Most private tenancies started on or after 28th February 1997 are assured shorthold tenancies (AST). Tenancies between 1989 and 1996 are normally assured tenancies.

An AST is protected by the Housing Act 1988 and there are specific rules that a landlord must follow if he wants to repossess the property. Evicting or trying to evict tenants without following these rules is a criminal offence which can lead to a fine and/or up to two years in prison. The tenant might also be able to bring a civil claim for damages.

The AST does not automatically end once the fixed term originally agreed has expired. It will continue and become a statutory periodic AST, the period being the interval at which rent is paid. So if rent is paid monthly, each period will begin on the first of the month.

Possession notice

The landlord must give the tenant notice, either under Section 8 or Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. A Section 8 Notice has a set form for giving notice and the landlord must give the grounds for repossession. A Section 21 Notice does not have a set form, but must contain the information required by the Act.

A Section 8 Notice can be given at any time, and the notice period given is for when possession proceedings will start, not when the tenant must leave. The period depends on which ground is being used, and will be up to two months.

A Section 21 Notice can also be given at any time, and this does give at least two months’ notice of when possession is required. If the AST is for a fixed term, then the date of possession cannot be before the end of the fixed term.

Possession proceedings

If the tenant has not left by the date given in the Section 21 Notice or by the end of the notice period given in the Section 8 Notice, then the landlord can start possession proceedings in the county court local to the property.

Accelerated Possession Proceedings

If notice was given to an AST where there is a written tenancy agreement under Section 21, then the landlord can choose to use the Accelerated Possession Proceedings. The advantage is that this is usually faster (normally 4 weeks) and cheaper than Normal Possession Proceedings.

However, the landlord cannot add a money judgment for rent arrears. If he needs to do this, he must use the Normal Possession Proceedings.

Normal Possession Proceedings

These tend to take 6 to 8 weeks to get a hearing and do cost more because there are additional steps, including the serving of a witness statement to update the court as to the current position.

However, it does mean the landlord can add a money judgment to the order. This will allow him to recover rent arrears. It can also assist in obtaining the court’s permission to transfer the order to the High Court for enforcement by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO).

Enforcement

If the tenant does not leave the premises, then the landlord will need to obtain either a warrant or writ of possession. The warrant is executed by the county court bailiff and the writ by an HCEO.

County court bailiffs tend to take several weeks to enforce the warrant of possession, whereas an HCEO will normally act within 48 hours.

You can apply to transfer your order for possession to the High Court for enforcement by an HCEO under a writ of possession under Section 42 of the County Courts Act 1984. Reasons given to the court can include speed of enforcement, loss of rental or the efficiency of having one single enforcement agent to enforce both the rent arrears money judgment and the possession order.

Changes to Assured Shorthold Tenancies were introduced on in the Deregulation Act on 1st October 2015 - details are available in this article.

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