You need to get a court order to evict a tenant who does not want to leave.
You cannot force a tenant to leave a property even if they owe you rent. The Enforcement of Judgments Office can remove someone who stays in a property after a court evicts them.
Legal process to evict a tenant
You have to follow the right process to end a tenancy or evict a tenant. This means
- sending a written notice to quit at the right time
- applying for a court order if the tenant does not leave
- asking the courts to enforce that order if the tenant still does not leave
It is illegal to force a tenant to leave a rented property without following these steps. The council can prosecute you and the tenant can sue you for damages.
A tenant can surrender their tenancy at any point. Ask them to do this in writing so you have proof that they gave up their rights.
Giving notice to quit to a tenant
Your notice to quit must
- be in writing
- be received by the tenants a set amount of time before it ends
- end on the day before rent is due
You can give the notice to your tenant
- in person
- by email, text or messaging app or
- by post, but allow at least 2 extra days for delivery
You can only end a tenancy agreement during the first six months if
- the contract was for a fixed term of less than 6 months or
- the tenant has breached the terms of the contract and cannot fix this
Length of notice to quit in Northern Ireland
Your notice is only valid if the tenant gets it a set amount of time before the date they have to leave.
Your tenant should get
- 4 weeks' notice if they've rented the property for less than 1 year
- 8 weeks' notice if they've rented the property for between 1 and 10 years
- 12 weeks' notice if they've rented the property for more than 10 years
You can't backdate the notice if you get the date wrong. You'll have to start again.
You had to give 12 weeks' notice in all cases if you gave your tenant notice to quit between 4 May 2020 and 4 May 2022.
Your tenant has to give you written notice if they want to end the tenancy. They have to give you
- 4 weeks' notice if they rented the property for less than 10 years
- 12 weeks' notice if they rented the property for more than 10 years
Form of notice to quit
Your notice to quit does not need to be in a specific form. But it must be clear about when the tenancy ends.
You don't need to include reasons for ending the tenancy if
- the tenancy agreement has already ended and
- the tenants did not sign a new contract
Ending a tenancy during the contract term
Your tenant has a right to live in the property until the contract term ends.
You can try to end the tenancy before then if
- there is a clause in the contract that gives you and the tenant equal rights to end the agreement early or
- the tenant has broken the agreement and cannot or will not fix this breach
Write to the tenant if they are in breach of the contract. Give them a chance to remedy the breach. You can give them notice that you intend to go to court to end the tenancy if they cannot or will not remedy the breach.
Getting a court order
You'll need to take the tenant to court if they stay in the property after their notice period ends. A solicitor will help you with your case.
The solicitor can give the tenant a final chance to move out. If they don't leave the solicitor can serve a civil bill on the tenant. This bill will explain
- that you are taking them to court
- how much, if any, rent or other damages you are claiming
- if you intend to ask the court to make the tenant pay your court costs
The tenant has 21 days to respond. They can file an intention to defend. They can only defend the case if
- you did not follow the right process or
- they have a tenancy agreement and can argue that they did not breach this or that they repaired the breach
The court hearing is a formality if the tenant does not have a tenancy agreement. The judge has to give you a possession order if you've followed the right process.
Evicting the tenant after a court order
The court will send a copy of the court order to the tenant. This will include a deadline for leaving the property.
You need to apply to the Enforcement of Judgments Office if the tenant does not leave by this deadline. Your solicitor can help with this.
Harassment and illegal eviction
Make sure to follow the right process when ending a tenancy. The council can prosecute you, and your tenant can sue you if
- you cut off any supplies or services to the property
- you change the locks
- you threaten or force the tenant into leaving
- you remove or interfere with the tenant's belongings