Blog | Could using a paralegal save you money if you’re in the unfortunate position of having to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent?
By Amanda Hamilton, NALP
Are you a Landlord in the unfortunate position of needing to get tenant out of your property? This is an unpleasant situation for both sides and you may already be worried about the amount of money you have lost if the reason and you’re seeking an eviction is non-payment of rent. Whatever reason you need your property vacated there are more cost-effective ways of doing it without having to engage an expensive solicitor.
There are two routes to evicting a tenant, either by serving a Section 21 Notice of Possession or a Section 8 Eviction Notice under the Housing Act 1988. Section 21 allows a landlord to take back the property at the end of a fixed-term tenancy agreement or if there is a break clause. In this instance the landlord does not have to provide any reason to claim possession as long as a valid Section 21 Notice is served.
Alternatively, a Section 8 Eviction Notice comes into play when there are grounds for eviction if the tenant hasn’t paid the rent, is being a nuisance to neighbours or has damaged the property.
Both notices produce the same outcome – you get your property back.
However, it is essential you have followed the correct procedure or your claim as a landlord may fail so if you are not comfortable doing everything yourself it can be worth taking on the services of a paralegal. They can offer the same advice as a solicitor but generally charge considerably less. They will have completed some legal training but not qualified as a solicitor.
Just check they belong to a recognised membership body such as NALP and have a licence to practice with the proper indemnity insurance in place.
Whether you are doing it yourself or engaging a paralegal to act for you, you need first to decide which method suits your needs most. A Section 21 Notice informs the tenant that you wish to recover possession of your property. The first step in this process is to give the tenant no less than two month’s notice telling them that you need them to vacate the premises.
The Section 21 is only valid for six months from the date of issue, after that, another notice will need to be served. If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord will need to prove to the court that a notice was served. To do this, it is important to serve the notice by hand, with a witness and to keep a copy. If you have a tenant who is in breach of a term in the agreement, such as non-payment of rent, then you can use a Section 8 Notice. This will then give the tenant two months to leave the property.
The first step is to write a letter to the tenant giving notice that the rent has not been paid and letting them know that if it is not paid immediately you will take action to remove them from the property. I recall a situation many years ago when a landlord, against my advice, took on a tenant and insisted that no references be attained because she had met the tenants and was happy with them, and wished to move quickly. Only one of the tenants moving in wished to be named on the agreement even though there were to be three of them living in the property. Unfortunately for this particular landlord, the named tenant absconded, and the remaining two tenants refused to pay the rent. She was therefore left with squatters in her property. The only way to evict them was to get a court order which meant several more months before she retrieved her property.
To serve a Section 8 or a Section 21 yourself be sure you have followed the correct procedure and have all your tenancy paperwork (including deposit, inventory etc.) up to date. It is worth remembering that even if you have good grounds for eviction, it might still be worth serving a Section 21, instead of Section 8 if the tenancy is coming to an end or a break anyway.
Once the correct forms have been served your tenant is legally obliged to leave on the specified date. If they don’t, the landlord can apply to the court for a possession order.
A landlord can either keep the tenant on and sue in the county court for the arrears of rent, or can opt for the possession order straight away to terminate the agreement.
If it is not worth going to court for the arrears of rent because the tenant may not have any money, it is advisable to go for possession straight away.
In all cases it is worth remembering that it is a criminal offence to evict a tenant by any means other than obtaining a court order for possession. If the tenant fails to vacate, the next option is to use county court bailiffs and this is where following the correct procedure will be open to scrutiny.
Depriving someone of their home is a serious matter and judges expect landlords to follow the proper procedure and have perfect paperwork. If a tenant is looking to be re-housed by a local authority, they will not usually start this procedure until a possession order has been made.
The important things to remember are to give at least two month’s notice in writing and specify the required date of possession and try to be accommodating and reasonable. And if the Section 21 Notice has been properly served, the good news is, the landlord is entitled to possession by default.
From October this year a Section 21 cannot be served for the first four months of the tenancy but if the tenancy has been renewed following a fixed term, it can be served at any time.
More information to enable you to do this for yourself can be attained online at: https://www.gov.uk/evicting-tenants/section-21-and-section-8-notices
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its training arm, NALP Training, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.