Evicting a commercial tenant can take time – but using a professional enforcement agency is essential to avoid unnecessary delays. The financial impacts of a long and drawn-out eviction process can also add further pressure when landlords are dealing with ongoing unpaid rent and the costs of pursuing legal action.
The correct steps – and the time taken to complete these steps – depend on the reason for the eviction. If you can gain access to your property through peaceable re-entry, a commercial property eviction might take as little as a few days. In contrast, if you require a court order, it may take several months before the eviction is complete.
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Factors Influencing the Time Required to Evict a Commercial Tenant
Cases vary significantly, and there are many aspects of the eviction that will dictate the time required. For example, a complex or disputed eviction will likely take much longer than when the tenant is in clear breach of the lease and has agreed to leave promptly.
It also depends on whether you need to serve a formal notice to be able to regain possession of the property. Tenants can contest the eviction, and while they must have appropriate grounds to do so, this could hold up proceedings.
Evictions Following Lease Breaches
If a tenant breaches a commercial lease, you will usually need to serve a notice called a Section 146 before moving forward. This might apply if the tenant:
- Has sublet the property without content.
- Used the property for unauthorised purposes.
- Made changes to the property without permission.
- Failed to maintain the property to a minimum standard.
- Otherwise breached a covenant or clause in the lease.
A Section 146 notice explains how the tenant has breached the terms and must give a suitable time frame for the tenant to make reparations. Notices should be served by an authorised agent or solicitor and set out what the tenant has to do to avoid eviction.
While landlords may technically be allowed to serve a Section 146 notice by hand, they must have a witness present. It is often inadvisable to use this option since there is the potential for conflict or confrontation, which could otherwise have been avoided.
Landlords can also send a notice by recorded delivery, but if the tenant refuses to accept the package, notice will not have been served. Professional servers are familiar with serving court orders and notices and will ensure all the appropriate steps are taken.
If the notice period ends and the tenant does not make reparations, the landlord is allowed to either use peaceable re-entry, changing the locks or begin court proceedings if they need a formal order to instruct the tenant to leave.
Peaceable Re-Entry Rules
Forfeiture means that you, as the landlord, reclaim your possession – in this case, your commercial property. You must ensure your lease terms state the right to pursue forfeiture and are advised to seek professional advice before taking action.
Depending on the circumstances, peaceable re-entry means you can forfeit the lease and hire a bailiff to enter the property. There are varied conditions, and a bailiff will only enter the property, breaking and replacing the locks if they are permitted to do so.
For example, the tenant must not be on site, physical force against a tenant is forbidden, and peaceable re-entry is normally only suitable where the property is vacant or it is clear the tenant has no intention of returning.
However, tenants have the right to apply for relief against forfeiture through the courts. For an application to be successful, they would need to bring all debts into good order and cover the landlord’s legal costs. Courts will very rarely approve a request for forfeiture relief unless there is a compelling reason to and provided the landlord does not have a new tenant in situ.
Court Ordered Commercial Evictions
Another route is to apply for a possession order from the local courts. While it can take longer, this process may also be recommended where there is any potential for ambiguity or disputes or the lease isn’t 100% clear about your rights to forfeit.
Applying for a court order involves having a solicitor or agent apply to the court, which will provide a date for a hearing – the time frames involved vary depending on the court and whether it has a backlog of civil cases.
Once you have a date issued, the tenant is given two weeks to apply for forfeiture relief or submit a defence against the application for a court-ordered eviction.
This process can take several weeks in total, and although sometimes a court will issue an instruction on the day of the hearing, they can also postpone the case while they wait for more information, where relevant.
For more information read our guide: How to evict a commercial tenant
Expediting The Time For Commercial Tenant Evictions
As we’ve seen, evictions can vary from a short, simple process taking a few days to more complex cases requiring court hearings. The best way to ensure an eviction concludes as quickly as possible is to consult a commercial property eviction or debt recovery team.
Property specialists can advise on the correct steps to follow, offer guidance about applying for court orders or serving notices, and provide a certified bailiff to support a peaceable re-entry process.
Another good option is to compile a detailed record of the reason(s) for the eviction, providing a comprehensive package of documentation that clearly sets out the case and shows why you should be able to evict the tenant. Copies of the lease, missed payments, tenant communications, notices served, and evidence that the tenant accepted the notice are all beneficial.
If a tenant’s business is in administration or liquidation proceedings, this may impact your access to evictions since you will need court permission or approval from the liquidator or administrator in charge of the company’s affairs to move ahead with lease forfeiture.
It may also be advisable not to do so unless it would be financially advantageous since forfeiting the lease may mean you cannot claim repayments for unpaid rent from the liquidator.
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