How to Evict a Commercial Tenant in the UK

As a landlord of a commercial property, you may be faced with a situation where you need to take back possession of your premises. The most common reason for this is that your tenant has breached their contract or terms of the lease. This includes not paying the rent, failing to keep the premises in good repair or sub-letting the premises without your legal permission.

Due to the sensitive and complicated nature of this issue, it’s important that you take all the necessary steps to ensure you can reclaim your property as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

What is Classed as Commercial Property?

Before we start, it’s important to define exactly what is classed as commercial property. This will help you decide whether commercial property solicitors are the right legal representatives for your issue.

The five categories of commercial property include:

  • Offices
  • Retail – retail stores, shopping centres, shops
  • Industrial – warehouses, factories
  • Leisure – hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes, sport facilities 
  • Healthcare – medical centres, hospitals, nursing homes

Claiming Back Possession of your Commercial Property

If you are looking to take back possession of your premises whilst it is still occupied by a tenant, this process is referred to as “forfeiture”. However, you can only forfeit the lease of your premises if you have full legal grounds to do so. You must ensure that your leases contain any clauses that give you the power to do so, as, without it, your powers as a landlord are significantly restricted.

If you do have the right to forfeit, you can choose to do this in one of two ways:

  1. Peaceable re-entry – if you choose this option, you can simply enter your property and change the locks to stop the tenant from continuing to enter. However, this is considered a high-risk option, as your tenant could very well apply to court for “relief from forfeiture”. This means the tenant could take back possession as well as claim compensation for any losses incurred because of wrongful eviction. Please note that it is a criminal offence to attempt to retake possession by peaceable entry if there is anyone in the property who objects to it. If the right to peaceable re-entry has arisen, it can only be exercised against an empty unit.
  1. Applying to court for possession – this is the safer and more preferred route. However, it can also be a costly and lengthy process, so we recommend you consider this as a last resort.

The route you choose to take with your tenant will depend on the reason you have for the repossession of your premises.

Please be aware that it is a criminal offence to retake, or attempt to retake, possession of any property if there is anyone residing in the property. For example, where there is a flat above a shop that is included in the lease of the property.

Reasons to Evict a Commercial Tenant and What Route Should you Take?

For many commercial property owners, it can sometimes be difficult to determine the best next steps to take to reclaim your premises, and you may be wondering: what are your commercial landlord rights? We’ve expanded on the possible reasons for eviction and the steps you should take for each reason:

  • Non-payment of rent – if your commercial tenant has not been paying their rent for the premises, you do not have to give any notice of your intention to reclaim the premises. You can simply re-enter and reclaim. If you choose this option, you must NOT give the tenant any acknowledgement of the continuance of their tenancy, as this may waiver your rights to forfeit. To ensure your decision to evict your commercial tenant is made clear, we recommend putting a notice of repossession sign on the door of the premises and have your commercial property solicitor accompany you as a witness.
  • Breach of terms of lease – if there has been a breach of the commercial lease by a tenant, you must serve a 146 notice before you can reclaim possession of the premises. This notice must be served by your commercial property solicitor to all interested parties, including the tenant, subtenant, and mortgage provider. This notice must clearly outline the nature of the breach, and any other requirements, such as remedial action or compensation.
  • Breach of the repair condition – in some cases related to this issue, you may be obliged to offer the tenant the opportunity to claim statutory protection. If the tenant decides to claim this, they must do so within 28 days of receiving the 146 notice. The landlord must then also make a preliminary claim for the court’s permission before proceeding with any further action.

The court procedure begins by the landlord making an application for possession in the county court. Claim forms must be completed and submitted by the landlord, then served to the tenant, usually by your commercial property solicitor. This notice will contain a strict time-frame in which the tenant should adhere to the demands of the notice.

How Long Does it Take to Evict a Commercial Tenant?

If you are in the position where you are looking to evict your current tenants, chances are you want to have this process started as soon as possible. The length of time it takes to evict a commercial tenant is entirely dependent on your individual situation and the routes you wish to take.

If you simply decide to re-enter the premises and change the locks, this could be around 2 days. However, if the matter goes to court, it could take much longer. It is our job as leading commercial property solicitors to ensure you’re supported no matter how long the process may take.

How to Evict a Commercial Tenant without a Lease in the UK

Renting out your commercial property without a lease is not advised. This is because there are no terms or contracts that have been declared, making them legally binding. If there is no written lease but you have a tenant renting your commercial property, this is called a verbal or oral lease. Again, the difficulty comes in enforcing those terms should an issue arise.

It's incredibly important to have a formal, written contract in place. A solicitor can help you with this to ensure your contract is clear and concise, as well as robust, so it can keep you covered in the event of any eviction issues.

If you want to evict your commercial tenant, you still have grounds to do so, even if there is no lease agreement. However, since the process is even more complicated, we recommend passing on the responsibility to a professionally trained commercial property solicitor.

Can a Commercial Landlord Lock Out a Tenant?

Technically yes, a commercial landlord can lock out a tenant by carrying out “peaceable re-entry, whereby the landlord enters the property and changes the locks.

This option is only viable after a certain number of days have passed without any form of rent payment from the tenant.

However, it is important to thoroughly consider if this is the best option for you as there are some risks associated with this procedure, and so it may be better to consider pursuing court proceedings instead.

Find a Commercial Property Solicitor Today

Whether you’re the landlord of one commercial property or several, Smith Partnership’s commercial property and property litigation departments offers a wealth of legal expertise to help you make the most of the property in your possession, including evicting a commercial tenant. Get in touch with our team today to see how we can help you with the eviction process.

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