A 'section 8 notice to quit', also known as a 'section 8 possession notice', is so called because it operates under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. A section 8 notice is different from the more common section 21 notice to quit in that is served on the tenant by a landlord wishing to regain possession of a property during the fixed term of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). A section 21 notice can only be used for regaining possession at the end of a tenancy agreement.
A section 8 notice can only be issued to a tenant who has breached the terms laid out in the tenancy agreement and if certain conditions have been met, the most common being one involving rent arrears. The Housing Act 1988 provides 17 grounds on which a landlord may seek possession before the fixed term of tenancy has finished.
The landlord cannot evict the tenant without first obtaining an order for possession from a court. Before applying to the court for such an order, the landlord must serve a Section 8 notice to quit on the tenant. The notice states that the landlord intends to seek possession of the property and states the ground or grounds on which possession is sought.
The notice must be laid out in a prescribed format and must specify which grounds the landlord intends to use to gain possession and the landlord's reasons for relying on those particular grounds. Any error made when issuing the section 8 notice is likely to delay the landlord gaining possession.
Grounds for issuing a Section 8 notice to quit
Under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 there are 17 separate grounds on which a landlord can seek possession of a property.
For ground 2 the landlord must give two months' notice. For grounds 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14A, 15 and 17 they can give just two weeks' notice.
Notice must be given in the prescribed manner in a section 8 notice. This is important because any errors the landlord makes when serving the section 8 notice is likely to lead to serious delays.
Grounds involving rent arrears
The most common reason for issuing a section 8 notice to quit is rent arrears and this is covered in grounds 8, 10 and 11.
Rent is unpaid when the notice seeking possession is served, and at the time of the hearing for a Possession Order:
Rent is paid weekly or fortnightly and at least eight weeks' rent is owed.
Rent is paid monthly and at least two months' rent is owed.
Rent is paid quarterly and at least one quarter's rent is more than three months overdue.
Rent is paid yearly and at least three months' rent is more than three months overdue.
Rent which is lawfully due to the landlord has not been paid by the time the possession proceedings are started and was owed at the time the Notice seeking possession was served.
If a landlord has been offered money for rent by the tenant but has refused to take it, the tenant will have a defence in the possession proceedings.
The tenant has failed repeatedly to pay rent on time. There don't have to be rent arrears at the time possession proceedings started.
If the landlord is issuing the section 8 notice on the grounds of rent arrears, if possible he should include ground 8 in the grounds he relies upon, as this is the only ground covering rent arrears that is mandatory. This means that if the landlord can prove that this ground applies, the court will grant a possession order
Nevertheless it is recommended that landlords make use of all the grounds that apply, as they will all help the court in making their decision on whether to grant a possession order.
Grounds for issuing a Section 8 notice other than rent arrears
If any of the following grounds apply a landlord can apply to a court for possession after issuing a section 8 notice to quit upon the tenant.
The property is subject to a mortgage which pre-dates the tenancy and the mortgagees are repossessing the property to enforce the charge. Written notice should be given before or at the time the tenancy begins that possession may be required under this ground.
The Tenant has breached any term of the tenancy agreement (other than the ones relating to the payment of rent).
The property has deteriorated due to neglect by the tenant or by someone living with the tenant and the tenant has failed to remove that person.
The tenant or someone living with or visiting the tenant is causing or is likely to cause a nuisance to neighbours or visitors to the area, or has been convicted of using the property for immoral or illegal purposes, or has been convicted of an offence in the local area.
Note that this ground is only open to registered social landlords or charitable housing trusts and can not be used by private landlords.
The property is occupied by a couple, one of them being a tenant and one of them has left due to violence or threats of violence from the other partner or from a member of that partner's family who is also living in the property.
Furniture at the property has deteriorated because the tenant or someone living with has neglected the furniture and the tenant has failed to remove that person.
The tenant, one of the tenants, or a person acting on behalf of the tenant has given false information to the landlord which resulted in the landlord granting the tenant the tenancy.
When issuing a section 8 notice to quit on a tenant it is advisable to make use of all grounds that apply. This is because not only are certain grounds considered only at the court's discretion, but also certain grounds are often hard to substantiate.
Does a Section 8 notice to quit guarantee a possession order?
Issuing a section 8 notice to quit on a tenant does not guarantee that the court will grant a possession order. It depends largely on which grounds are relied upon as well as the strength of the the landlord’s argument.
Grounds 2 and 8 of a section 8 notice are mandatory, meaning that if a landlord relies on one of these grounds and can prove to the court that one of them applies, then the court will have no choice but to issue the landlord with a possession order.
Grounds 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14A, 15 and 17 are discretionary, meaning that the court will not necessarily rule in the landlord's favour even if he can prove that one of the grounds applies. In these cases it is at the court's discretion whether to grant a landlord a possession order. They will weigh up the facts and make a decision based on what they see as fair and reasonable.
If a court is satisfied that a landlord is entitled to possession on one of the grounds, then the court will grant a possession order to take effect within 14 days. It is possible that this will be extended to six weeks if it will cause the tenant to experience exceptional hardship.
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Compiled from Tenancy Agreement Service