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Legal Guidance for Landlords

Question: My tenant is behind on rent, can I start possession proceedings?

Answer: Yes, if your tenant is behind on rent, then you can use what is known as Section 8 Notice to commence possession proceeding against your tenant. A Section 8 Notice is a landlord’s first step towards ending either an Assured or Assured Shorthold Tenancy. An Assured Shorthold Tenancy is what most private landlords will have in place.

A Section 8 Notice is used where you have a legal reason for wanting to evict your tenant and this is usually in connection with some sort of breach of the tenancy.

Alternatively, you can use what is known as a Section 21 Notice, which is also known as the no fault notice, whereby you do not have to have a reason for wanting to evict your tenant. There are however other stringent rules that must be followed before serving a Section 21 Notice.

 

Question: How many months behind on rent does my tenant have to be before I can possession proceedings? 

Answer: Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 sets out the grounds for possession on Assured Tenancies, which includes Assured Shorthold Tenancies. The grounds that relate to rent arrears are Grounds 8, 10 and 11.

Ground 8 is the mandatory ground, and it requires that at both the date of the service of the notice under Section 8 and at the date of the hearing of possession of the property:

  1. if the rent is payable weekly or fortnightly, there are at least 8 weeks rent unpaid.
  2. If the rent is payable monthly, at least two months is unpaid
  3. If the rent is payable quarterly, at least one quarter is unpaid, more than three months in arrears
  4. If the rent is payable yearly, at least 3 months’ rent is more than 3 months in arrears.

 Ground 8 is mandatory and if the Court find that if the Landlord has satisfied Ground 8 at the date of the hearing, then they must award possession.

Grounds 10 is discretionary and states as follows:

  • (a) Some rent lawfully due from the tenant is unpaid on the date on which the proceedings for possession are begun; and
  • (b)except where subsection (1)(b) of section 8 of this Act applies, was in arrears at the date of the service of the notice under that section relating to those proceedings.

Ground 11 is discretionary and states as follows:

Whether or not any rent is in arrears on the date on which proceedings for possession are begun, the tenant has persistently delayed paying rent which has become lawfully due.

As such, if the Landlord is unable to satisfy Ground 8 at the date of the hearing and the landlord has pleaded grounds 10 and 11 also, then the Court will have discretion as to whether to award possession based on Grounds 10 and 11 and you are not guaranteed to obtain a possession order.

Prior to COVID-19, the Section 8 Notice only needed to give two weeks’ notice if it relied on Ground 8 before proceedings could begin.

The current COVID-19 position is that where relying on grounds 8, 10 or 11, where there are not less than 6 months’ arrears outstanding at the time of the service of the notice, there needs to be at least 6 months’ notice given, but where it can be shown that there are 6 months or more arrears outstanding at the time of the service of the notice, then only 4 weeks’ notice must be given.

 

Question: Do I really need to hire a solicitor to evict my tenant or can I do this myself?

Answer: There is nothing to prevent you from serving the notice yourself, but it is always recommended that you instruct a solicitor with specialist housing knowledge. This ensures that you are properly advised, as your tenant could potentially raise a defence against your claim. In addition, in light of COVID-19, housing laws have become more technical and it is constantly changing due to the effect the pandemic has had on our society.

 

Question: How much will it to cost me in court and legal fees to gain possession from my tenant?

Answer: We here at Hopkins Solicitors offer a fixed fee of £300.00 plus VAT to serve either a Section 8 or a Section 21 Notice. There is a court fee of £355.00 to issue possession proceedings. And our legal fees to prepare the Court papers to issue at Court vary between £550.00 and £650.00 plus VAT,  depending of course on the complexity of the matter.

 

Question: How long will it take me to gain possession of my property?

Answer: In light of the pandemic, it is difficult to give estimates at stage as to how long a matter will take. It will depend on the type of notice being served and the grounds being relied upon. During our initial consultation we do our best to advise you of an approximate time scale of the matter.

 

Question: Is there any financial assistance landlords can get to help cover the legal and court costs or the cost of my mortgage on the property whilst rent is still in arrears?

Answer: Legal Aid doesn’t cover legal costs for landlords. Most banks have been offering mortgage holidays, that could help. And you should check with your insurance to see if loss of unpaid rent could be covered as a claim.

 

If you are a private landlord and have questions about tenant issues or need advice on drafting a lease, please ring our experienced and friendly Housing Team in Mansfield on 01623 468468 or in Nottingham on 0115 910 555.

Alternatively use our web enquiry form below and a member of our team will be in touch within 24 hours.

 

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