The official title of a Section 8 is Notice Seeking Possession (under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988) and it used by landlords in England and Wales when they want to evict tenants who are in rent arrears.
In order for a Section 8 eviction notice to be served validly, rent must be in arrears for at least two months (or 8 weeks if rent is paid on a weekly basis). It is calculated in one of two ways.
1. If a tenant pays his rent on the first day of the month and he does not do so, then the rent is viewed as being in a month’s arrears the day after it is due.
2. If a tenant is continually underpaying and the total shortfall is equivalent to two months’ rent.
Upon serving a Section 8 notice, the landlord effectively gives the tenant a minimum of 14 days’ notice before court proceedings are issued (although many allow a bit longer, especially if the notice was not given by hand).
If I am a landlord
Before taking any action, it is always advisable to try to avoid court proceedings by taking every opportunity to remind the tenant that they are in arrears. Staged reminder letters at 7 days, 14 days, and 21 days are a good way to go about this. However, if this still does not elicit payment, you may have to consider a Section 8 eviction notice.
When completing the Section 8 eviction notice, all tenants should be named in the notice with their addresses given as the one in the tenancy agreement (even if they have subsequently moved out).
Note – Each tenant should receive their copy of the notice individually.
A copy of the notice should also be sent to any guarantors, although they are not a named defendant.
If the rent arrears history is extensive or complex, it may be useful to give the tenant a schedule of rent arrears, providing them with a detailed breakdown of the final figure.
Once it has been served, you will have to wait until the expiry date of the notice until you can issue proceedings in court. This is usually a minimum of 14 days of the date of the notice if given by hand, or with several days added on if posted (note if you do send it in the post, ensure you get ‘proof of postage’ from the post office).
The tenant should sign a copy and return it to you – ensure you keep a copy of the notice you send to them!
When completing the applying for the notice, the form should be in the prescribed format and the particular grounds for which you are seeking possession (there are 18 grounds on which you can apply for possession as listed in the Housing Act).
Results of a Section 8 Eviction Notice
The result of a Section 8 Eviction Notice can be either a possession order and/or a money order.
If a tenant pays any amount before the hearing that means they are no longer two months in arrears, the judge may grant a suspended possession order, allowing the tenant time to comply with the terms of the suspension.
Note: When a tenant has abandoned the property, attempting to re-enter, change the locks or re-let the property is not advisable – you could possibly face criminal and civil charges if the tenant returns. Serving a section 8 eviction notice and then obtaining a possession order is the correct and safe procedure to go through that protects you and your property.
It’s also worth exploring other options too. The section 8 eviction notice, whilst potentially quicker, can be more problematic than other methods such as a section 21 eviction notice. When serving a section 21, you do not have to justify the eviction notice on any particular ground. Additionally, grounds for a section 8 notice can be defended by the tenant whereas a section 21 eviction notice cannot.
However, a section 21 notice cannot break a fixed-term tenancy agreement the way a section 8 notice can. It is always worth considering the option of letting the fixed-term contract run its course and serving them a section 21 notice two months before the end to ensure you have given them sufficient notice.
This article was written by Beth Davies, an advisor at PropertyReclaim.com. Property Reclaim are specialists in repossession and in landlord and tenant services; as a law firm, they are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.