A possession notice is generally essential if you are going to apply for a possession order at the County Court. However the important thing to remember about service of documents, is not just that you do it – but that you can PROVE that you did it.

Most tenants are honourable, but that leaves many who are not – and they are probably the ones you are trying to evict. These tenants will think nothing of lying and saying that they never got the notice, if by doing this they can defeat your claim for possession. And get a bit of more time to live in your property. Generally, for this type of tenant, without paying any rent.

So you need to be sure that they cannot do this.

How? Here are some suggestions

  • Don’t serve by normal post. If the tenant says he never got it – how can you prove that he did? It is not unusual for items to get lost in the post. Recorded delivery is better but tenants often fail to answer the door or collect recorded delivery items.
  • Always serve by hand – either personally on the tenant (if he is there) or by putting it through the letter box of the property if he is not
  • AND take an independent witness with you, someone who can give evidence for you at court if necessary. Ideally this should be someone like a TRO, Police Officer, or letting agent. Or perhaps a neighbour. Don’t take your brother or your wife, a Judge may believe the tenant rather than them (and one landlord told me once of a time when the Judge DID believe the tenant rather than himself and his wife).
  • Some landlords take a photo of themselves serving the notice with one of those cameras which date stamp the picture
  • Always keep a copy of the notice served and a note of the date and time it was served and the name and address of the person who served it (if this was not you) and the independent witness.
  • Get the tenant to receipt a copy of the notice – devious tenants will refuse to do this but decent tenants will generally sign (make sure the date they put is correct by the way).

Or, if you can’t serve the notice yourself or can’t face meeting the tenant:

  • Use a professional process server. They will provide you with a proper certificate of service as part of their service and the Judge will invariably accept their evidence. Process servers are not expensive – I often use Davis Colman who charge £60

And remember – if you can’t prove that you served the notice, it might just as well never have happened.

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Tessa Shepperson

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