Your guide to the possession action process
Letting agents or landlords seeking possession of a property need to follow strict guidance to ensure they 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. Here's an outline of what that process looks like, and the steps that landlords and agents can also take to resolve issues with tenants, without taking the matter to court.
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. You'll need to have collected evidence around how Covid-19 has affected your landlords and tenants, and the tenants have the right to submit a defence to the court. If they do, you'll receive a copy.
- 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.
- If they grant the possession order and the tenants don't leave by the date that specifics, you can then apply for a warrant of possession, which a bailiff will enforce.
What happens if you already have a claim in the court system?
If you have an outstanding warrant of possession which has expired, or is nearing its expiry date
Warrants of Possession are valid for 12 months. If your warrant has expired due to Covid-19 restrictions and you'd like to extend it, you'll need to apply for an extension through an N244 form. This may incur up to a £275 fee. You'll need to share any communications you had with the tenant and details of their or your change of circumstances, and you may need to attend a hearing. If you have a warrant but no longer need the eviction to be carried out, let the court know as soon as possible.
Bailiffs will work through the possession warrants in date order, aside from in cases of anti-social behaviour or squatting, and will normally serve a 14-day notice on your tenant ahead of eviction. If your tenant or anyone in their household tests positive, they should make the bailiffs aware. However, guidance to bailiffs in this situation are being reviewed.
If you have a possession order and the date on which the tenant was due to give up possession has passed, but you have not yet applied for a Warrant of Possession
You should again consider if you wish to evict your tenant, in light of how the pandemic may have affected your tenant. You'll still be able to rely on the possession order at a later date, and can apply for the warrant of possession six years after the possession order was submitted.
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. If your tenant falls into rent arrears, you should consider temporarily agreeing to a payment plan, to avoid seeking possession action initially.
- 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.
These options will require you to engage with your tenant to understand their personal circumstances. 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".
This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. For more information, visit gov.uk.