This was a question answered during a recent appeal case covered here by Tom Entwistle
In the Prempeh v Lakhany (Oct 2020) appeal the tenant claimed that a Section 8 notice was invalid because it did not contain the landlord’s address and signature.
This question was considered by the Court of Appeal in the Prempeh v Lakhany case when a landlord’s agent had served a Section 8 notice in respect of rent arrears.
A Section 8 notice to quit, or a section 8 possession notice, is so called because it operates under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, as amended.
The Section 8 notice is a breach of contract notice which, unlike a Section 21 notice, can be served during the fixed term of a residential tenancy in England. It is served on a tenant by a landlord wishing to regain possession of a property during an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST).
Once the Section 8 notice has been served and the notice period has expired, the landlord can apply to the court for a hearing (usually after 14 days) to get a possession order using the relevant form and by paying the court fees.
The landlord is then given a date to attend court, a first hearing, and must attend on this date. If the tenant has not filed a defence or does not attend court to challenge the claim, the court may make a possession order at the first hearing.
However, if the tenant does defend the claim, the court will issue directions at the first hearing which usually takes around 10 minutes and will then adjourn the claim until a further hearing for trial which is often months away, when the case will be heard in full.
If the possession order is granted then it takes effect fourteen days after it has been issued, although in some cases this may be extended to six weeks where it is deemed that the tenant will face serious hardship as a result of the repossession. There are then further delays waiting for a date when the bailiffs can evict.
There are now 19 grounds on which possession can be sought, 9 Mandatory grounds, which if proven the court must issue a possession order, and 10 discretionary which leaves the decision as to whether to issue a possession order in the hands of a judge.
Grounds for Possession
The Mandatory Grounds
Ground 1: landlord re-taking property as their own home
Ground 2: a mortgaged property repossessed by the lender
Ground 3: a holiday let
Ground 4: property tied to an educational institution
Ground 5: housing for a minister of religion
Ground 6: for refurbishment
Ground 7: death of the tenant
Ground 7A: tenant’s conviction for serious offence
Ground 7B: service on landlord of notice by Secretary of State in respect of illegal immigrants
Ground 8: rent arrears
The Discretionary Grounds
Ground 9: offered alternative accommodation
Ground 10: rent arrears
Ground 11: regular failure to pay rent
Ground 12: breach of other terms of the tenancy agreement
Ground 13: neglect of property
Ground 14: anti-social behaviour
Ground 14a: domestic violence
Ground 15: poor treatment of furnishings
Ground 16: tenancy tied to employment
Ground 17: tenant obtained tenancy by providing false statements
In the Prempeh v Lakhany case the Section 8 notice was signed by the landlord’s agent, not the landlord.
The notice did not refer to the landlord, Mrs Lakhany, by her name or her address. An accompanying covering letter supplied by the agent stated that they were acting on behalf of the landlord, Mrs Lakhany, but it did not give her address.
The main question for the Court of Appeal was, does it matter that a Section 8 notice does not contain the landlord’s own name and address and the landlord’s signature?
The tenant had claimed that as this was a ‘demand for rent’ that it should contains these as it must comply with section 47 of the Landlord & tenant Act 1987.
However, the Court of Appeal held that the government’s own prescribed form for a Section 8 notice does not require the landlord’s own name and address, in the case where it is signed by the landlord’s agent.
The Court found that there was no space on the prescribed form for additional information to be included and there were no instructions for the landlord’s details to be included.
This, it would seem, is good news for landlords and their agents as it removes the possibility of the tenants successfully challenging the validity of a section 8 notice based on previous legislation.
The ruling in this case applies to section 8 notices so there is no certainty yet that it applies to section 21 notices, thought one would think so.
Landlords serving both section 8 and section 21 notices are faced with the same difficulty: that is the prescribed forms do not leave much space for the landlord’s name and address to be inserted.
So, it is very likely that following the Prempeh appeal judgement another court could take the same view on section 21 notices.
An important point here though, is that had a covering letter not been supplied, identifying the landlord, the outcome may have been different, even though in most cases the tenant would be well aware of the details of the landlord.
It would seem sensible therefore that any notice served by an agent, be it section 21 or section 8, should contain the landlord’s details, name and address.