A landlord wishing to recover possession of his property must follow the correct legal procedure. If he attempts to evict a tenant otherwise, he may be guilty of a criminal offence and could be ordered to pay substantial damages.

Most private sector tenancies will be assured short-holds where there are two main routes to obtaining possession. Providing that the fixed term of the short-hold tenancy has expired, there is an automatic right to possession under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Otherwise and where the contractual term in the tenancy agreement continues, possession can only be claimed under Section 8 of the Act on the basis of such things as rent arrears and antisocial behaviour. In either case, the tenant must usually be given two months written notice of the intention to re-gain possession.

If possession is being sought under Section 21, the two months written notice can be given during the fixed term but cannot expire before the end of the term. Section 8 applications for such as rent arrears can be made at any time and the notice given will depend upon the ground being used. Applications under section 8 must be made on the prescribed form which can be downloaded here.

There is no special prescribed form for giving notice under section 21 and simply needs to be in writing and specify the date on which possession is required. If the fixed term has expired the two months’ notice must expire on a rental due date.

If a tenant under an assured short hold tenancy does not leave by the date specified in the notice, it will be necessary to apply to the county court for a possession order. Where there is a written tenancy agreement, the process can be speeded up using the accelerated possession procedure and can be carried out online here. A disadvantage is that rent arrears cannot be claimed under the accelerated possession procedure, and if these are sought, normal possession proceedings must be issued. Here there will be a delay of between six and eight weeks before the application is heard and increased court costs are payable.

You can also apply online for possession under Section 8 using HMCTS Possession Claim Online Service. This allows you to monitor the progress of your claim and also claim rent arrears.

If, having obtained an order for possession, the tenant still does not leave the property, you will have to apply to the county court for a warrant of possession using the prescribed form. The court bailiff will then evict the tenant. The order for possession will specify a date on which the tenant must vacate, which will usually be 14 days after the making of the order, although the court has power to extend this period or make a conditional suspended possession order.