I have had several landlords contact me about this recently:
“I HAVE to get my house back as otherwise I have no-where to live with my children, I cannot wait six months for it to go through the courts”
“I urgently need to get vacant possession as I need to sell my property and cannot do this while the tenants are still there”
And of course
“My tenants are not paying rent and I cannot afford to live without the rent – I cannot wait months for the eviction process to go through – is there another quicker way I can do it?”
What these people are essentially saying is “my circumstances are special and the ordinary rules should not apply to me”.
They ask that, because they are a ‘special case’, we lawyers should rustle up something quicker, just for them.
As if, were there such a ‘quicker method’, all landlords would not be using it!!
Its all about them – its their property not yours.
Often these landlords are also thinking ‘its MY property – I need it now therefore I should be entitled to have it now’.
However its NOT your property! Or rather it is, but it’s also your tenants’ and they have the right to use it – not you.
Under English law, several people can ‘own’ or have a ‘legal interest’ in the same land or property. For example a freeholder, leaseholder and the mortgage company can all have a legal interest in ’24 The Street’.
When you rent out a property on an AST, your tenant acquires a ‘term of years’ or leasehold interest in the property. You still own the property but you have exchanged the right to use it for the right to receive rent. Your interest is now ‘the reversion’ – the right to get the property back when the tenancy or lease has ended.
So during the tenancy the person in control is the tenant – not you. If you don’t like this, there is an answer – don’t rent property to tenants!
The two ways to get back property
The legal right to a property when you own a lease / tenancy is one which is respected by the law and can only be ended in the proper way. This is generally:
- by the tenant moving out voluntarily and giving the property back to the landlord or
- under a court order for possession
So if the tenant refuses to move out – you will have to get a court order. And this takes time.
And I am sorry, I am very sorry, but it CANNOT be hurried. Certainly not now when the courts are so over worked and under funded.
To a Judge, your claim to evict your tenants is of lesser importance than (for example) the emergency injunction to protect a child at risk from a violent adult which is also on his desk.
Indeed in the past whenever I have tried to speed things up (at the urgent request of clients) it has inevitably resulted in things taking longer.
So what can landlords do?
There are a number of things you can do.
1. Be very VERY careful who you let your property to.
So often when I did eviction work, did it become apparent that the landlord had not taken proper care in the choice of tenant. Remember – once you let them in, it can take six months or more to get them out again.
Choosing a good tenant is by far the most important thing in renting property.
2. Do things by the book
Eviction work is very formulaic and you need to have the correct paperwork. You need to make sure that you get the formula right and that your paperwork is perfect.
Don’t try to ‘bodge it’. We are talking about someone’s home here (your tenant’s home) and a Judge is not going to take this away unless you have done things correctly.
3. Get on with it
Often landlords make things worse for themselves by delaying. You need to crack on and serve your notices promptly and then make the court application promptly.
Don’t allow yourself to be delayed by tenants. If they say they are going to pay by Thursday, say that if they do so, you will stop the proceedings, but unless and until they pay (or move out or whatever), you are going to carry on.
I have known landlords lose thousands of pounds by believing tenants when they said they were going to pay or move out, only to find that they have to go to court anyway and have lost time.
4. Pay the tenant money to go
This is an unattractive option, and in many cases landlords would rather cut their own arm off than pay the tenants anything.
However, it can sometimes save the landlord time and indeed money. For example, if you are spared the cost of eviction proceedings and are able to re-let the property quickly to someone who is going to pay their rent.
So it is always worth considering. Even though you may not like it.
And to answer a question before it is raised in the comments, no I do not think it is ‘harassment’ to write to a tenant and offer them £5,000 (or whatever) if they move out within 28 days.
It is a legitimate offer and one that some tenants may be glad to accept. If not, they can always say no!
Renting property is a business
These emotional requests to recover rented property immediately invariably come from people who are not experienced landlords and who have perhaps tried to deal with renting their property themselves without advice.
Renting property is now hedged around with regulation and landlords who fail to comply will lay themselves open to fines and prosecution – and delay in recovering possession of their property if they need it back.
You should either take care to inform yourself before you rent out your property or use a decent agent (ideally one which is a member of ARLA or one of the other agent regulatory bodies).
Is there ever a situation where a landlord can go to court and get immediate possession without going through the normal procedure?
Possibly if the tenant is actually pulling the property down you might be able to get an emergency injunction. But I have never known such a case.