Renting in England: "Section 21 eviction process"

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What is the "Section 21 eviction process"?

This answer concerns only Assured Shorthold Tenancy rentals (the most common in England).

The Section 21 eviction process is one of 2 legal procedures that can be used by an owner to terminate a rental agreement.

This eviction procedure is most commonly used by landlords as they do not need to provide a reason to end the rental agreement. However, they must respect certain rules for it to be recognised as valid by the courts.

An owner can also use the Section 8 eviction process procedure. These 2 procedures involve recourse to a court - only the courts can legally evict a tenant from their accommodation.

Landlords cannot in any case evict a tenant by force. They must take legal action in order to legally evict her/him. Otherwise, they would be guilty of illegal eviction, recognised as an offense in England (criminal offense).

The tenant and the owner keep the same rights and obligations during this eviction procedure.

1. Delivery of the eviction notice

The procedure starts when the owner informs his tenant that he wishes to terminate the rental contract by giving him a valid eviction notice.

A notice of at least 2 months is required by law. If the owner does not respect this minimum notice and the tenant takes legal action, the eviction procedure will be deemed invalid and the tenant will stay in the accommodation. Legal costs will be borne by the owner.

Agreement

If the tenant agrees with this eviction notice:

  • No legal action is necessary
  • The tenant will vacate the accommodation on the date mentioned in the eviction notice - or another date negotiated with their landlord

Disagree

If the tenant disagrees with the eviction notice, the landlord can take legal action to initiate an action against him.

2. Legal action

If the tenant decides to stay in the accommodation, the landlord can take legal action to request an eviction order against him. He must do so within 6 months of the delivery of the eviction notice.

If the tenant wins the lawsuit, the legal costs will be paid in full by the landlord. If he loses the case, he will - in most cases - have to pay his legal costs as well as those of his owner.

It is completely legal for the tenant to stay in the unit after the end of the notice period mentioned in the eviction notice.

Defense form

Once the court is seized, the court sends the tenant a list of documents - including a defense form allowing him to:

  • Dispute the eviction request
  • Request to postpone the expulsion date

The tenant is also informed of the type of legal action initiated by the landlord.

Audience

The owner can choose to take legal action such as:

  • Accelerated (fastest and most common):
    • The hearing is not systematic: the court decides whether a hearing is necessary by analyzing the explanations and evidence provided by the 2 parties.
  • Standard:
    • A hearing date is communicated to the tenant

Even if they have not returned the defense form, the tenant can attend the hearing. It is nevertheless advisable to explain the situation and provide proof - using this form - before the hearing.

Court decision

The court may decide to:

  • Close the case - if the eviction notice is found invalid:
    • The tenant stays in the accommodation

If the case is closed, the owner can choose to initiate a new eviction procedure.

  • Order the tenant to leave (usually within 14 days):
    • If the tenant has not left the accommodation by the date indicated on the eviction order, the owner can then request an eviction by a bailiff ( form N54)

Reminder: landlords cannot under any circumstances evict a tenant by force. They must take legal action in order to legally evict him/her. Otherwise, they would be guilty of illegal eviction, recognised as an offense in England (criminal offense).