Section 8 notices can be very complex, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, we have developed an article to ensure that landlords in England and Wales serve section 8 notices correctly.
What is a Section 8 Notice?
A section 8 notice is simply a form of eviction notice. It is served by landlords to inform tenants that they intend to terminate an assured shorthold tenancy agreement. Landlords use the section 8 eviction when a tenant has either breached the agreement or has slipped into rent arrears.
Under the Housing Act 1988, a landlord can legally take possession of a property. They can issue a Section 8 notice when a tenant breaches specific grounds of their tenancy agreement. The process can take time and the court may stop an eviction if the section 8 eviction notice is not served correctly.
A landlord cannot issue a section 8 simply because they change their mind about renting to a particular tenant or decides to move into the property themselves.
When can a landlord serve a Section 8 Notice?
A landlord can serve a section 8 eviction notice at any time during an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, but only if there is a legal ground for eviction.
The most common grounds for serving a section 8 eviction notice include:
- The tenant has breached the terms of the tenancy agreement.
- The tenant has fallen into rent arrears of at least two months or more (i.e. if the rent is £1000, then the rent arrears must be at least £2,000).
- A tenant has been convicted of a crime involving the use of the property for illegal activities.
- Either the tenant or someone living with them has caused damage to the property through their own negligence.
- The tenant has used a false identity to acquire the tenancy agreement.
Depending on the grounds for eviction, a section 8 eviction notice can be served on a tenant for a period of 2 weeks, 4 weeks or 2 months. After this notice period, a tenant will be asked to leave the property.
How much notice do I need to give when serving a section 8 eviction notice?
A landlord must ensure that the reason they are evicting a tenant aligns with one of the 17 grounds for eviction. The 17 grounds all require different notice periods and are categorised into either mandatory or discretionary grounds.
If the landlord’s application to the courts meets a mandatory ground, the court will grant an order for possession. Alternatively, if the application meets a discretionary ground, the court may grant an order for possession if reasonable.
How to apply for a section 8 notice?
To acquire a section 8 notice, a landlord will need to correctly fill out a “Form 3: notice seeking possession of a property let assured tenancy form” and serve it to the tenant. The landlord must ensure the notice outlines that they intend to bring possession proceedings on the ground/s documented in the notice. Furthermore, the notice must inform the tenants that the proceedings will not begin before the date stated in the notice. After being served, the tenant must leave the property before the notice expires or rectify the breach (if possible).
Before serving a notice, a landlord should take every opportunity to remind the tenant/s that they’re in breach of the tenancy agreement by sending them reminder emails and letters regularly.
How to serve a section 8 eviction notice?
A landlord must follow the correct legal process when serving a section 8 notice form. When serving the section 8 eviction notice, the landlord must have proof of delivery (an example of this may be using a witness or screenshotting an email).
The most common methods a landlord serves notice includes:
- Email – When a landlord serves via email, it will become active on the same day if sent before 4.30 pm on a working day. If sent after, it will initiate the following working day.
- Process Server – A process server is a professional service used to serve legal notices. This method provides proof of service and can be used in court.
- Personal Delivery – A landlord may decide to deliver the notice in person to the tenant. This is done by the landlord giving the tenant an envelope addressed to them at the property.
If the tenant’s rent arrears history is complex, it may be helpful for landlord to provide the tenant which a schedule of arrears to present precisely how the arrears have been calculated.
Once the letter is sent, a landlord can start gaining possession of a property and may submit a claim to have the rent arrears paid. The notice should be served on the tenant by the means documented in the tenancy agreement. Furthermore, a copy of the notice should be sent to any guarantors, even if they are not named defendants.
The tenants must sign and send back a copy of the section 8 notice. The landlord should keep a copy of the notice, along with evidence of the date and method of service. Furthermore, the landlord should keep a copy of the name of the person who served it and any witnesses.
Who should the Section 8 Notice be addressed to?
A landlord must include all the names of the tenants in the section 8 eviction notice. Furthermore, even if tenants have moved out of the property, they should still be named in the section 8 eviction notice if they were previously named on the tenancy agreement.
A landlord needs to include all the essential information in the section 8 eviction notice as it’s not uncommon for mistakes to arise, which often lead to the notice being rejected by the courts. Common mistakes include:
- Failure to use the most up-to-date section 8 eviction notice form.
- Failure to list every tenant in cases of joint tenancy.
- A landlord failing to state the grounds correctly.
Seeking legal advice from a peoperty lawyer is one of the best methods used to avoid mistakes when serving a section 8 eviction notice.
What happens after a Section 8 notice has been served?
After a landlord has served section 8 and the tenant has not rectified their issues or vacated the property in the set time frame, a landlord must apply for a court order for possession. A court order for possession states that a tenant must vacate the property by a specific date.
For a landlord to acquire a court order for possession, they must provide evidence in court. The evidence must prove that the tenant has broken one of the specific grounds.
Order for possession under a mandatory ground
If a landlord proves the order of possession under a mandatory ground, the court must make an order for possession. The court will usually allow the teant/s 14 days to vacate the property. However, the court can extend this period to 6 weeks in cases of exceptional hardship.
Order for possession under a discretionary ground
A court can make an order for possession if it is considered reasonable to do so if a landlord successfully proves a chosen ground. The court can grant an order for possession, usually within 14 days.
However, they may decide to suspend the possession order for a sustained period. Alternatively, they may postpone the date of possession if the tenant is exposed to hardship if evicted on short notice. Furthermore, in some circumstances, the court may suspend or delay the order for possession. This is to give the tenant time to remedy the breach if possible.