The two main questions landlords or agents ask us when they need to evict a tenant are:
“How much will it cost?”
“How long will it take?”
The first one is a simple question – in straightforward cases where all the documents are in order, the tenancy deposit has been properly protected and all other requirements have been complied with, we have a range of fixed fees for possession starting from £120 to serve Section 21 or Section 8 notice.
However, the question how long will it take is a more complicated one. We can give you an idea of the minimum timescales assuming the tenant does not file a defence but wishes to avoid being deemed voluntarily homeless:
- Service of Section 21 notice – 2 months’ Notice is required
- Drafting and filing the court papers – We will do that within 24 hours
- Claim issued by court within 7-10 days
- Tenant’s time to file a defence – 14 days
- Possession order 7-10 days to obtain following request for possession
- Tenant usually ordered to give possession in 14 days but may be up to 42 days
- Bailiff’s warrant – 2-4 weeks to apply for warrant and get appointment with the bailiff
So we can say that the minimum period for an undefended eviction is about 4 months. What we cannot tell you is at what stage in the process your tenant will leave the property. Some tenants leave on being served notice but others stay until the bitter end when they are evicted by the bailiff. If your tenant has generally been a trouble free tenant, it is more likely that they will leave the property on being served the correct notice. However, if they’ve been a difficult tenant throughout the tenancy or you know they are in financial difficulties so will find it hard to secure a new property, prepare yourself for a bumpy ride.
Most possession proceedings we bring on behalf of landlords are based on Section 21 Notice. This is a no fault notice, requiring the tenant to return the property to the landlord in two months’ time.
I have looked at the last 30 Section 21 Notices we have served to see what the outcomes were:
Tenant left the property within the two month notice period – 23%
Average no of days since notice served: 58 (8.3 weeks)
Tenant left the property on possession order being made – 27%
Average no of days since notice served: 133 (19 weeks)
Tenant left the property on bailiff’s appointment – 50%
Average no of days since notice served:158 (22.5 weeks)
Tenants who successfully defend the possession proceedings and remain in the property – 0%!
Obviously this is a small sample and so too much cannot be read into it. It is significant however that only 23% of tenants leave within the two month notice period following Section 21 Notice. Therefore, if you serve notice to your tenants, it is more likely than not that you will have to also take the next step and issue possession proceedings. A further 23% of tenants give possession after the possession order is made, leaving 50% of tenants who only leave when evicted by a bailiff.
And how long will it take?
On average 128 days (4.2 months) from date of service of notice to date the tenant vacates the property. If the tenant leaves the property following notice, the average time is 58 days, just under the two month period. If a possession order is made and the tenant vacates the property, the average number of days is 133 (4.3 months). If the tenant still doesn’t leave and it is necessary to apply for a warrant of possession and wait for the bailiff’s appointment, the average number of days is 158 or 5.2 months.
Therefore, when considering gaining possession of a property you currently rent out, you need to factor these timescales into your calculations. You may be among the lucky 23% whose tenants leave the property on being served notice. However, from the admittedly small sample I have considered, you are far more likely to be among the 77% who have to issue possession proceedings to regain possession. Even using the accelerated possession procedure following Section 21 notice, this is likely to take up to 4-5 months from service of Section 21 notice to the possession order being effective.
Landlords are often frustrated by the time it takes to regain possession of a property and, while it is undoubtedly disheartening to wait for the process to take its course, if you have a realistic idea of the timescales, you can plan accordingly.
Please note that the figures above are based on cases we see. People generally only come to us if they know or suspect the tenant is unreliable. Therefore it is safe to assume that a lot more than 23% of section 21 notices served by landlords and their agents result in prompt and peaceful surrenders of possession in accordance with the notice. Nevertheless, given the timescales involved it makes sense to make sure that whoever drafts your notices and proceedings knows exactly what they’re doing. You wouldn’t want to have to start again after 4 months if you’d got your notice wrong.
Fiona Wheeler is a Trainee Solicitor at Helix. She recently completed the Graduate Diploma of Law at the University of Brighton, winning the Thomson Reuters prize for best overall mark, and is currently studying the Legal Practice Course at the University of Law in parallel with her training contract.
This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice.