Stephanie Robinson answers your rental questions

Stephanie Robinson (Rob Cooke's replacement as Rented page legal columnist)
Stephanie Robinson (Rob Cooke's replacement as Rented page legal columnist)

How do you approach awkward issues with your tenant? Stephanie Robinson tackles the sticky subjects of bringing a tenancy to an end and increasing rent…

I no longer wish to rent my property. Can I end the tenancy?

Provided the correct procedure is followed, you should be able to end a tenancy without too much difficulty. However, if you do not observe the rules governing this practice, you may be committing an offence.

The specific method of ending a tenancy depends on what type of agreement you have and this is generally decided by the date from which the tenant occupied the property. If your tenant moved in before March 1997, they will probably have an assured tenancy agreement. This will be either a ‘fixed term’ or ‘periodic’ tenancy, with the latter running from one rent period to the next. Both of these agreements give the tenant a long-term right to stay in the property.

If the tenant moved in after March 1997, they will probably have an assured shorthold tenancy, which will most likely run for a fixed term, for example six months. This makes it easier to bring an assured shorthold tenancy to an end, as provided the correct notice is served, the contract can be terminated at the expiry of the fixed period.

My tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy and I wish to evict them. What is the procedure for doing this?

If you wait until the end of the fixed period, you can simply stop the tenancy. You do this by giving them at least two months’ written notice, which must coincide with the end of the fixed term. For example, you cannot serve your notice three months before the end of a six-month tenancy, as it will run out a month before they are actually due to leave. If the tenant refuses to go, you can apply for a possession order, which if granted, means they can be evicted.

If you wish to terminate the tenancy before the end of the fixed period, it will be necessary to show some reason for doing so. This is known as grounds for possession and may either be mandatory – in that a court must agree with your request – or discretionary.

Mandatory grounds include issues such as more than eight weeks unpaid rent, which cannot be disputed, whereas in discretionary cases, the court does not have to agree with you. If you declare that the condition of the property has deteriorated, the court could decide that it is sufficiently bad to evict the tenant or that you are overstating your case.

Is it possible to evict a tenant with an assured tenancy?

In the same way that you can evict a shorthold tenant before the end of the fixed period, you can also apply to the courts for an order to evict an assured tenant if you can show similar grounds for possession. Again, these follow the same mandatory and discretionary rules.

I have obtained a court order for possession. How do I actually take possession of the property?

You cannot evict tenants yourself. If they do not leave after receiving a court order, you must return to the court to apply for a bailiff’s order. Only a court bailiff is legally allowed to remove a tenant.

How frequently can I increase rent?

You should agree with the tenant the amount of rent, the arrangements for paying it and perhaps the intervals at which it will be reviewed before the tenancy begins. All of these details should then be included in the tenancy agreement.

If the tenancy is for a fixed term, the agreement will state that rent is fixed for the length of the term or detail when and how it will be reviewed. Contractual periodic tenancies should also say how the rent will be reviewed and when. If there is no provision for a rent increase, you must follow the statutory procedure.

Can I increase the rent by more than is stated in the tenancy agreement?

Only if the tenant gives you consent.

lStephanie Robinson is a solicitor specialising in property and commercial litigation at Sheffield’s Taylor&Emmet LLP. Telephone 0114 218 4000 or visit Taylor Emmet and Landlord Disputes