People often rent out their home when working abroad or going on extended travel, and they would naturally expect to return to live in their own on return. However, tenants are entitled to security of tenure for their contracted term – safe in the knowledge that they can stay in the property for the length of their contract.
Ground One (Housing Act 1988 Section 8 Schedule 2) allows a landlord to regain possession, but it is a prior notice ground, which means the tenant must have been given a notice informing them that Ground One applies, BEFORE the start of the tenancy. And as the landlord may be asked for proof that this notice was given, if Ground One is to be invoked, it is prudent to get a signed statement from the tenant to say that they have received and understood the notice.
Ground One is one of the “Mandatory” grounds under schedule 2, which means the judge, unlike with the discretionary grounds, must issue a possession order providing the prior conditions are met. As with all the other grounds under section 2, a notice must be served on the tenant, prior to applying to the court, setting out the reason/s for the possession claim in the exact wording as stated in the Act.
In the Particulars of Claim, a landlord using repossession grounds under section 8 must always ensure that they do more than simply state “ground 1”, for example. They must specify the full text of the ground relied upon. In two previous court cases where the grounds were stated rather than specified, the claims for possession were dismissed. Landlords and agents should carefully follow the requirements of Practice Direction Part 55 under the Civil Procedure rules when making a possession claim.
In fact under certain unusual circumstances the court has the power to dispense with a Ground One notice altogether, meaning it has the discretion to dispense with the requirement on the landlord to issue a valid notice seeking possession “if it is just and equitable to do so”.
The advantage of relying on Section 8 Ground One, as opposed to Section 21, is that the notice period is much shorter, 2 weeks as opposed to 2 months, though the court wait may be just as long.
The Section 21 possession process of course is due to be rescinded, but this is not likely to occur for a couple of years, and it will not likely apply to existing tenancies.
There are in fact two instances where Ground One may be used: when returning to a property which, before it was rented out, was the landlord’s main residence, and secondly, Ground One can be used even if the landlord never lived at the property before providing it can be shown that the landlord intends to live there afterwards. The relevant legal text spells out the rules here:
Grounds on which Court must order possession
Not later than the beginning of the tenancy the landlord gave notice in writing to the tenant that possession might be recovered on this ground or the court is of the opinion that it is just and equitable to dispense with the requirement of notice and (in either case) —
(a) at some time before the beginning of the tenancy, the landlord who is seeking possession or, in the case of joint landlords seeking possession, at least one of them occupied the dwelling-house as his only or principal home; or
(b) the landlord who is seeking possession or, in the case of joint landlords seeking possession, at least one of them requires the dwelling-house as his, his spouse’s or his civil partner’s only or principal home and neither the landlord (or, in the case of joint landlords, any one of them) nor any other person who, as landlord, derived title under the landlord who gave the notice mentioned above acquired the reversion on the tenancy for money or money’s worth.