Eviction tips on evicting tenants

Free tenant eviction advice from our eviction expert Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action

This week: Paul answers your landlord questions on how you can gain repossession of your rental property.

Q: Paul, what are the main reasons why landlords contact your company for help with tenant eviction?

A: The main reason why landlords need Landlord Action's assistance is because their tenants are in rent arrears.

If your tenant is in rent arrears, then you need to make sure that you act fast - the quicker you go to court, the quicker you'll get your property back.

My eviction service, Landlord Action, has around 80-90 hearings a month and, on average, about seven per cent of cases are contested by tenants. 

The main grounds tenants use to contest the landlord's claims are as follows:

  • The tenant claims that the landlord hasn't done necessary repairs to the rental property (a ground, in legal terms, called 'dilapidation').
  • The tenant says that they are waiting for housing benefit. 
  • The tenant claims that the landlord has lied about them being in rent arrears.
  • The tenant claims that they are being harassed by the landlord.

Q: What happens if my tenant has ignored all my letters, even those sent by registered post, and the tenant fails to turn up in court?

A: You can serve an eviction notice three ways:

  1. By registered post.
  2. By first-class post.
  3. In person by hand. 

If you send the eviction notice by registered post and the tenant doesn't sign for it, the court will consider the eviction notice as not served.

But if you post the eviction notice by first-class post, the court will consider it served, even if as is sometimes the case, the tenant claims that they haven't received it.

If you use an eviction service, such as my company Landlord Action, they use a national network of process servers to hand the eviction notice to the tenant. They will also prepare a witness statement to confirm that they have done so.

Q: What pitfalls should I, as a landlord, beware of when repossessing a property?

A: If any issues about the maintenance of the rental property are raised during the repossession process, you should fix them as quickly as possible using an independent contractor. Otherwise, you may open yourself to a defence and counter claim by the tenant and this can make it hard to get a possession order.

If you have a bad tenant, you should factor the worst-case scenario into your financial planning. Remember that it can take five, or even six, months to regain possession of a property from a difficult tenant.

But even if things get really bad, don’t ever take the law into your own hands and change the locks on the property.

Q: How long does the tenant eviction process take and what is the likely cost? Can I recover any rent arrears and eviction costs from the tenant?

A: Landlord Action usually gains possession three days after serving an eviction notice.

But, generally, you need to allow four to five months for a Section 8 repossession: after serving the Section 8 Notice you can wait two months for a court hearing, then the possession order will give the tenant 14 days to move out of the rental property. If the tenant doesn’t move out, you should allow at least six weeks for the bailiff to evict tenants.

Under Section 21 accelerated cases, the court usually takes six weeks to grant a possession order, but it does depend on the court you use and how busy the judges are.

Recovering rent arrears and costs from the tenant depends on you being able to trace them and they having assets. If you ex-tenant is in masses of debt, there's no point pursuing it as it's a waste of your time and money.

Paul Shamplina set up the tenant eviction and debt recovery service Landlord Action in 1999. To date they have evicted over 16,000 bad tenants for landlords across the country. He has featured on BBC1’s Inside Out and War at the Door and ITV’s Tenants from Hell. He has given over 300 talks to landlords at seminars nationwide.

More 'Top Tips' tenant eviction advice from Paul

Further Tenant Eviction Advice

Further Rent Arrears Advice

Published on: June 2, 2008

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