What to do if you have been served with a Section 21 Notice?

What is it?

When your landlord serves you with a Section 21 notice, they are starting the process to evict you from your home. Your landlord can serve you with a Section 21 notice at any time. However, there is a legal process they must follow.

What now?

Reach out and contact your landlord. Have your landlord explain why they have chosen to serve you with a Section 21 notice. Communicate with your landlord to determine if there is a possibility you can remain in your home and have the Section 21 Notice withdrawn. At this point, you should begin the process of looking for other housing accommodation.

From here, you have three general options:

  1. Try to delay the eviction process and stay in your home longer;

  2. Challenge the eviction;

  3. Leave your home by the date on the Section 21 Notice.

Staying in your home longer and delaying eviction:

If you would like to stay in your home longer or delay eviction to allow yourself more time to find suitable alternative accommodation, you should check to see if the Section 21 notice is valid.

There are specific requirements to determine if a Section 21 notice is valid. Any failure to meet the requirements below may delay eviction and allow you to stay in your home longer, however you should seek legal advice to confirm this. The requirements of a valid Section 21 notice are as follows:

As a tenant you must have:

  • An Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)

  • Received a written notice from your landlord with a 2-month notice period (or a 3-month period on or after 26 March 2020)

Your landlord must have:

  • Protected your deposit by putting it in a registered deposit protection scheme.

    • If your landlord has already returned your deposit, then the Section 21 notice remains valid.

  • Provide you with certain information, known as 'prescribed information':

    • A receipt of your deposit;

    • Contact information for the landlord/letting agent;

    • Information on how to have your deposit returned to you.

  • If your tenancy started after 1 October 2015:

    • Provided your notice on a Form 6A or a letter including the same information;

    • Provided you with certain documents before your tenancy started - importantly:

      • A valid Gas Safety Certificate;

      • An up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate;

      • The Government’s most recent 'How to Rent' guide.

  • A licence if your home is in multiple occupation.

Your landlord cannot:

  • Give you a Section 21 notice in the first four months of an original contract;

  • Give you a Section 21 notice if the fixed term of your tenancy has not ended (unless there is a break clause in the contract);

  • Make any significant mistakes in the Section 21 notice such as:

    • Incorrect spelling of any names or incorrect dates;

    • Incorrect contact details of the landlord or letting agents.

  • Overcharge you for a fee or deposit:

    • Your deposit can only include a maximum of five weeks' rent. If you are charged a higher deposit or an illegal fee, then this would invalidate a Section 21 notice.

If your landlord fails to meet any of the requirements above, you may be able to successfully challenge and delay the eviction process and stay in your home longer.

What happens if you stay past the date given on the Section 21 notice?

If you choose to stay after the Section 21 notice expires, in order to evict you your landlord must ask the court to make a 'possession order' within six months. This will formally begin the process to have you evicted and, if a possession order is made, will give you a scheduled date and time to leave your home. It is legal for you to remain in your own home and challenge an order if one is made but you should ensure that you have good reasons to do so because you are taking the risk of paying for all of the court costs if you fail to successfully challenge it.

So far, you have stayed past the Section 21 notice period, and your landlord has applied to the court for a possession order. Next, the court will send a defence form to you.

If you plan to challenge the eviction or ask for more time, then you should complete and return the defence form to the court within 14 days. Filling out, completing, and returning the defence papers to the court will represent your opportunity to prove to the court that your landlord failed to provide you with a valid Section 21 notice in the proper way.

The court may decide the:

  • Section 21 notice is not valid. This would dismiss the landlord's claim for possession and allow you to stay in your home. However, the landlord may restart the eviction process again.

  • Section 21 notice is valid. This would mean you will have to leave your home. The court may grant you additional time for you to leave.

What happens if you stay past the date to leave on the Possession Order?

 

If you choose to stay past the date on the possession order, then your landlord must return to the court and apply for a notice of eviction. A notice of eviction will determine a date for the bailiffs, who are enforcement officers, to arrive at your home, and ultimately may forcibly evict you.

 

Key things to consider if you have been served with a Section 21 Notice:

If you challenge the eviction and lose, you will have to pay for your landlord's legal costs. You may have to pay for the cost of the bailiffs and the rent up until the date the bailiffs come. These costs can be significant, but you may be able to utilize legal aid or receive benefits if you are on a low income.

Retain all written communication between you and your landlord. If you plan on challenging an eviction, having evidence or proof of any letters, emails, or receipts can help your case.

Speak directly with your landlord. If you receive a Section 21 notice and require more time, always continue making rent payments, and ask if you can have more time before starting the eviction process.

 

Key things to remember:

It is best practice always to save information, letters and communication between you and your landlord. Keeping receipts, letters, emails, or any communication will help if your landlord decides to take action.

There are different rules and protocols to follow, depending on if you are renting from a private or social housing landlord. The process is similar, but a social housing landlord, such as a local authority or housing association, must follow specific rules before the court process can begin and a possession order can be made.

For further housing-related resources use: 

Shelter England

Government UK

Request assistance by emailing a2jclinic@exeter.ac.uk