While the principle of the law that governs eviction is often simple, the legislature which conveys it can often be complex.

So for many landlords, the procedure for evicting tenants and regaining possession of a privately rented property and comes under the Housing Act 1988 frequently causes problems.

What are the basics of Section 21?

If you want to regain possession of your property, and your property is being rented under an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), then you will need to use Section 21.

This piece of legislation allows landlords to evict tenants after the fixed term of the AST has expired, without having to give a reason.

The law states that a minimum 2 months' notice must be given to tenants before possession of the property is retaken. This is dated from when the tenant receives the notice, not when the notice is written or posted.

When can I serve a Section 21 notice?

A Section 21 notice can be given at any time provided any deposits paid have been placed, within 30 days of receipt, in a tenancy deposit scheme.

However, while you can serve the Section 21 notice at any point during the tenancy, you cannot force your tenant to move out before the fixed term has expired. So make sure the date at which possession is required is at least one day after the fixed term's expiry.

If you serve notice during the fixed period, you will want to use a Fixed Term Notice, which comes under section 21(1)b.

Section 21 notice after the AST fixed period

After the expiration of the AST fixed term, the tenancy automatically becomes a Periodic Tenancy, unless a further fixed term is agreed upon.

During the periodic term you can use Section 21, though instead of serving a Fixed Term Notice (section 21(1)b) you should serve a Periodic Term Notice, under section 21(4)a.

A Periodic Term Notice must give two months' advance notice; this notice must end on the last day of a tenancy period, with the date of required possession being the day after this.

Tenancy periods are defined by how frequently rent is paid, so, for example, if your tenants pay rent monthly, then the tenancy period is one month; if they pay rent weekly, a tenancy period would last one week.

Letting your tenants stay in the property

If you let them stay after the required date of possession, you can then acquire possession of the property again. However, if an agreement was made to extend the tenancy you will need to issue a new Section 21 notice, giving a further 2 months' notice.

If the agreement included a new fixed term, then you cannot require possession of the property during this new fixed period, either; you'll need to wait until it ends.

Protecting your tenants' deposit

If thirty days have passed since you received the deposit, then you will have to return the deposit in full or agree to a deposit reduction with the tenant before you can issue a Section 21 notice - this will involve paying back an agreed amount, deducted from the total deposit, under section 215(2A)(a).

You are also free to serve a Section 21 notice, in such a case, if the tenant has already made an application to the courts over failure to protect a deposit, so long as this has been determined, withdrawn or settled.

If your notice is rejected in court then you will have to serve another, which means giving a further two months' notice, too.

This procedure can be costly and time consuming, so it's worth paying attention to the details and ensuring you get this right first time!