Tenant evictions - what are the top causes?

By Georgia Galloway | Tuesday 7th May | 7 minute read

Antisocial behaviour and failure to pay rent were the leading causes of landlords evicting their tenants in 2023.

Ministry of Justice figures have identified an increase in evictions: 9,457 households in England faced bailiff evictions in 2023, up nearly 50% from the 6,399 evictions in 2022.

Our 2024 Landlord report discovered that 18% of landlords evicted their tenants in 2023. Landlords could select multiple causes for these evictions; 48% selected antisocial behaviour and 47% were due to rent not being paid. 13% resulted from landlords exercising Section 21 'no fault' evictions.

Causes of evictions

What is an eviction? 

In the UK, an eviction occurs when a landlord legally removes a tenant from a rented property.

The process is governed by the Housing Act 1988 and involves giving notice to the tenant and obtaining a court order if needed. If the tenant still doesn't leave the property, bailiffs may be called upon to enforce the eviction physically. An eviction is a formal process with legal requirements to ensure fairness for landlords and tenants. Landlords must follow strict procedures during an eviction, and if they do not, they could be found guilty of illegal eviction or harassment.

Here's the government's official guidance:

Rules for periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)

Periodic tenancies run on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis with no fixed end date.

If you have one of these, your landlord must usually give you notice that they want the property back (‘notice to quit’) - they must do this in a certain way depending on your type of tenancy agreement and its terms.

If you do not leave at the end of the notice period
If you do not leave at the end of the notice period, your landlord must apply to the court for a possession order. If the court gives them a possession order and you still do not leave, they must apply for a warrant for possession - this means bailiffs can evict you from the property.

Rules for fixed-term ASTs

Fixed-term tenancies run for a set amount of time. Your landlord must give you notice in a certain way if you’re in a fixed-term tenancy.

If you do not leave at the end of the notice period
If you refuse to leave at the end of the notice period, the rules depend on whether the fixed term has ended or not.

Eviction during the fixed term
During the fixed term, your landlord can only evict you for certain reasons - for example:

  • you have not paid the rent
  • you’re engaging in antisocial behaviour
  • there’s a ‘break clause’ in your contract - this allows your landlord to take back the property before the end of the fixed term

A possession order will not take effect until you’ve lived in the property for at least 6 months.

Eviction at the end of the fixed term
At the end of the fixed term, the landlord does not need a reason to evict you. As long as they’ve given you correct notice, they can apply to the court for a possession order.

If the court gives your landlord a possession order and you still do not leave, your landlord must apply for a warrant for possession - this means bailiffs can evict you from the property.

How do evictions impact tenants? 

The impact of eviction can significantly affect tenants on various levels. Here are the top impacts that eviction has on tenants: 

  • Legal consequences: Once a Section 21 or 8 is issued, tenants must comply with strict deadlines or risk forcible removal by bailiffs. Furthermore, an eviction record can impact a tenant's rental history, making it challenging to secure future housing and potentially leading to legal action for outstanding debts.
  • Financial impact: Securing alternative accommodation often requires a large deposit and upfront rent payments. With demand for rental properties outstripping supply, many tenants are offering larger deposits to secure rental properties. Moving costs, such as hiring movers or transportation expenses, quickly increase. On average, renters spend £699 when moving to a new rental, resulting in a total expenditure of £550 million annually.
  • Emotional toll: Many tenants still face the "no-fault" eviction, which gives tenants two months' notice to vacate the property. Many renters who face eviction will be forced to look for new rental accommodation in a competitive market with increasing rents they can't afford. Furthermore, the instability caused by eviction can impact mental health and family life and disrupt employment, leading to lost wages or even job loss if the new accommodation is located far from the place of work.

How do evictions impact landlords? 

  • Lost rental income: One of the most immediate impacts for landlords is the loss of rental income when a property becomes vacant due to eviction. This can disrupt cash flow and affect the landlord's ability to cover mortgage payments, maintenance costs, and other expenses related to the property. 
  • Legal costs: Evicting a tenant could involve legal procedures and court fees. Landlords may need solicitors or legal advisors to navigate the eviction process effectively, adding to the overall cost.
  • Property damage and repairs: In some cases, tenants may damage the property before or during the eviction process, especially if they've been evicted for antisocial behaviour. Landlords may incur additional costs for repairs and maintenance to restore the property to a rentable condition.
  • Void periods: Following an eviction, landlords may experience periods when the property remains vacant while searching for new tenants. These periods without rental income can further strain the landlord's finances. However, with high demand for properties (71% of landlords experienced an Increase or Significant Increase in demand for their rental properties in 2023), depending on the location and property condition, landlords may feel confident that their rental property won't be empty for long.

What are the reasons for eviction? 

We asked landlords who had to evict tenants the reasons for the evictions. Landlords could select multiple options. 48% of evictions were prompted by antisocial behaviour, and 47% were attributed to tenants failing to pay their rent.

Of the landlords that evicted tenants in 2023, this was why (landlords could select multiple reasons for eviction):

Why did landlords evict tenants in 2023? % of UK landlords
Antisocial behaviour 47.76%
Rent not paid 47.01%
Exercised 'break clause' before end of fixed term 42.54%
Sold property 20.15%
Exercised Section 21 13.43%
Other 0.75%

What are no-fault evictions?

Simply put, a Section 21 "no-fault eviction" allows landlords to ask tenants to leave without stating a reason. Typically, landlords serve tenants with a Section 21 Notice, providing the necessary notice period to vacate the property.

Landlords aren't required to prove any wrongdoing by tenants to evict them from their homes, meaning tenants might not have committed any offence to be asked to leave.

While it provides landlords with a legal avenue to regain possession of their property, it has raised concerns about tenant rights and housing stability.

13% of evictions were the result of a landlord exercising Section 21. Section 21 allows evictions after a fixed-term tenancy ends if there's a written contract or during a tenancy with no fixed end date, known as a 'periodic' tenancy.

In 2019, the Conservative Party pledged to end Section 21 evictions, which are a cause of great concern for landlords, but this legislation hasn't yet passed through Parliament.

In our 2023 survey, 46% of landlords said they were Concerned (23%) or Strongly Concerned (23%) about stopping Section 21 evictions.

When will no-fault evictions end?

There is no official timeline for abolishing Section 21 in the government's Renters' Reform Bill, and there is no guarantee it will happen before the next general election. 

The government has faced criticism for not setting a timeline for this change, with charities and political parties raising concerns in Parliament. The government defended this, citing the need for a thorough investigation into how the courts will handle additional work and how much this will cost.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and a key government figure, suggested that section 21 be abolished by the end of January 2025. "We will have outlawed it, and we will have put the money into the courts in order to ensure that they can enforce that."

Can an eviction be avoided? 

Evictions can often be avoided through proactive measures such as:

  1. Effective communication: Open communication between landlords and tenants can help address issues before they escalate. Regular communication can help resolve disputes and prevent eviction.
  2. Early intervention: Addressing issues such as rental arrears or property maintenance problems early on can prevent them from escalating to eviction.
  3. Mediation: In some cases, mediation services can help landlords and tenants resolve disputes amicably without eviction.
  4. Flexible payment plans: Offering flexible payment plans or assistance programs for tenants facing financial difficulties can help them stay current on rent payments and avoid eviction.
  5. Legal assistance: Landlords should familiarise themselves with landlord-tenant laws and seek legal advice to ensure proper procedures are followed.

What happens when if a property is vacant?

An empty rental property will have consequences; however, the severity will depend on how long your property is vacant.

According to the Housing Act 2004, Local Authorities can issue an Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO). This order ensures that vacant properties are used for housing purposes. The council can issue EDMOs on properties that have been unoccupied for a minimum of six months.

If the property has been left unoccupied for more than two years, you will be charged additional council tax, also known as a 'premium'.

Even if the vacancy lasts for just a month, landlords could stand to lose rental income - £1,223 a month on average in the UK. These properties typically earn enough rental income to cover 125% of the mortgage, costs that will be the landlord's responsibility during the void period. 

How can landlords avoid having a vacant rental property?

Screen your tenants: Take the time to screen tenants properly before entering into a tenancy agreement. That means checking their credit history, references, and employment status. It may be worth contacting their old landlord to provide a reference so you can be aware of any potential issues.

Charge a fair rent: Identify what similar properties in your area are going for. Consider location, size, and whether the property is furnished/unfurnished when setting a price. Charging a fair rent ensures you're competitive in the market and keeps your property attractive to potential tenants.

The better the property, the better the tenant? 

For landlords, having more reliable, trustworthy tenants might result in fewer situations that require eviction. Landlords may choose to refurbish the property to attract better tenants, thereby reducing the risk of eviction whilst also increasing the opportunity to charge more rent and achieve better rental yield. Bridging finance can provide the necessary fast funds to complete refurbishment projects, minimising downtime and loss of rental income. 

Final thoughts

Antisocial behaviour and failure to pay rent have emerged as the primary reasons for tenant evictions.

The abolition of Section 21 might increase evictions in the short-term, but will provide extra security for tenants in the long-term.

The costs involved with evictions and the risks of empty or damaged rental properties may prompt landlords to reconsider how they select tenants or whether the cost of improving their rental properties will help attract better tenants and reduce the risk of evictions.

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