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Evicting a tenant

We explore how to legally evict a tenant and how landlord insurance can help cover the costs involved.

gocompare author
Updated 15 September 2021  | 3 min read

When a tenant has breached their tenancy agreement, you might want to evict them from your property.

You may have grounds for eviction if your tenant is in rent arrears of at least eight weeks, has damaged your property or is involved in anti-social behaviour.

Eviction is a last resort and can be a difficult, time-consuming and costly procedure.

But if you’ve exhausted every avenue for negotiation with tenants, it can be the only option left.

Key points

  • Eviction needs to be carried out in a fair and legal way. Unlawful eviction is a legal offence.
  • Landlord insurance with legal expenses can include legal advice and cover for costs involved in evicting a tenant.
  • The exact procedure for eviction will depend on your tenancy agreement and where your tenants live in the country.

Does landlord insurance cover tenant evictions?

Landlord insurance provides protection against all sorts of financial losses if you rent out property.

It can cover damage to contents that belong to you but are for the use of your tenants – like white goods and furniture, for example.

And it can pay for replacement or repair of accidental damage to fixtures and fittings, such as smashed windows.

Some landlord insurance comes with legal expenses as standard. But if not, it can be added as an optional extra.

This sort of cover will pay legal assistance, court and bailiff costs up to a maximum limit (usually from £50,000 up to £100,000) that are incurred in the process of evicting tenants from your property.

Policies often offer access to expert legal advice - sometimes via a 24 hour helpline. This can help to ensure you’re taking the right steps to fairly and lawfully evict tenants.

Many landlord insurance policies cover loss of rent as standard. But only if your tenants have to move out due to a fire or flood for example.

They usually won’t cover you if tenants suddenly stop paying rent or if they move out without warning.

To be covered against this sort of financial loss you need to take out rent guarantee insurance (sometimes called tenant default insurance).

It pays your rental income (up to a maximum total, normally capped at £2,500 a month) for a limited time agreed in the policy; usually between 6 and 12 months or until you regain possession of your property (whichever is sooner).

Policy conditions differ but in general, claims can be made when your tenants have fallen into a month’s worth of arrears and you have tried mediation and want to start the process of evicting your tenants for non-payment.

How to evict a tenant

If you want tenants to leave your property, it’s vital you follow the correct - and fair - procedures.

Otherwise, you could be guilty of harassing or illegally evicting them and they could claim damages against you.

The exact procedure for eviction will depend on the tenancy agreement and where your tenants live in the country.

For example, in England and Wales, for the most common type of tenancy - an assured shorthold tenancy – you generally need to:

  • Give your tenants a Section 21 notice of possession if you want them to vacate the property after a fixed term tenancy agreement ends.
  • Give them a Section 8 eviction notice if they’ve broken the terms of the tenancy (such as non-payment of rent).
  • If tenants refuse to leave by the date you’ve requested on the notices and if they owe you rent (and you haven’t been able to agree a rent repayment plan) you can apply to the court for a standard possession order. This will require a court hearing. If you’re not claiming for rent arrears, you can claim for an accelerated possession order - which will be quicker, cheaper, and doesn’t usually involve a court hearing.
  • If tenants still won’t leave, you can ask the court for a warrant of possession. The court will send your tenants an eviction notice detailing the date by which they must leave. If they still remain after that date, bailiffs can be sent in to your property to remove them.

There are different procedures in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

What if my tenant lives with me?

In England and Wales, if a tenant, or lodger, lives with you and shares the kitchen, bathroom or living room, they are regarded as ‘excluded occupiers’.

In law, ‘excluded occupiers’ can be evicted without going to court.

You will need to give your lodger reasonable notice to leave.

This might be a period of time agreed in a ‘lodger agreement’ you’ve drawn up.

Or it might be the length of their rental payment period. For example, if they pay rent monthly, you need to give them a month’s notice.

If they don’t leave after this period, you can change the locks to their room, so they can’t gain entry.

But you will need to ensure you give their belongings back to them.

Can I evict a tenant without a tenancy agreement?

If you have no written contract with your tenant (or if the contract has been lost, or was never signed, for example) you must still serve them reasonable notice if you want them to leave. If they refuse to go, you cannot evict them through an ‘accelerated’ possession order. Instead you will need to issue a standard possession order, which will require a court hearing with a judge.

What if my tenant won’t leave?

If you’ve given your tenant a Section 21 and/or Section 8 notice, plus a standard or accelerated possession order, you can apply for a warrant of possession. This will set into motion the process of involving bailiffs who will go to your property to evict the tenant/s.

Compare landlord insurance policies that can protect you from financial losses you may be faced with if you have to evict a tenant.

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