Evict A Commercial Tenant

N.B. This note is about how to forfeit a commercial lease to evict a tenant when it hasn’t paid its rent.  If your tenant is not in arrears then read my post about the other options available to evict a commercial tenant.

Rent Arrears

It can be a real problem for landlords when a commercial tenant doesn’t pay its rent.  Fortunately there is usually a right to change the locks and take back the premises.

If the lease contains the relevant provisions I can usually deal with the paperwork and have the tenant out within 24 hours.

Here’s How…


Step 1 – Check The Lease

In order to change the locks to evict the tenant we’ll need to check that the lease contains the relevant provisions entitling you to do this, and how long the rent needs to be outstanding before you can act.  Most commercial leases are drafted to include this right, but it is vital to check before proceeding.


Step 2 – Draft The Notices

There are two types of notices that need to be attached to the premises and served upon the tenant. The first is a “Notice of Re-Entry” notifying the tenant and any interested parties what has happened. The second is a “Torts Notice” setting out details of when and how the tenant can collect its belongings.

When a landlord takes back possession using this method it owes a duty of care to the tenant in respect of the items left at the premises.  Getting these notices wrong could land you in hot water, so care must be taken.


Step 3 – Preparation

Making sure that your paperwork is in order, that you have enough copies, and that you have the right people available to assist you before taking back possession is crucial.  As well as having your solicitor on the end of the phone just in case you’ll probably need a locksmith, a camera, and a few extra people if the property is quite big.  Making a mistake whilst exercising the right to take back possession could prove costly, so running through the process a few times with your solicitor is a good idea.


Step 4 – Take Back Possession

Your solicitor will advise you exactly what to do and when.  The process is called “Peaceable Re-Entry”.  It’s very quick and very easy.  It involves a landlord changing the locks without notice to the tenant. At the point that you take back possession the lease comes to an end. The Notices should then be affixed to the premises and further copies sent back to your solicitor for formal service on the tenant.


Step 5 – The Aftermath

Once you have changed the locks the tenant is essentially evicted and has no right to go back in unless it applies for relief (which it will only get if it pays all of the arrears and your legal costs).  That rarely happens but dealing with the tenant’s possessions can be an issue. The “Torts Notice” will deal with this and the tenant should be referred to your solicitor if it is having trouble understanding what has happened.

That should free you up to find a new tenant.


Alternative Options

Of course you don’t have to kick your tenant out if they haven’t paid the rent.

To find out more take a look my article on the 10 options available if you have a commercial tenant not paying rent.

More Info

For more information, take a look at this comprehensive guide on forfeiture of commercial leases.

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