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Can my landlord evict me?

View profile for Jehangir Asghar
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Over a third of us live in rented homes and one in five rent from a private landlord.  But what happens if a private landlord wants their property back?  Can they just go ahead and evict you? 

Jay Asghar, residential housing and landlord and tenant expert with Hancock Quins in Watford, explains the rules and what you should do if you are served with an eviction notice. 

First, stay calm

Your landlord cannot usually evict you from your home without first obtaining a court order. The procedure which they must go through, and the warning notice they must provide, will depend on the type of tenancy you have.

Under no circumstances can your landlord use, or threaten you with, violence to force you to leave.  They will also be committing a criminal offence if they harass you by, for example, physically intimidating you or making it difficult for you to continue living at the property by disconnecting your gas or electricity.

Second, work out what type of tenancy you have

The type of tenancy you have will determine the circumstances in which your landlord can evict you, the notice they must give you and any rights you have to challenge your landlord’s attempt to regain possession of the property you occupy.

Most private tenancies granted since 28 February 1987 are assured shorthold tenancies which are usually for a fixed period of either six or twelve months. With this type of tenancy your landlord can evict you once the fixed period has expired, even if you have been a model tenant and done everything you were expected to do under the terms of your tenancy agreement.  

If, during the fixed period, you fail to pay your rent or are otherwise in breach of the terms of your tenancy agreement, your landlord may evict you before the fixed term ends.  However, in these circumstances, they must establish that grounds for evicting you exist which the law recognises as legally justifying asking you to leave.  Some of these grounds give your landlord an automatic right to evict you, whereas others are discretionary which means that a court will only order your eviction if it is reasonable to do so. 

Whether your landlord is trying to evict you during or at the end of the fixed term, they must give you the correct notice. The notice period will be between fourteen days and two months, depending on when it is given and the grounds relied on. If you do not leave by the end of the notice period, your landlord must obtain a court order authorising them to take back possession.  They must then instruct the court bailiffs to evict you if you refuse to leave.  They cannot forcibly remove you themselves.

Although an assured shorthold tenancy is the most common type of tenancy in the private rental sector, it is possible you may fall into a different category.  For example:

  • If you are a lodger, share accommodation with your landlord or live in a council-run hostel.  If this is the case then your landlord does not have to obtain a court order to evict you, although they must still give you reasonable notice of the need to leave.
  • If you live in a student residence or in the same building as your landlord, or if you pay a very high rent, then it is likely you will only enjoy basic protection.  In this case, your landlord may not need to give you notice if you occupy under a fixed term tenancy which has come to an end. However, if you occupy under a periodic tenancy then your landlord should give you notice, the length of which will depend on whether you pay rent weekly or monthly. They will also need to get a possession order from the court if you refuse to leave when asked to do so. 
  • If you are a regulated tenant with a Rent Act tenancy granted before 15 January 1989, or if you are an assured tenant with a tenancy agreement made before 28 February 1997.  In either case, you will have more protection from eviction than someone on an assured shorthold tenancy and it will only be possible for your landlord to evict you if they can show legally recognised grounds for doing so.

There are various grounds on which an eviction notice can be challenged, depending on the type of tenancy you have and the reasons for eviction given by your landlord. Your solicitor can tell you whether any grounds for challenge exit.

For a confidential discussion about your housing rights, or unlawful evictions, please contact Jay Asghar on 01923 650884 or email jay@hancockquins.co.uk
 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only.  They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.