Can I Evict a Commercial Tenant without a Lease? 

In the realm of commercial real estate in the UK, the dynamics between landlords and tenants are governed by a robust legal framework.  

However, a particularly challenging scenario arises when a landlord wishes to evict a commercial tenant in the absence of a formal lease agreement. This blog aims to demystify the process, outlining both the landlord’s and tenant’s rights and the legal pathways available to navigate this complex situation.  

Understanding whether you can evict a commercial tenant without a lease is essential for commercial landlords aiming to manage their properties effectively while adhering to UK laws. 

Oral Leases

Oral leases, while less common and often considered less formal than written agreements, hold legal validity in the UK.  

These agreements are binding but present significant challenges, particularly in proving the specifics of the agreement when disputes arise. For landlords, the main hurdles include establishing the terms agreed upon verbally, especially regarding duration, rent, and use of the property.  

agreement handshake

The primary challenge for landlords with oral leases is the difficulty in proving the terms of the agreement in the event of a dispute. Without written documentation, disagreements over terms like rent amount, lease duration, or permissible use of the property can become contentious issues, which are hard to resolve without legal intervention. 

The eviction process for tenants under oral leases must still follow legal procedures, including providing appropriate notice. The specific requirements can vary, depending on the nature of the oral agreement and local laws. Generally, landlords must provide reasonable notice to vacate, which can be disputed by tenants without clear agreement terms. 

Strategies for Landlords 

Given the complexities associated with oral leases, landlords should consider the following strategies to mitigate risks and ensure a smoother eviction process, if necessary: 

1. Documenting Agreements

Even if the lease agreement is oral, landlords can document subsequent conversations, agreements, and incidents related to the tenancy. Keeping records of emails, text messages, and notes from conversations can provide some evidence of the terms agreed upon and any breaches by the tenant. 

2. Negotiation and Mediation 

Before proceeding with eviction, landlords might explore negotiation or mediation with the tenant to resolve disputes amicably.  

3. Seeking Professional Advice 

Consulting with a legal professional can help landlords understand their rights and obligations under an oral lease and navigate the eviction process more effectively. Legal counsel can also assist in drafting a written lease agreement to replace the oral agreement, providing clarity and protection for both parties. 

talking to professional

    Tenancy at Will

    A tenancy at will offers a flexible arrangement for both landlord and tenant, usually in situations where a short-term occupation is needed, or while a more formal lease is being negotiated.  

    The flexibility of a tenancy at will is its most distinguishing feature, but this can also lead to uncertainty for both parties.  

    For landlords, this type of tenancy allows them to regain possession of their property relatively easily, which can be beneficial if they anticipate a need for the premises for future use or redevelopment. 

    The process of eviction in a tenancy at will differs significantly from those with fixed-term leases due to the inherent nature of the agreement. 

    Notice Requirement 

    Although a tenancy at will can technically be terminated immediately by the landlord, the common practice and often a legal requirement is to provide a reasonable notice period. This notice allows tenants time to vacate the premises voluntarily, reducing potential disputes.  

    The definition of “reasonable” can vary based on the agreement terms, the duration of the tenancy, and local laws, but typically ranges from a few days to several weeks. 

    Grounds for Eviction 

    Unlike fixed-term tenancies where specific grounds for eviction must be established (e.g., breach of lease terms), a tenancy at will can be terminated without cause.  

    However, landlords must still act in good faith and not use eviction as a means to discriminate unlawfully or retaliate against tenants. 

    receiving an eviction notice

    Legal and Ethical Considerations 

    Even though a tenancy at will provides a straightforward path to eviction, landlords are advised to provide clear communication about the intention to terminate the tenancy and ensure the return of any deposits or overpaid rent. 

    Acceptable Grounds for Commercial Eviction 

    For a landlord to lawfully evict a commercial tenant, there must be justifiable grounds. These are as follows: 

    Non-payment of Rent

    One of the most straightforward grounds for eviction is the non-payment of rent. If a tenant fails to pay the rent as stipulated in the lease agreement and does not rectify the situation within a given timeframe, the landlord has the right to initiate eviction proceedings.

    This ground is clear-cut and is often the most common reason for eviction notices being served. 

    Learn about our Commercial Rent Recovery Services 

    Breach of Lease Terms

    Aside from non-payment of rent, any breach of the terms outlined in the lease agreement can constitute grounds for eviction. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: 

    • Subletting or assigning the lease without permission: If the lease requires the landlord’s consent before the tenant can sublet the property or assign the lease to another party, doing so without such consent can lead to eviction. 
    • Improper use of the premises: Using the property for a purpose other than what is explicitly permitted in the lease agreement is a breach that can result in eviction.  
    • Failure to maintain the property: Most commercial leases require the tenant to keep the property in good repair. Failure to do so can be grounds for eviction, especially if it leads to significant deterioration of the property. 

    Landlord’s Intention to Use the Property

    Another ground for eviction is if the landlord intends to use the property themselves for their business operations or if they plan to redevelop the property.  

    redecorating a property

    In such cases, the landlord must provide evidence of their intent and follow the correct legal procedures to regain possession. 

    Expiry of the Lease

    The natural expiry of a fixed-term lease can also be grounds for eviction, assuming the lease does not have a renewal clause or if the landlord opposes the renewal under specific grounds provided in the Tenant Act 1954. 

    Legal Requirements for Eviction

    For a landlord to legally evict a commercial tenant on any of these grounds, they must follow a specific process, which includes: 

    • Serving a formal notice: The landlord must serve the tenant with a formal notice of eviction, detailing the grounds for the eviction and the timeframe in which the tenant must vacate the premises or remedy the breach if applicable. 
    • Obtaining a court order: If the tenant does not comply with the eviction notice, the landlord may need to obtain a court order to proceed with the eviction. This process ensures that both parties have the opportunity to present their case before a decision is made. 

    The Rights of the Tenant

    Tenants without a formal lease agreement are not devoid of rights.  

    The Tenant Act 1954 is a cornerstone of UK property law, offering protection to tenants of commercial properties by granting them the right to request a new lease at the end of their current tenancy.  

    This is known as “security of tenure.” The act is designed to balance the interests of commercial landlords and tenants, promoting fairness and stability in commercial tenancies. 

    Key Provisions of the Tenant Act 1954

    Security of Tenure

    One of the most significant aspects of the Tenant Act 1954 is that it provides tenants with the right to remain in their premises and request a new lease upon the expiration of their current one, under similar terms. This right is automatically provided unless specifically excluded by agreement. 

    Excluding Security of Tenure

    For a new commercial lease to be granted without the protection of security of tenure, both the landlord and tenant must agree to this explicitly before the lease begins. This is typically done through a formal procedure involving notices and declarations. 

    Grounds for Possession

    The act outlines specific grounds on which a landlord can oppose the granting of a new lease. These include breach of current lease terms, the landlord’s intention to redevelop the property, or the landlord’s desire to occupy the premises themselves. 

    Compensation for Tenants

    In cases where the landlord refuses to grant a new lease on certain grounds, the tenant may be entitled to compensation. This is particularly relevant when the tenant has invested in the business and will lose value due to the eviction. 

    2 people discussing terms

    Procedure for Lease Renewal and Termination

    The Tenant Act 1954 prescribes a detailed procedure for both landlords and tenants to follow when seeking to renew or terminate a lease. This includes serving specific notices within set time frames, and, if necessary, resolving disputes through arbitration or court proceedings. 

    Regaining the Property

    Regaining possession of a property from a tenant without a lease necessitates a careful approach, adhering strictly to legal protocols.  

    This includes serving the correct notices, possibly obtaining a court order, and ensuring any action taken does not constitute illegal eviction.  

    For more details on this, read our blog: “Commercial Tenant Eviction in the UK” 


    Evicting a commercial tenant without a formal lease agreement presents a labyrinth of legal challenges.  

    It’s imperative for landlords to understand their rights and obligations, as well as those of their tenants, to navigate this process successfully.  

    For those facing eviction scenarios, enforcement officers and bailiffs from Able Investigations offer expert services to assist in the lawful regaining of property, ensuring a smooth and compliant process. Contact us today to find out more. 

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