How to Gain Possession and Evict a Tenant for Rent Arrears

How to Evict a Tenant: Step Two: Gain a Possession Order

This is a guide on how landlords can evict tenants who routinely fail to pay the rent or have run up large rent arrears. This is a very serious thing to do, but it’s also a clear and well-trodden process.

Lots of people want you to think that evicting a tenant is very complicated, so they can charge you money to do it for you.

It’s not very complicated. There is a lot of support and help for landlords (we will link you to it here) and all the forms you’ll need to fill in have been standardised and digitised by the Government.

This guide will show you, step by step, what to do if you need to evict a tenant for rent arrears.

But First: Make Sure Eviction Is the Right Option

When a tenant falls behind on the rent, the first thing to do is always to talk to them. This way you can find out why it has happened and what can be done.

Everyone can run into financial difficulties, and a landlord is usually better sticking with and supporting a good tenant than evicting them the first time they don’t manage to pay the full rent on time.

This article is not about these situations. This is a guide for landlords who have, after proper consideration, decided they need to evict their tenant for rent arrears. Here’s how you can do it.

General Outline of the Eviction Process

Most tenancies end by mutual consent: the landlord and the tenant agree a move-out date, how to sort out the last rental payment, and both go their separate ways.

If this hasn’t been possible, then there’s a three stage process to regaining possession of the property. This guide explains the second stage: applying to court for a possession order.

The second step of evicting a tenant is applying for an order of possession from a country court

Use this link to go back to the first stage, serving a Section 21 or Section 8 eviction notice.

Four Ways to Evict a Tenant for Rent Arrears

There are four main routes to repossessing a rental property when a tenant has had issues paying the rent on time.

  • Section 21 Eviction Notice
  • Section 8 Eviction Notice
    • Ground 8
    • Ground 10
    • Ground 11

Let’s go through what these mean and when to use each.

Section 21 for Rent Arrears

It is often sensible to serve a Section 21 notice. You can only do this if the notice is due to expire after the fixed term of the tenancy has expired. The notice period is 2 months.

Section 21 is a good move because you don’t have to prove that the tenant has fallen behind on the rent. In fact, the tenant doesn’t have to have done anything ‘wrong’ for you to serve a valid Section 21 notice. For this reason, evictions via this route are sometimes called ‘no fault evictions’.

When using a Section 21 notice, the rent arrears are of no legal importance. All that matters is that you are the landlord, and wish to repossess the property outside of a fixed term. The Housing Act (1988) allows you to do this through the service of the Section 21 eviction notice.

Our guide to serving a valid Section 21 notice

Section 8: Grounds for Rent Arrears

Unlike Section 21, Section 8 notices can be served within the fixed term. This is very turbulent for the tenant, so the law requires a good reason, called a ground.

There are 17 possible grounds to serve a Section 8 notice. Rent arrears feature in three grounds. When serving a Section 8 eviction notice, you will need to say on what grounds you are serving the notice, and be able to prove that the grounds’ conditions are met.

Let’s go through the three grounds and their criteria.

Ground 8

This is the ground to use if the tenant is very far behind on the rent. You can use it if the tenant is at least:

  • 8 weeks’ rent in arrears for weekly/fortnightly tenancies
  • 2 months’ rent in arrears for monthly tenancies
  • 3 months’ rent in arrears for quarterly/yearly tenancies

The tenant needs to be in such arrears on the date the notice is served and the day that the case is heard.

Ground 8 is a mandatory ground. This means that if the conditions are met, then the court giving the hearing must give possession of the property to the landlord.

Ground 8 is the only mandatory ground of the three rent arrears grounds. The other two, grounds 10 and 11, are discretionary. This means that if the conditions are met, the court will decide whether possession should be given to the landlord.

Therefore, if this ground exists, it’s the best one a landlord can use to achieve a possession order.

Ground 10

This ground can be used when any amount of rent is due. Like ground 8, the arrears must stand on the date of service and on the day of the hearing.

Remember that this is a discretionary ground. If you serve it when a tenant is behind on the rent for the first time, and only owes £10, then you are probably going to lose your hearing. This ground is more likely to be used by landlords asking the judge to make a money order as opposed to an order for possession.

If a money order is made, then the judge orders the rent arrears to be paid as opposed to ordering that they vacate the property. More on this later.

Ground 11

This one is slightly different. It can be used when a tenant is regularly failing to pay the rent. Unlike grounds 8 and 10, tenants do not have to be in arrears on the date of service or the date of hearing (although, of course, they may well be).

This makes it a useful tool for landlords, as it prevents tenants from paying off some of their rent arrears a few days before the hearing just to avoid the eviction process progressing.

Our guide to serving a valid Section 8 notice

Should I Use Section 21 or Section 8 for Rent Arrears? Can I Serve both at the Same Time?

Yes, you can serve both simultaneously. If the fixed term has expired allowing you to serve a Section 21, then you can serve both types of notice at once.

This is often a good idea because, as we’ve mentioned, Section 21 notices are easier to proceed with while these Section 8 notices have a shorter notice period.

The Section 8 grounds listed above have a notice period of 2 weeks. Section 21 notices, by comparison, have a notice period of 2 months.

What Happens When the Eviction Notice Period Elapses?

Ideally, upon receiving the notice, you and your tenants will have agreed an acceptable date within the notice period for them to vacate the property and pay the rent arrears. By the time the notice period elapses, they will have moved out and paid up.

If this has not been possible, then the day after the notice period expires, you will need to take action. The course of action depends on:

  • whether you are using a Section 8 or Section 21 eviction notice
  • whether you are claiming just possession, or also your rent arrears

Let’s go through each of these routes now.

Recovering Possession and Rent After Section 8 Notice Expires

If you are using Section 8 to regain possession, you must apply to court, asking for them to do both or either of:

  • Order your tenant to leave the property, giving you possession. This is called a possession order.
  • Order your tenant to pay off their rent arrears, possibly along with the court fees and even your legal costs. This is called a money order.
To Repossess Property

To regain possession of your property, you will need to submit these forms to the court:

There is a cost associated with pursuing possession orders. Claiming possession will cost you £325 if you use the Government’s online portal.

To Recover Rent Owed in Arrears

The judge will probably make a ruling that the tenant is responsible for any rent owed (and even your court costs). If you’ve served a Section 8, then to collect this money from the tenant, you will have to apply to the county court.

You do this with the N1 Claim Form. You can reference the ruling the judge made at your Section 8 repossession hearing in this form.

Recovering Possession and Rent After Section 21 Notice Expires

To Repossess Property

The fastest way to obtain a possession order after a Section 21 notice expires is through an Accelerated Possession Order. You can ask a court to issue such an order if your tenants have not vacated the property by the end of your notice period.

Accelerated Possession Orders do not require a court hearing, so can happen much faster. The court effectively skips straight to the possession order.

You can start your Accelerated Possession Order with a N5b form. It costs £355.

The court will send your tenants the application, and then they will have 2 weeks to challenge it.

Beware! These can only be used in cases where the landlord is not also asking for a money order. You’re free to start an Accelerated Possession Order and then request a money order after the property has been vacated.

To do that, see the next section.

To Recover Rent Owed in Arrears

If you’ve used the accelerated Section 21 Possession Order, you can chase up the rent arrears owed to you through the Government’s Money Claim Online service.

Wait – can’t I claim Possession and Arrears of Rent at the same time?

Yes. You can claim both possession and arrears of rent by starting the Standard Possession Orders process instead of the Accelerated Possession Order process (‘standard’ being the opposite of ‘accelerated’ here).

You can begin that process here. It costs £325.

Which Court Do I Apply to?

For both Section 8 and Section 21 notices, you apply to the nearest county court to the property that deals with housing possession. You can easily find that out by entering the postcode here.

How Do I Prove My Tenant Is in Rent Arrears? What Counts as Evidence?

The best and most obvious way to prove rent arrears is with a thorough, accurate, schedule of arrears.

This should detail all rental periods, rent due and rent paid since the start of the tenancy. Ideally, it would also include the method of payment and any payer details (account number, whether by direct debit, etc.)

You should also include all the correspondence you’ve had on the issue. This might include rent due notices, payment prompts and reminders, or agreements you’ve made about/leniencies given for due rent.

The more warnings you have given your tenant that they owe rent, the harder it will be for them to argue against your claim – and the more likely it will have been that they would have paid!

– Learn how to serve a Section 21 and Section 8 notice

13 Replies to “How to Gain Possession and Evict a Tenant for Rent Arrears”

  1. Excellent guide, far better than available on the website.
    Not clear about one thing…. why does everyone recommend Section21, for a periodic tenancy or after the fixed term has expired, even if a tenant has significant rent arrears. Why not Section 8 if there are clear Grounds (8,10,11). Almost every guide recommends Section 21, and not 8, including, landlords association and Citizen’s advice

  2. Absolutely spot on advice, but one last step please – You don’t mention what happens when the bailiff’s go to the property to evict the tenant, who takes no notice of the warrant and won’t leave after receiving all that official paperwork from the court.
    Furthermore they won’t let the bailiff in.
    How do the bailiffs gain access and how do I get my property back?

  3. My tenant has been evicted but still owes a considerable amount of rent arrears. Section 8 & 21 as been issued. How can I trace her and get my arrears back.

  4. As the rules for Section 21 have changed slightly. Can you please clarify if for AST that a Form 6A must be served and also Section 21.
    For a period of two and a half years my tenant has just kept arrears to under 2 month level. Has made 11 repayment agreements and broken each one. I live out of UK. Thank you in advance

  5. Hi,

    I have a few questions I was hoping you could answer:

    1) I have obtained a possession order whereby the tenants were required to pay the court fee of £355 and legal fees of £75 by 18th August. However, they have failed to do so. What steps do I need to take in order to recover this debt?

    2) Once I have obtained a possession order via the accelerated procedure, will I need to submit a separate application for any rent arrears?

    3)Do you have any guidance on completing Form N325 for a warrant for possession?

  6. Hi I’m not a landlord, but I’m a guarantor for my son, who with his partner and 4 year old son have been served a section 21, they have been making regular payment on their arrears since September we only found out from the acting Estate then that the arrears were £5000 then. Over December they have made 2 reduced payments due to my son not having the full pay, also his partner has been on sick leave for several months waiting on a operation. Also the other guarantor, the mother of my sons partner and myself made a payment between us of a months rent, I’m angry because they should never ever let the arrears amount to such a amount before contacting, us isthere anything we can do, and much will it affect us guarantors. Kind regards

  7. Hi.
    Are text messages considered as evidence for notification of rent arrears and due date?
    Also, technically my tenant is 6 weeks behind with rent but has missed the last two to payment dates to cover 2 months should he be a full 8 weeks behind in rent in order to serve a section 8?
    One last question, if my tenant is 8 weeks in arrears with rent in order to serve section 8 is it absolutely necessary that I have given him a copy of the gas safety certificate and the energy efficiency rating certificate for the property? If I haven’t done this what are the consequences for me as the landlord.

    1. Hi Simon, my understanding is that if your tenancy agreement specifies that texts are an ok way to serve notice, then this will be accepted if challenged. Yes, six weeks’ arrears is not enough to satisfy any mandatory grounds for Section 8 eviction, but may be enough for a discretionary ground. You can learn more here.

  8. Hi have a tenant who moved privately in on her own so she is the sole name on the tenancy . Now she has informed me she is claiming housing benefit Is this legal ? I stated no dss when renting . Also it seems 3 other people are living there as well now is that legal ?

    1. Hi John, allowing persons not named on the tenancy agreement to live in the property can be against the terms of your tenancy if your tenancy agreement has a term describing the tenant’s duty not to let this occur. My understanding is that it is not illegal for the people to be living there per se, however. Likewise, it isn’t illegal to be claiming benefits, of course! Did you reference the tenant before creating the tenancy?

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