Your guide to the possession action process
Letting agents or landlords seeking possession of a property need to follow strict guidance to stay compliant and resolve the situation fairly with their tenants, where possible.
Landlords or letting agents with tenants on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) may sometimes need to regain possession of a property, either through a "no fault" section 21 notice or a section 8 notice.
The government's guidance for landlords still strongly advises attempting to mediate with your tenant before going down the repossession route, and a new Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service recently launched to offer advice to tenants around evictions.
What does the possession action process look like?
- If you wish to regain possession of a landlord's property, you'll first need to serve a section 8 or section 21 notice to the tenant, outlining the date you'd like them to leave the property.
- If the tenant doesn't leave by the date you specified, you can then apply for a possession order, in one of three ways:
- You can use the online system for a section 8 rent arrears ground.
- You'll need to fill out a form for other section 8 grounds - and for rent arrears, if you can't access the online service - or for a section 21, if the tenant also owes rent.
- You can apply for an accelerated possession order for using a section 21 where the tenant isn't in rent arrears
- You'll then receive a date for the hearing and any further details. You'll need to share a copy of the case documents with the court and the tenant too.
- You'll then attend the possession hearing, where the judge will decide on the next course of action, which could be to:
- Adjourn the hearing
- Dismiss the claim
- Make a possession order, asking the tenant to leave normally within 14-28 days of the hearing
- Make a suspended possession order, so the tenant has to meet certain conditions if they want to stay in the property such as paying a minimum amount of rent each month
- If they grant the possession order and the tenants don't leave by the date specified, you can then apply for a warrant of possession, which a bailiff will enforce.
How can you resolve an issue without needing to go to court?
The government still encourages landlords and agents to work with tenants to find a solution which avoids the court - as this approach can cost between £400 to £500, not including any legal fees.
The government guidance outlines the following steps:
- Communicate with your tenants directly to discuss rent arrears or anti-social behaviour, and attempt to find a solution that works for all parties.
- Consider dispute resolution to reach a "mutually acceptable agreement", such as through TDS Resolution, PRS Mediation Service or Resolve by Flatfair, by searching online, or going through your local council.
- If you're a letting agent, you may also have access to dispute resolution guidance through your redress scheme - and Goodlord also offers mediation as a service under its Rent Protection and Legal Expenses Insurance.
These options will require you to engage with your tenant to understand their personal circumstances, and advise them on any benefits they could access, or even putting together a repayment plan.
You'll need to share this information with the court if you decide to go down that route - but the guidance highlights that the court process should be considered a "last resort".
What is the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service?
Your tenants will now have the chance to access free legal advice and representation in the possession process, through the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service. This includes representation if the case were to reach a court hearing.
The housing expert will work with the tenant to help them understand the reasons they're being asked the leave the property, and to recommend any potential solutions.
The fact that tenants can access this service will be included in an updated version of the How to rent guide, from October 2023.
This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. For more information, visit gov.uk.