There are various grounds on which an eviction notice from a private landlord can be challenged, depending on the type of tenancy you have and the reasons your landlord has given for asking you to leave.
Jeff Williams, landlord and tenant expert with Forrester Sylvester Mackett, explains the rules relating to assured shorthold tenancies, the most common type of tenancy given to private renters.
How do I know if I have an assured shorthold tenancy?
Most private tenancies granted since 28 February 1987 are assured shorthold tenancies, so if your tenancy agreement was made any time from this date onwards in most cases you will be an assured shorthold tenant.
Assured shorthold tenancies are usually for a fixed period of either six or twelve months.
When is it not possible to challenge an eviction notice?
You cannot challenge an eviction notice given in respect of an assured shorthold tenancy where the notice given asks you to leave at the end of the fixed period and your landlord has complied with their legal obligations.
Your landlord is entitled to ask for the property back when the fixed period expires, although they must give you at least two months’ advanced notice of this and, if you refuse to leave voluntarily, they will need an order from the court before you can be forced out.
When it is possible to challenge an eviction notice?
If your landlord has given you notice of their intention to evict you at the end of the fixed period, they will have to have complied with certain legal requirements in addition to giving you advanced notice. In particular, your landlord must have provided you with a valid energy performance certificate (EPC) and gas safety certificate for the property before notice can be served. Failure to protect your tenancy deposit within thirty days of its receipt, and to serve you with prescribed information about the deposit, could also render your landlord’s notice invalid.
If your landlord has given you notice of their intention to evict you during the fixed term – which they can do if you are not sticking to the terms of your tenancy – they will have to give you notice of between fourteen days and two months, depending on their reasons for wanting you out. They may also have to convince a court that it is reasonable for them to ask you to leave if you object to going. If you believe your landlord is not being reasonable, for example by refusing to accept rent because it is a couple of days overdue, then it is always worth talking to a solicitor to see if a challenge may be possible.
Special rules, designed to protect a tenant from retaliatory evictions (evictions driven by vengeance or a desire for revenge), may also apply if you reported the need for repairs to the property before your landlord gave you notice and you suspect notification of the repairs was the trigger for the notice.
In most cases, you will be given the opportunity to challenge your landlord’s application at a court hearing. However, this may not be the case if you have an assured shorthold tenancy and your landlord is seeking to evict you at the end of the fixed term. In this case, instead of making a challenge at a court hearing, you will be asked to make it on a form which the court will ask you to complete and return. If you fail to fill in the form the court may go ahead and make a possession order without any further enquiry.
The rules relating to evictions can be complex and it is a good idea to get specialist advice early on.
“It may be that your landlord has not given you the right type of notice to leave, or the notice they have given you is not long enough. It may be that your landlord is mistaken about what has happened and you are not guilty of what they allege. It might be that you have done something wrong, but it can easily be put right”, says Jeff Williams.
A good landlord and tenant solicitor, or housing law expert, can help you to understand your rights. They can advise you on the cost implications of challenging your landlord and help you explore any available remedies, including alternatives to legal action, like mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution.
For a confidential discussion about your housing rights, or unlawful evictions, please contact our experienced team.