It’s a criminal offence to evict a tenant by any other means than obtaining a court order for possession. You could be guilty of illegal eviction if you don’t give your tenants the right amount of notice to leave your property, change the locks, or evict your tenants without a court order. So, make sure you follow the correct procedure to repossess your property.
There are two main routes you can take to regain possession of your property under the Housing Act 1988 (and for the uninitiated, the Housing Act is the statute/law that stands behind an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, or AST):
You can evict an assured shorthold tenant after giving two months' notice using a Section 21 Notice and getting a court order. Most private rented tenants are assured shorthold tenants.
A Section 21 Notice to Quit is served as the first step of the eviction process. The notice gives your tenants two months to leave before you can seek possession of the property.
You can serve section 21 notice without a particular reason but it must be in writing and clear a number of requirements to be valid.
The law changes all the time, so do seek legal advice, but as an example, for a Section 21 Notice to be valid, you must have protected your tenants deposit in a government authorised scheme and served the tenants the prescribed information within thirty days of receiving the money. Otherwise, a Section 21 cannot be used and you could be liable in court for failing the protection procedure.
Where possession is sought under Section 21, an accelerated procedure can be used which is a straightforward and inexpensive procedure for getting possession of your property without a court hearing.
In most cases using this procedure the court will make its decision on the papers, and can order possession to be given up within 14 days unless exceptional hardship would be caused, in which case the maximum time that can be allowed is 42 days.
You can only use this procedure if you have a written tenancy agreement and you have given the tenant the required notice in writing that you are seeking possession. You cannot use this procedure if you are also claiming rent arrears.
You may use the section 8 procedure (section 8 notice – for eviction at any time, including during any fixed term) if your tenants have rent arrears or have broken the terms of your tenancy agreement (for example if you have damaged the property).
Apply to the court for a standard possession order if your tenants don’t leave by the specified date. You can apply for an accelerated possession order if you’re not claiming any unpaid rent.
Apply for a warrant for possession if your tenants still won’t leave - this means bailiffs can remove the tenants from your property.
The Direct.gov.uk website has much more information, together with useful PDF documents you can download.