Residential Possession Proceedings Briefing Note

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1 Residential Possession Proceedings Briefing Note If you are Letting Agent, Landlord or just letting out your property to Tenants don t make expensive mistakes which may cause distress, upset and expense to you and your family and/or to your business. Call mosshaselhurst Solicitors now for expert advice and representation in residential possession proceedings. See our website Telephone numbers: Northwich Winsford Wilmslow Addresses: Gerard Rooney Tracey Slater Please note that you must not rely on the information contained in this briefing note as an alternative to seeking specific legal advice from an appropriately qualified legal professional including a Solicitor, Legal Executive or other advisor at this firm. To the maximum extent permitted by applicable law we exclude any liability for any information contained in this briefing note which might be regarded as a representation, warranty, undertaking or guarantee relating to its contents. Without prejudice to the generality of the forgoing paragraph we do not represent, warrant, undertake or guarantee:- That the information in this briefing note is correct, accurate or complete That the use of guidance in this briefing note will lead to any particular outcome or result in a particular matter In particular that by using the guidance in this briefing note you will enhance or protect your legal position We will not be liable to you in respect of any losses arising out of inappropriate reliance upon this briefing note mosshaselhurst Solicitors have prepared this briefing note to help residential Landlords and Letting Agents deal with problem tenancies in the correct manner, avoiding unnecessary delay and expense. 1

2 1.1 Introduction It is easy to make silly mistakes in dealing with Tenants and then in bringing Possession Claims before the Courts. The subject of residential occupation is huge but we confine our paper to the most common form of occupancy i.e. under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). Documents you will need:- These include:- 1. Tenancy Agreement 2. Details of Tenancy Deposit Scheme and Notices provided to the Tenant in relation to the Scheme 3. Records of conversations and written communications with the Tenant and/or their representatives and of all events giving rise to the need to consider Possession Proceedings. 4. Notice Seeking Possession and Tenant s response if any 5. Schedule of Dilapidations/Survey Report 6. Running Schedule of Arrears 7. List of specific breaches of Tenancy Agreement and steps taken to remedy 8. Certificate of Service of Notices/Proceedings 9. Records of conversations or communications with the Housing Authority 2

3 2. What Procedure Should be Followed 2.1 The main reasons why Landlords wish to recover possession of a let residential property are:- The Tenant is in arrears of rent The Tenant has breached other terms of the Tenancy Agreement i.e. disrepair or sub-let The Landlord wants to sell the property 2.2 Please remember that the Courts will enforce and interpret the law in favour of the Tenant where possible. No matter how badly the Tenant has behaved a Landlord cannot simply take possession of a rented property by re-entering the property and changing the locks. In such cases a Tenant could pursue a claim for breach of the terms of the Tenancy i.e. a right for quiet enjoyment or not to be unlawfully evicted or harassed. A Tenant could be entitled to damages or a Landlord could be convicted of a criminal offence or the claim for possession could be defeated. 2.3 In order to evict a Tenant there are 3 main steps to be taken. You need to:- 1. Serve a Notice on the Tenant requiring possession of the property 2. If possession is not given up voluntarily issue proceedings for possession in the County Court after the time for complying with the Notice has expired. 3. Having obtained a Possession Order then take further steps to enforce the Possession Order and recover possession. 2.4 Many Landlords will be surprised to learn that having spent a great deal of time and money obtaining a Possession Order there is no right to evict the Tenant without a further Court Order and it may be necessary to engage the services of a Bailiff to then recover possession. 3. Notice Requiring Possession 3.1 Most Assured Tenancies entered into after 28 February 1997 will be Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST). There are two types of Notice required to recover possession of a property let on an AST. These are:- 3.2 Section 8 Fault Notice This Notice is used in response to breaches of the terms of the tenancy usually unpaid rent. The Notice should specify the earliest date that proceedings will 3

4 start. You should attach to the Notice a running schedule showing the rent due, the rent paid and tracking the arrears to show a balance now due. The Schedule should demonstrate for example that the Tenant has persistently delayed in paying the rent. On expiry of the Notice you are entitled to issue Court proceedings to recover possession. 3.3 Section 21 No Fault Notice This does not require any breach by the Tenant of the terms of the tenancy. The tenancy may be for a fixed term which has not expired or a tenancy continuing after expiry of the fixed term. Either way you must give the Tenant at least 2 months notice of possession. The Notice must correctly identify the date for possession being an actual date being the last day of the period of the tenancy. You must exercise extreme care calculating this date as the Court may reject the claim for possession if the date is incorrect. You must also take extreme care to ensure that the Tenancy Deposit has been properly protected and that the Tenant has been provided with the requisite information about the Deposit before sending a Section 21 Notice as the Notice may otherwise be rendered invalid and the claim for possession may be defeated. The Tenancy Agreement may contain provisions as to how notices should be served on the Tenant if not the law sets out the procedure. 4. Claiming Possession through the Courts If your Tenant should fail to respond to the Notice under Section 8 or under Section 21 you will have to take the Tenant to Court to obtain an Order for Possession. 4.1 Standard/Traditional Procedure You need to provide the Court with certain information and documents and you should be aware of the following rules:- CPR Part 55 including the Practice Direction for Possession Claims CPR Part 65 Anti-Social Behaviour and Harassment Proceedings Form N5 Claim Form 4

5 Form N149 Particulars of Claim Residential Possession Proceedings We recommend that you use a standardised form to ensure that you include all the relevant information. 4.2 Sometimes Landlords seek to use the Accelerated Procedure to obtain possession as this is quicker and usually cheaper but the conditions in CPR need to be complied with before this procedure is available, that is where:- The AST was entered into on or after 15 January 1989 The only purpose of the proceedings is to recover possession of the property (this procedure can not be used to recover arrears of rent). The tenancy did not immediately follow an Assured Tenancy which is not itself an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. An AST has been properly granted in accordance with The Housing Act The Tenancy is subject to a written agreement or follows a Tenancy which was a written Tenancy Agreement. A Section 21 Notice has been given When completing the Claim Form set out in the Practice Direction to CPR 55 you must ensure that all the information is provided and all the documents referred to are attached. 4.3 If you get it wrong the claim may be rejected for example if you:- Fail to exhibit a Section 20 Notice (Tenancy is granted before 28 February 1997 Fail to exhibit a Section 21 Notice (if either of the above Notices is defective the claim will fail) The Statement of Truth in the Claim Form is not completed and signed by the Landlord So if you choose to use the Accelerated Procedure you will need to make a separate claim for rent arrears. 4.4 If you are prepared to either abandon your claim for rent arrears or to claim for them separately then provided your paperwork is in order the Court must make a 5

6 Possession Order. If the claim for possession is based on arrears of rent under Section 8 then you need to prove that: both at the date of service of the Notice under Section 8 of the Act relating to the proceedings for possession and at the date of the hearing:- If rent is payable weekly or fortnightly there is at least 8 weeks rent in arrears If rent is payable monthly at least 2 months rent is in arrears And for the purpose of this ground rent means rent lawfully due from the Tenant. You should prepare a Witness Statement to be served not less than 2 clear working days before the hearing exhibiting the running Schedule of Arrears showing the balance which will be due at the date of the hearing if no further payments are made. 5. Possession Order 5.1 If all goes well and a Possession Order is obtained then the date for the Tenant to give up possession will be no less than 14 days after the making of the Order unless the Tenant can prove exceptional hardship in which case the Order for Possession may be postponed for up to 6 weeks. 5.2 It should be easier to obtain the Possession Order if the Tenant fails either to respond to the Section 8 or Section 21 Notice or to the Court papers, or if the Tenant fails to turn up at Court. If a Tenant does turn up at Court to negotiate then be very careful about agreeing an Order for Possession by consent even with the Court s approval as the Tenant could subsequently change their mind and apply for the Possession Order to be set aside. This will cause significant delay and expense not least with the arrears continuing to accrue whilst the claim is set back on the rails and further time has passed before a new hearing date can be set. 6. Landlord s Expectations 6.1 It is important that Landlords understand before the legal process begins that the Courts will look for reasons not to grant possession or to order payment of arrears and will seek every opportunity to favour the Tenant. Even the Accelerated Procedure will feel slow and can be expensive. 6.2 The Landlord should always assume particularly where the ground for possession is arrears of rent that it may not be possible to recover the legal costs or the arrears of rent and that the choice of Tenant in such a case may have been an expensive mistake. 6

7 For this reason we always recommend that any Landlord seeking to let a property should use a reputable and efficient letting agent and either way that written references are taken up on each Tenant or occupier preferably from previous Landlords who are satisfied with the Tenant and can verify the Tenant s stated reasons for leaving the previous rented property. 6.3 In many cases a Landlord can only obtain an Order for the Tenant to pay fixed costs under CPR 45 currently around only and even then it may not be possible to recover those costs from the Tenant if they fail or refuse to pay. Rather than chasing a Tenant for rent arrears and/or costs it is often more important to recover possession of the property to re-let it and to get the rent coming in again as quickly as possible. At this stage there is no sign of any relaxation of the rules and procedures which can defeat the perfectly reasonable expectations of a Landlord that where a Tenant breaches the agreement it should be possible to evict them quickly and without unnecessary expense. 6.4 Don t take risks take the necessary steps, including vetting of Tenants on time right first time. 7

8 Example Court Fees for Possession Proceedings as at December 2013 Court Issue Fee Possession Claims Online Court Issue Fee Accelerated Possession Proceedings To issue a warrant of possession We can also offer legal advice and support with the following:- Business Law Company/Commercial Property Personal Injury Employment Crime Partnerships Building Disputes Residential Conveyancing Business Law Family Wills, Probate and Trusts Settlement Agreements Debt Collection Property Disputes 8

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