Section 21 Updates: Can my tenant stall an eviction hearing?

When it comes to an eviction hearing, it’s good to know your tenant’s rights, as well as your own. 

Following all eviction procedures correctly is vital, because if you don’t you could be found guilty of illegally evicting or even harassing your tenant. Take for example a recent case when a landlord was given a suspended sentence for throwing a tenant out illegally with their possessions. Changing locks is something else a landlord should not do, no matter how badly the landlord-tenant relationship deteriorates! 

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If a tenant thinks they haven’t been given enough warning to leave, they’re able to contact their local council for advice. The council can then take action if a dishonest landlord has evicted a tenant illegally. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum however, if a tenant refuses to leave at the end of the notice period – the landlord must apply to the court for a possession order. If the court gives them a possession order and the tenant still doesn’t leave, the landlord should apply for a warrant for possession of their property. In that case, a bailiff (an enforcement agent who deals particularly in debt related issues) will evict the tenant from the property. 

The process of an eviction really boils down to the type of tenancy agreement that you have with your tenant, so make sure you understand the type of tenancy agreement you have and follow the correct eviction hearing procedure. 

What happens during a court eviction hearing?

If a landlord goes to court for an eviction hearing, there will be what’s called a ‘possession hearing’. Remember that landlords who take a tenant to court for eviction purposes should serve them the following papers:

  • Copies of ‘claim for possession’ forms 
  • A defence form 
  • A date for their court hearing

Below are some ways a tenant could ‘stall’ an eviction hearing. 

  1. Disagreeing. The defence is the tenant’s chance to explain themselves. If they disagree with what their landlord has put down on the ‘claim for possession’ forms. The tenant needs to return this form within 14 days. 
  2. Refuse information. If a tenant wants to ‘stall’ or try to stop the progress of the hearing, they could also cause a delay if they refuse to put any information down on the defence paper. If that’s the case, the tenant would then need to pay extra court fees – resulting in yet another delay in the eviction hearing. 
  3. Promise to make payments. Another way of stalling an eviction is if the tenant asks the judge to suspend the warrant at a new hearing. The judge will not automatically agree to suspend the warrant, but it could result in the judge potentially delaying the eviction or allowing the tenant to stay in their home if they can make their payments again. 
  4. Appeal to a mistake. A tenant can appeal against the decision of an eviction hearing if they can show the judge mistakes that were made in the original possession hearing. 

Be aware also, that if the pandemic is a cause for the tenant being unable to pay their rent, a court hearing can look a lot different if the tenant or their dependents have been affected by Covid-19. 

eviction hearing

What are the eviction and Section 21 updates for 2022?

A lot has happened in the world of evictions for 2022. Everything from tenants not following procedures properly to dishonest landlords getting the boot. But it is important to make sure that you are following all the rules you can, so that your tenant cannot use any mistakes against you. 

Earlier this year (January 2022) a recent case (Northwood Solihull v Fearn/Cooke/Ors) saw two tenants living rent free for two years. After purposefully misusing the technicalities of the fine print of their tenancy, the couple argued that under section 44 of the Companies Act 2006, their eviction notice didn’t stand as it hadn’t been signed by two authorised signatories. This was brought to the Court of Appeal where judges concluded that a single authorised employee of a landlord or letting agent can now sign a section 8 notice, a section 21 notice, or a tenancy deposit certificate without fear of legal repercussions.

There are two notices we have discussed in the past that can begin the process of termination for the tenancy. 

  • The Section 8 Notice grounds is a fault-based notice when there is a clear breach or fault on behalf of the tenant, and the landlord chooses to end the tenancy. 
  • Section 21 Notice allows the landlord to give no reason for wanting to regain possession of their property. However, this notice is changing, as The Evictions Bill is looking to abolish Section 21 to stop dishonest landlords from abusing evictions, and  is to be read this month, February 2022.

Rent Guarantee Insurance is able to protect you against the unknown, and could also help you out if an eviction case occurs. For example, overdue rent payments from tenants can cause a lot of commotion, especially in these current Covid-19 days of uncertainty, and you don’t want to be out of pocket yourself. Costs to pursue rent arrears including those costs owed by the tenant can also be covered through RGI.

There’s no way around the rulebook, so remember that as a landlord you must follow all the strict procedures there are in case you’d like your tenant to leave the property. 

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