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Repossessing property - section 8 notices

This information only applies in England and Wales.

If you are a landlord and want to get possession of your property because the tenant has not paid rent, has damaged the property without repairing it, or does not have the right to rent as a result of their immigration status, you must serve this notice before making an application to the Court.

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This is a notice from a landlord to a tenant informing the tenant that the landlord wants possession of the property and will be applying to the Court for an Order for Possession.

The notice must be served during the fixed term of the assured shorthold tenancy. The notice must be served by the means outlined in the tenancy agreement (ie served in person, through the property letter box or by mail).

The landlord may want to end the tenancy early if:

  • the tenant has not paid the rent and remains at the property
  • the tenant has caused damage to the property and they haven't repaired it even after they have been notified by the landlord to do so
  • the tenant is not allowed to live in the UK

A section 8 notice must be served on the tenant before you can obtain a Possession Order from Court to bring the tenancy to an end.

You can only end the tenancy for one or more of the reasons listed in the Housing Act 1988.

There are 17 grounds in total but most landlords want to end the tenancy because the tenant has stopped paying rent and is still at the property or because they have damaged the property without repairing it.

For non-payment of rent the grounds to rely upon are Grounds 8, 10 and 11.

Ground 8

Ground 8 is a mandatory ground and the Court must make a possession order in 14 days (note that this period has been extended in Wales depending on the circumstances of the situation until 31 December 2021, for more information see the section ‘What does the Coronavirus Act 2020 mean for me?’ below) provided it is satisfied that when the notice is served and at the time of the hearing there are:

  • at least eight weeks of arrears, where rent is payable weekly or every two weeks
  • at least two months of arrears, where rent is payable monthly
  • more than three months in arrears, where rent is payable every three months
  • more than three months in arrears, where rent is payable yearly

Grounds 10 & 11

Other grounds for rent arrears are Grounds 10 and 11 but the court does not have to grant an order. However, these grounds should always be included as a fall back.

  • Ground 10 applies if the rent is unpaid when the section 8 notice is served and has not been paid by the start of the possession proceedings.
  • Ground 11 applies if the tenant has regularly been late at paying the rent whether or not the tenant is actually in arrears.

Ground 13

Ground 13 can be used as a ground for repossession if the tenant has damaged the property. Under Ground 13 damage to property includes damage to any common areas to which the tenant has access in the building of their property. Also, a tenant will be deemed to have damaged the property where they allow someone living with them, eg a sub-tenant to cause damage.

Ground 7B

Ground 7B can be used as a ground for repossession in England where only some occupants are disqualified due to their immigration status. For further information on evicting tenants and immigration, read Ending a tenancy due to immigration status.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, the notice period required for section 8 eviction notices has increased.

From 24 July 2020 until 31 December 2021, landlords in Wales only will need to give their tenants at least 6 months’ notice unless in extreme circumstances (eg anti-social behaviour).

Please note that these periods can be extended by the Government.

For more information, read the government guidance.

Under the Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space), which came into force on 4 May 2021, qualifying tenants can apply for a set breathing space period to find a solution to their debt issues (eg rent arrears) and seek professional debt advice. There are two types of Breathing Space:

  • Standard Breathing Space – which is available to anyone struggling to repay their debt and provides tenants a breathing space of 60 days.

  • Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space – which is available to anyone struggling to repay their debt who is receiving treatment for mental health issues and provides a Breathing Space for the duration of the tenant’s mental health crisis treatment, plus an additional 30 days (regardless of how long the crisis treatment lasts).

During this Breathing Space, debtors will not face most enforcement actions. Most interest and charges on their debts will also be frozen. 

Where a tenant is granted such Breathing Space, the landlord is banned from serving a Section 8 notice, seeking repayment or seeking a possession order of the property during the time the protections are in place for the tenant. 

Once the Breathing Space ends, tenants will need to repay the rent owed to the landlord, in addition to any interest, fees, penalties or charges due on the rent. Such interest, fees, penalties or charges can be applied to the debt from the day the Breathing Space ends. They can only be backdated and applied to the debt during the Breathing Space if a court allows it. 

For more information, see here.

Once completed the Section 8 notice must be served on the tenant personally or by post sent with recorded delivery.

Once the tenant receives the notice, the landlord must wait until the date specified in the notice has expired. If the tenant is still in arrears by this point, the landlord may apply to the Court for an Order for possession. This is done by filing Form N5 and Form N119 with the court. If the landlord is seeking possession only on Grounds 8, 10 or 11 they can submit their court application online using the government's Possession Claim Online service.

Court

Once the court has approved the landlord's application, they will usually send the tenant a:

  • copy of the landlord's claim form and particulars 

  • defence form

This will give the tenant a chance to defend the claim. The tenant typically has 14 days to:

  • give the court an explanation of their situation

  • provide reasons why they should be allowed to stay in the property

  • say that information from the landlord is wrong 

The court will then decide whether to issue a possession order or if a hearing is required (eg because the tenant raised an important issue, the paperwork isn’t in order or evidence from both parties is needed).

Where a hearing is required, the court will fix a date and time for the first hearing and notify all parties. How soon the first hearing will be depends a lot on how busy the local courts are. However, it is usually 6 to 8 weeks.

In a possession claim (unlike other claims) if a defendant does not file a defence, this does not mean the landlord automatically ‘wins’. However, the court can take that failure into account when deciding what to do.

At the hearing, the court may: 

  • dismiss the case (ie the hearing will end and no order will be made, typically because the court finds that there is no reason to evict the tenant or the landlord has not followed the correct process) 

  • adjourn the hearing (ie move the hearing to a later date, usually because the judge believes that a decision can’t be reached that day)

  • make an order (ie make a decision regarding what should happen)

Note that if the case is dismissed by the court, the tenant will be allowed to remain in the property. If the landlord still wishes to evict them, they must restart the court process.

Possession Order

When the court issues a possession order the tenant must leave the property by the date given in the court order. The possession date is usually 14 days after the date the court makes the order. If the tenant refuses to leave by that date then the landlord must apply to the court for a warrant of possession by completing Form N325 and the court will send a bailiff to evict the tenant.

If you need help with sending your section 8 notice or applying to the court, Ask a lawyer.

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