You have to follow a certain process if you want to evict a tenant. The council can prosecute you if you try to evict a tenant without following certain steps.
The proper steps are to
- send a written notice to the tenant
- go to court to get a possession order
- have that order enforced if the tenant does not leave.
Writing a notice to quit
A notice to quit has to be "in writing". This can include electronic messages.
The notice does not have to use specific words or phrases. You can use simple language so your tenant understands what the notice means.
You must give the tenant this notice at certain amount of time before the date they have to move out. Your tenants 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
- 12 weeks' notice if you have them notice between 5 May 2020 and 4 May 2022
Going to court to evict a tenant
You will need to hire a solicitor if your tenant stays in the property after the notice period ends. The solicitor will apply to the courts for an ejectment hearing.
At this hearing, the court will issue a possession order if
- you no longer have a valid contract with the tenant, or
- it is satisfied that the tenant made multiple or serious breaches of the contract.
Your solicitor can ask the court to make the tenant responsible for paying your legal fees.
The Law Society of NI has a list of solicitors who work in Northern Ireland.
If the court makes a possession order, it will send a copy to the tenant. This will explain that the tenant must leave the property.
You have to ask another court to enforce the possession order if your tenant does not move out. Your solicitor can help you with this.
Check your landlord insurance to see if you can get help with costs caused by evicting your tenant.
Reasons for eviction
If your tenant has a contract, the court will only make a possession order if
- you can show that the tenant has made serious or repeated breaches of the terms of the contract, or
- there is a term in your contract that allows you to end the agreement early.
The tenant can fight the eviction. The court may allow the tenant to stay if they think your actions, or your contract terms, are unfair.
You do not need a reason to evict a tenant if
- the tenant's contract has already ended, or
- there was never a contract and the tenancy has lived at the property for more than 6 months.
What to do if your tenant moves out of the property without telling you
Your tenant's tenancy still exists until
- they tell you they have moved out, or
- the Enforcement of Judgments office enforces a possession order to evict the tenant.
You need to act carefully if you think your tenant has moved out without telling you. You can get in trouble if you remove items belonging to a tenant or rent the property to someone else. The original tenant could contact the council to say you've illegally evicted them. They could also take you to court if you've got rid of their belongings.
Contact Landlord Advice NI if you think your tenant has moved out of the property without telling you.
Getting help with eviction
Contact Landlord Advice NI if you have questions about eviction.
It can take a long time to evict a tenant. Mediation may be a better way of solving problems with a tenancy. Housing Rights provides a free mediation service to registered landlords.