With the likelihood of Section 21 evictions being abolished all eyes are on the 17 grounds for possession under the existing Section 8 procedure.
In the near future these are to be the main tools landlords will use to evict tenants who don'�t pay the rent.
As it currently stands there are eight mandatory grounds and nine discretionary grounds of which 8,10 and 11 are the most commonly-used for rent arrears.
But only one of these is mandatory so if we are looking to evict on the grounds of rent arrears, our tenant needs to be two months behind when we serve this notice.
And once notice is served it'�s likely the landlord will kiss goodbye to any more rent payments, which means there is a risk of big arrears by the time you reach a possession hearing.
Still, at least a mandatory ground guarantees possession. Or does it?
I spoke to a landlord recently who had not been granted possession despite following this process to the letter.
The tenant had been paying their rent erratically for three years and after multiple failed payment plans and promises, the landlord finally decided that it was time to serve notice to avoid the debt snowballing.
He also had a very good tenant in another property but it was losing money so he realised that evicting the first tenant would kill two birds with one stone; the second tenant could move into the first property.
The agent served the Section 8 notice and papers were hand delivered to court on 23rd December 2022 seeking mandatory possession of the property. The hearing date was scheduled for 7th February 2023.
The rent arrears tenant did not submit any defence in advance of the hearing and brought no evidence of their claims to the hearing.
Following a brief hearing, the judge exercised their discretion to ignore the '�mandatory'� aspect of statutory law, and instead ordered a suspended possession order.
This means that while there is a legal requirement for the tenant to pay the rent plus a contribution towards the arrears each month, they can stay in the property; possession was not granted.
To add insult to injury, the judge also only awarded half of the landlord'�s costs.
This is a worrying outcome. Landlords are a service provider and most strive to provide the best service and work hard at developing good relationships with their tenants.
These negative experiences only serve to harden the heart, meaning that many landlords will be less inclined to be patient with defaulting tenants in the future.
This is, of course, a business with contractual responsibilities on both sides. But the compassion element, certainly in this instance, was diminished by the actions of the judge.
When the government abolishes Section 21 their idea of a "robust alternative" needs to be demonstrated, as even a statutory statement of the "grounds on which courts must order possession" can be ignored if the judge is so minded. As this case proved.