What is a Section 8 notice and how should one be used?

What is a section 8 notice?

A section 8 notice, or section 8 possession notice, is a termination of an assured tenancy, served when a landlord intends to regain possession of their property with authority. According to the The Housing Act 1988 the landlord can only issue the notice when certain criteria has been breached.

These criteria define very limited circumstances in which section 8 notices can be used. The tenant must have demonstrably breached the tenancy agreement, for example by failing to pay their rent. Section 8 notices cannot be issued simply because the landlord changes their mind about the tenant or wishes to move into the property themselves. The Housing Act 1988 outlines the circumstances in which this tool can be used very precisely.

When you can issue a Section 8 notice

According to the Act, a landlord can issue a Section 8 notice if one or more of 17 set criteria have been met. The most common of these is a failure on the part of the tenant to make their rent payments. Broadly speaking, a Section 8 notice can be issued on these grounds if the tenant is either currently behind with their rent payments, or has a pattern of non-payment.

The time at which a notice can be served will depend on your rent arrangements:

  • If rent is paid weekly or fortnightly, the tenant must owe at least eight weeks’ rent
  • If rent is paid monthly, the tenant must owe at least two months’ rent
  • If rent is paid quarterly (which is common in commercial properties), at least one month’s rent must be overdue by at least a quarter
  • If rent is paid annually, at least one quarter’s rent must be at least one quarter overdue.

When a tenant is not in arrears

There are several circumstances in which a Section 8 notice can be issued even if the tenant is up to date with their rent. You should remember that you will require relevant proof in the event that the case goes to court – which is very likely unless you are able to reach an agreement with the tenant.

The main grounds for issuing a Section 8 notice when the tenant is not in arrears are:

Ground 2: The house is being repossessed by the mortgage lender. This only applies to mortgages that were in existence before the start of the tenancy. The landlord is required to have advised the tenant of this possibility before the tenancy began.

Ground 12: The tenancy agreement has been breached by the tenant. This only applies to clauses in the tenancy agreement that do not relate to rent payments.

Ground 13: The tenant has caused damage to the property through their own neglect, or through the actions of someone living with them.

Ground 14: The tenant has received a conviction because the property has been used for illegal activities. Ground 14 also applies if it can be shown that the tenant is causing a nuisance to neighbours.

Ground 17: The tenant has been found to have given false information when entering into the tenancy.

Differences between Section 8 and Section 21

Section 8 notices are similar to another legal tool, known as a Section 21 notice. A Section 8 notice can be issued during an Assured Shorthold Tenancy – the most common type of residential tenancy agreement. Section 21 notices, on the other hand, can only be issued at the end of a tenancy – for example if the tenant has refused to leave the property after the term of the tenancy has expired.

The notices take their names from the relevant Sections of the Housing Act 1988 – a document of which landlords should have a good working knowledge.

How to issue a Section 8 notice

Section 8 notices can only be issued on standard forms prescribed by the courts. These can be obtained from legal stationers. You will need at least three copies for each notice.

There are a number of common mistakes that are likely to lead to your submission being rejected by the court. These include:

  • Failure to use the most up-to-date form
  • Failure to give the full and proper address of the property on the form
  • Failure to list every tenant in cases of joint tenancy
  • Failure to provide details of the claim; for example, a payment schedule showing which payments have been missed
  • Failure to state the grounds exactly as they appear in the Housing Act.

A Section 8 notice can be served on a tenant either in person or by post. If you intend to serve it by post, make sure that you choose a method that offers proof of postage. Serving in person is generally more efficient, as the tenant cannot claim not to have received the document. As long as you have a witness, you can put the document in the tenant’s letterbox.

It is important to remember that Section 8 notices must be completed and served according to strict legal guidelines. If in doubt you should always consult a lawyer or solicitor first.

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