What do I do if my tenant won't leave at the end of their tenancy?

Your tenant’s lease is up, your Section 21 notice has been served, and you’re ready to retake possession of your property. There’s just one problem, though, and it’s quite a big one: your tenant won’t leave.

Broadly speaking, you have two options at this point. Which one you take will depend on precisely why the tenant isn’t budging.

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1 Tenant won't leave?– They don’t have to

This will likely be because your Section 21 notice is invalid. There could be a drafting error, or it could have been issued at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Unfortunately, you’ll just have to issue the notice again and wait out the two month notice period.

In the meantime, here are a few common mishaps landlords make with Section 21s:

Issuing the notice before the tenancy has been signed

Don’t issue the notice whilst the agreement is being signed. In fact, I don’t even recommend you issue it on the same day. Needless to say, a notice to end a tenancy that hasn’t yet started will be invalid.

Issuing the notice before the deposit is protected

You must protect any deposit you take in a registered deposit protection scheme, and provide the tenant with all the relevant information on the scheme, before you issue a Section 21. If you don’t, it will be invalid.

Issuing the notice to an HMO tenant before getting an HMO license

You need a valid license for an HMO (House in Multiple Occupancy). If you serve notice to an HMO tenant before such a license has been obtained, guess what? It will be invalid.

To make sure the notice itself is correct, we recommend the free wizard provided by My Bad Apple. Or, instruct a solicitor specialising in landlord law.

2 – They don’t want to

Again, this could be for a number of reasons:

They’re waiting for a local authority to rehouse them

Families with young children and other vulnerable groups are entitled to be rehoused if evicted by a Section 21, but lose this right if they move out themselves.

Remember that you can communicate with your tenants. If you want to evict a tenant to get your property back, and they want you to evict them so they can get a new home, work with them! Many tenants withhold rent in order to be evicted and rehoused without telling their landlord – it’s far more preferable, from both perspectives, to meet a tenant halfway.

For instance: you could accept smaller rental payments and issue ‘accelerated possession’ (more on that below) whilst both corresponding with the local housing authority. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly not a worst-case scenario from where you stand.

They’re sitting tight in the hopes you’ll change your mind

Many landlords issue a Section 21 as soon as the tenancy is up and running as a precaution against rent arrears, damage, antisocial behaviour, etc., so that they can see the back of the tenant as soon as the assured period is up.

Consider whether or not your tenant is a problem tenant you definitely want shot of, whether your plans for the property cannot be changed, or whether you can afford to keep the tenant on until they find somewhere else.

Issuing eviction proceedings

If you’ve given two months’ notice and your tenant still won’t leave, you can apply for accelerated possession. The tenancy must:

  • Be an assured shorthold or statutory periodic tenancy
  • Be enforced by a written AST agreement
  • Not be within the fixed term

You can apply to a court for accelerated possession. You will need the AST agreement, a copy of the valid and in-date Section 21 notice that was issued and evidence of the scheme you have used to protect any tenant deposit.

A judge will then decide whether a hearing is needed or whether to issue a possession order. If an order is issued, your tenant will usually have two to four weeks to vacate. If they still don’t leave, you can ‘get heavy’ and call in the bailiffs; fortunately, it rarely gets that far.

All articles on our website are for information only and should not be interpreted as providing advice. Any rates mentioned may have become outdated since the time of writing. For current rates and an unbiased personal recommendation, call and speak to an advisor on the numbers at the top of this page, or complete our online form

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