A guide on section 8

by | Oct 25, 2022

Introduction

When regulating tenancy agreements such as assured shorthold tenancy agreements, section 8 is a law of the housing act 1988 that protects landlords from troublesome tenants who do not follow the rules. This article will be discussing how section 8 is different from section 21 with guidance on how to serve a section 8 notice as a landlord.

What is Section 8?

Unlike section 21, the landlord has to give you a legal reason to evict you from the property under section 8. These reasons are:

  • Overdue or missed rent payments 
  • Causing significant damage to a property
  • Causing anti-social behaviour affecting neighbours or other tenants
  • Using the property for criminal activity or subletting

A section 8 notice will let the tenant know the landlord has plans to repossess the property and when the proceeding will begin. The date proceeding begins after two months of the date of the notice for section 8 if the tenant has a fixed term agreement but there is a range of lengths the notice lasts for based on the type of tenancy.

In extreme cases, under illegal or immoral use of a property, a landlord can repossess a property immediately on the same day as a section 8 notice is given.

Tenant being arrested and evicted after section 8

Is section 8 different from section 21?

Both sections 21 and 8 are sections of the laws used to evict tenants from a property. This is why they get confused. However, you must use them on different grounds. Section 8 is used when there is a clear fault on behalf of the tenant, not the landlord, section 21 is a “no-fault” eviction process where landlords can evict a tenant for no reason.

Why was section 8 introduced?

Section 8 was introduced to protect landlords from troublesome tenants. When a landlord and tenant sign a tenancy agreement, it is a legally binding agreement that states that both parties must agree to their half of the deal or face consequences. Issuing a section 8 is one of the legislations landlords can use to gain back their property from problematic tenants.

What to do when you receive a section 8 eviction?

As a tenant, if you receive a section 8 notice, it is likely you know roughly why. You may have rent arrears or have caused significant damage to your landlord’s property. In this case, you may be able to negotiate with your landlord to pay your rent arrears or correct any damage done to the property for them to withdraw a notice.

If negotiation isn’t a possibility for a tenant, the first thing a tenant should do is understand how much time they have to move out. This should be mentioned in the paper copy of the notice but there is a possibility the landlord has given less time than a tenant is eligible for.

There are currently 17 grounds in which a landlord can be evicted under section 8 and they all have different lengths of notice that must be given as a result. Find out what grounds apply to you as a tenant and click here to see if the notice period is correct.

In addition, a tenant must check if a landlord has given them the correct notice form for section 8. It should be a tenancy form 3. You can download it using the link from the government here

What is a section 8 notice?

There is a range of different types of notices used to evict tenants based on what type of section, the type of tenancy and various other factors. For example, see the range of forms available here for reference. These are known as assured tenancy forms.

The right form should be form 3 which refers to seeking possession of properties let under assured tenancies or agricultural occupancy. You should fill this form in and post it to the relevant tenant.

This form is important because as well as legal information it contains basic tenant advice. For example, if you have a tenant who doesn’t want to leave the property as they could face homelessness, there is advice given on how to contact a housing advice centre or the council and local authorities for support.

Tenant taking notes from a form 3A

It is important to not confuse the landlord and tenant act 1954 with the housing act 1988 as the tenant act 1954 doesn’t apply to assured tenancies and section 8.

How do I serve a Section 8 Notice as a landlord?

Section 8 notices can be served by the landlord or the property manager of a property and the process can be issued from a variety of different grounds.

What grounds can a landlord use?

There are 17 grounds which validate section 8 so a landlord can evict a tenant. Some of these grounds require the landlord to give a tenant 2 weeks to move out whereas some require up to two months. 

Grounds 1 – 8 refer to the mandatory grounds for repossession of property meaning the court will accept the reasons given by the landlord for eviction straight away. However, the rest of the grounds (9 – 17) are evaluated carefully. A landlord will present the grounds to the court and the court will decide.

A landlord can use multiple grounds to evict a tenant from a property too. If this is the case, any of the grounds in the 1 – 8 category produces a mandatory ground for eviction.

No matter how many grounds are used in the discretionary 9 – 17 category, the eviction will still have to be evaluated by the court and the granted permission.

Ground 8: rent arrears

Regarding rent arrears (ground 8), things can get complicated with knowing when a missed payment validates a section 8 as it has to be relative to the frequency with which a tenant pays rent. This is the most complicated and the most common ground for eviction. Here are the categories:

  • If rent is paid on a fortnightly or weekly basis and at least eight weeks of rent is due, 
  • For monthly payments of rent, at least two months’ worth of rent must be due. 
  • If rent is paid every quarter, rent must be more than a quarter overdue. 
  • in the rare cases where rent is paid every year, three months’ worth of rent must be overdue by at least a quarter

Can a landlord evict a tenant using section 8?

With the correct evidence to validate section 8, a landlord can evict a tenant using any of the grounds listed under section 8. For all of these grounds click here to go to the government website and find Annex B of the agreement if you are evicting a tenant in Wales as the notice periods slightly differ.

What are some restrictions on serving a section 8 notice?

Scenarios, where section 8 evictions can be restricted, may not be initially obvious to landlords or tenants. Here is a list of the most common reasons a section 8 can be invalid even if a tenant is clearly not agreeing to the terms of their tenancy:

  • Section 8 can only be applied to an assured or assured shorthold tenancy agreement
  • A landlord uses a discretionary ground (grounds 9 – 17) of section 8
  • There isn’t enough of a notice period given to tenants to move out
  • A tenant has rent arrears but the arrears aren’t that considerable for ground 8
Landlord calculating the correct notice period

How to continue if a tenant hasn’t moved out after section 8?

This is a challenging scenario for most landlords. In a perfect world, tenants would just move out when told and find somewhere else to live. However, sometimes a tenant may be homeless otherwise, disagrees with a landlord’s decision or simply wants to push their luck.

So, what does a landlord do? Here are five steps to evicting a tenant if they refuse to leave.

How to evict a tenant under section 8 step by step

Throughout this process, despite the amount of money a tenant may be costing a landlord, it is important to remain calm and follow the process of eviction through court.

Step 1: Maintain a good relationship with tenants

As a landlord, one of the most underestimated things you can do to stay away from section 8 notices and alleviate the stress associated with them is to stay on good terms with your tenant.

This may be easier said than done but ways a landlord can do this include staying on top of repairs and any reasonable requests made to you by the tenant. This means you’ll be able to keep up your end of the bargain and inspire good behaviour to your tenants too.

Tenants are far less likely to miss a rental payment or come to an agreement about rental arrears if they associate the property they’re living with respect and look after it because they show courtesy to the landlord. 

Step 2: Send tenant a notice

In order to repossess a property in the right way, the first step would be to issue a notice using form 3 downloadable here. This has to be sent through the tenant’s address at the property a landlord wishes to repossess and can also be sent digitally too.

Depending on the tenancy and a series of grounds you have to check out for yourself on the government website, it is necessary to give your tenants 2 weeks to 2 months notice for them to move out. In some cases, such as where tenants are using the property for illegal issues, landlords have the right to repossess the property on the same day the notice is given.

It is vital you research how long this is on a case-by-case basis as failure to give enough time could result in a delay in eviction. For government guidance on filling out form 3, click here.

Step 3: Make a possession claim

After a tenant doesn’t leave by the date specified in the notice, the next step would be to start a possession order. You can make an online claim and track the whole process online here.

It will cost £355 to issue a claim. As well as this, a landlord will need to provide rent history for the past two years if claiming possession for rent arrears.

Afterwards, the court will send a copy of the application to the tenant’s address and the landlord’s. The tenant may choose to challenge the claim in which case the landlord will be informed with a copy of the defence and the date of a court hearing.

Court order letter from repossession hearing

Step 4: Prepare for the hearing

At the end of the court hearing, a decision will be made on the outcome of the property so it is important a landlord prepares for it. Familiarise yourself with the grounds on which a tenant had validated a section 8 notice and send the court all the evidence and notices submitted two weeks before the date of the hearing. 

You should also let the court know if you have any requirements such as disability access or a translator.

Step 5: Possession order

On the day, even though you have sent evidence electronically, bring as much physical evidence as you can. After the hearing, it is not guaranteed for the judge to come to a decision on the same day.

A claim can be moved to a later date or a judge can also give a tenant certain conditions if they remain in the property. However, if you are evicting a tenant under a mandatory ground (1 – 8), a judge will usually issue an outright possession order very quickly. Ruling the tenant to leave within 2 to 4 weeks.

Step 5: Warrants and Bailiffs

Unfortunately, even if a landlord wins their case, a tenant may still not leave the property and a tenant will have to ask the court for a warrant for possession which will cost £130. This will involve a date being sent to both the landlord and tenant for the repossession of the premises.

Before this date, a bailiff may ask a landlord to fill out a risk assessment form so they know what to expect when they arrive at the property. You can find this form here.

Section 8 as a tenant

If you have received a section 8 as a tenant and are willing to negotiate with your landlord, more often than not a landlord will be understanding as just replacing a tenant can be more headache than it’s worth. Especially if it is the first time a tenant has missed a rental payment and they are sure it won’t be a common occurrence. 

However, constantly missing rent payments or being a nuisance as a tenant will likely cause them to evict you eventually. If a tenant is able to get this section 8 withdrawal confirmation, it is important a tenant asks for a letter in writing signed by the landlord confirming they agreed to withdraw their section 8. 

When can you get a section 8 notice?

In reality, a tenant can receive a section 8 notice at any time. This is why it’s vital a tenant knows the law surrounding section 8 and whether it is actually valid. It could be the case that a tenant has been issued a section 8 under the right circumstances but the notice period they have been given is too short.

Or it could be the tenant has a change of landlord and hasn’t been issued a section 11 but they confuse the section of the law. There are so many sections a tenant could be issued with it can get hard to keep up. This includes section 13, related to rent increase or even section 3, relating to a change of landlord.

House with tenant being evicted under section 8

How much notice will you get?

The amount of notice a tenant gets depends on the leniency of the landlord, but by law, depending on the tenancy agreement. A landlord can evict a tenant from the same day of the notice to up to one month after the notice is served in a fixed-term tenancy agreement.

Has your landlord given you section 8 correctly?

There could be reasons why a landlord issues a section 8 but the notice is given to the tenant incorrectly and hence interpreted as invalid. For example, a tenant must be in an assured shorthold tenancy agreement or an assured tenancy. This is because these tenancies are included in the housing act of 1988 just like section 8.

In addition, if both landlord and tenant have broken the terms of the rental agreement. For example, if a landlord hasn’t complied with the building safety fund and has not issued a valid cp12 gas safety check, unlike section 21, there is nothing a tenant can do about it as a mandatory ground for eviction like rent arrears is always is seen as worse. Section 8 is different to section 21 in this way.

In conclusion

To conclude, section 8 and section 21 are both parts of the law that deal with evicting tenants but it is clear that section 8 is used for situations where the landlord has a troublesome tenant and the law must be used in more exceptional circumstances.

This attitude towards section 8 is reflected in legislation because unlike section 21, the act isn’t set to be abolished anytime soon. Overall, most landlords will likely have to use a section notice at some point even if it’s something they don’t want to do.