If you have a non paying tenant, generally the last thing you will want to do is pay solicitors to deal with evicting them.
But if you don’t evict them through the courts they are entitled to stay there – effectively rent free! Even if you get a judgement against them for the unpaid rent this is not a lot of good where the tenants have no money.
Do you really need to use solicitors? And what are the potential pitfalls of bringing the eviction claim yourself?
These are some of the problems you could come up against:
1. Using the wrong procedure and getting your claim struck out
This is sometimes done when people do not realise that their tenancy is not, for example an assured shorthold – maybe because the tenant is a limited company or they are a resident landlord – and are not entitled to use the section 21 procedure.
The big problem here is that if your tenant has used solicitors (perhaps under legal aid) to defend, you will normally be ordered to pay their costs. Not something you will want if they owe you rent!
2. Getting the paperwork wrong
The classic error that many landlords make is drafting their section 21 notice incorrectly by putting the wrong expiry date – which can be fatal. It is less easy to make a mistake with the other main notice, the section 8 notice, but this can also be a problem sometimes.
Again, if your claim is struck out because of the wrong paperwork, your tenant could ask for costs. Even if your claim is not struck out, there will probably be substantial delays in your case.
3. Doing something wrong at the hearing
If you use the section 21 procedure (so long as you get your paperwork right) there will usually be no hearing. However there will be a hearing for other types of claim.
It is easy in the heat of the moment to forget to ask the Judge something or to fail to present your case properly. Preparation is the best way to avoid this. If you have prepared your case carefully and have clear and easy to read notes to help you, this will make things a lot easier.
One other problem I have seen sometimes is the landlord being asked to agree to a suspended possession order when they are entitled to an outright possession order (eg if the rent arrears are over 2 months). This is against the landlords interest as you lose the protection of the six week limit on the Judge’s discretion to allow the tenant to stay.
Should landlords represent themselves?
I would not recommend landlords to bring their own eviction claims if they know nothing about the system and how it works. Litigation is like getting on a fast train – if you find you have made a mistake it can be difficult to get off. Not without a lot of expense and delay.
However it IS something that most landlords can do with a bit of help and guidance. This is why I wrote my eviction kit for landlords – it goes into all the problems that might happen and gives full instructions on what you need to do.
You can read about it here.
If you have a court hearing, you might also be interested in my ebook The Notice Guide to Court Hearings which has a lot of help on court hearings – preparation, what to do when you arrive at court, what happens at the hearing, – that sort of thing.