is a historic kind that was common before ASTs were introduced during the late 1990s. The eviction process is very similar to ASTs but offers a court more opportunities to delay an eviction if you are suffering financial hardship or are unwell.

Regulated tenancy

These are long-term tenancies agreed with a private landlord, but they’re rare these days. If you have one, you’re lucky because you’ll be paying what’s called a ‘fair rent’ set using government data.

You also possess the strongest tenant rights in the UK. Eviction is only possible if you stop paying the rent because regulated tenancy renters cannot be evicted via a ‘no fault’ process.

Need help navigating the renting process? From start to finish, we’ve got you covered. You can find all our renting advice in one place!

Last Updated: August 13th, 2021

Phil Spencer

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