Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 is the notice you need to serve if your tenant has done something wrong. The most usual form of 'wrong-doing' on the part of the tenant is non-payment of rent, but Section 8 can also be served if the tenant causes damage to your property or has breached their tenancy agreement in some other way.
Section 8 grounds for possession
There are two types of grounds for possession, mandatory grounds and discretionary grounds.
Mandatory grounds, if proved to be valid will result in the tenant being evicted from your property. Discretionary grounds even if proved in your favour are still at the discretion of the court, so the tenant may not be evicted. Therefore, if you can provide at least one mandatory ground, then your tenant should be ordered to vacate. If you cannot find a mandatory ground, then try to find at least two discretionary grounds, and make sure you can prove the tenant has breached the agreement, and have evidence to this effect. Otherwise, you are just wasting time - and money; court fees are expensive.
Aside from the grounds of possession listed below, there is one other reason you can use to seek possession of the property. If you can clearly show that the tenant is no longer using the property as their primary residence then this can be an overriding reason to seek possession.
A Section 8 Notice must be served prior to any hearing in court for possession of the property. To download a free section 8 notice, follow the link at the bottom of this page.
Mandatory grounds for possession:
Ground 1 - If you or your spouse has previously occupied the property as your primary residence in the past, and want to move back in then you can use Ground 1 to do so. However, you must make sure that the tenant was made aware of your possible intention to return, at the beginning of the tenancy. Successors in title can also use this ground, so long as they have not purchased the property.
Ground 2 - This ground is used if the property is subject to a mortgage. The mortgage must pre-date the tenancy, and the mortgagee must wish to gain vacant possession of the property. Written notice must have been issued to the tenant before or, at the start of the tenancy that this may happen.
Ground 3 - This ground is for property that has been used as holiday lets within the last 12 months, and the current tenancy is of a fixed term of no more than 8 months (usually during the winter months). The tenant must have written notice that the property is to be returned to holiday let use (usually the summer months).
Ground 4 - This ground specifically applies to student accommodation owned by educational institutions. Students are normally licensees, but this ground applies if the educational institution has let the property on a fixed term of up to 12 months.
Ground 5 - This ground only applies to properties owned by religious bodies. If the property is occupied by one minister, and they need it for another, then ground 5 can be used to evict the first minister.
Ground 6 - This ground is used if the landlord wishes to substantially reconstruct, redevelop or demolish the property. It is similar to a ground established in commercial leases (Landlord & Tenant Act 1954).
Ground 7 - This ground relates to inherited or succession rights to the tenancy. If the tenancy was a statuary periodic tenancy or a contractual periodic tenancy and the tenant has died within 12 months of the possession proceedings starting then ground 7 can be used. However, ground 7 cannot be used to evict the tenant's surviving spouse. This ground can be used regardless of whether you have accepted rent from the current occupier.
Ground 8 - We have written a more substantial explanation of ground 8 below. Ground 8 concerns rent arrears, but the rent must be outstanding by a certain amount up to and including the day of the hearing.
Discretionary grounds for possession
Ground 9 - This ground can be used if the landlord has offered the tenant suitable alternative accommodation. The basis of the tenancy must be the same, so if the original property was unfurnished, then the new property must be too. The tenant has the right to ask for removal expenses from the landlord. The tenant may contest against ground 9 being used for the eviction notice. This is usually on the basis that they consider the alternative as unsuitable.
Ground 10 - This ground relates to rent arrears. A more substantial explanation is provided below.
Ground 11 - This ground relates to delayed payment of rent. As with grounds 8 and 10, we have supplied a more detailed explanation below.
Ground 12 - This ground is probably one ground that is quite likely to be used if the rent arrear grounds are not cited. It covers the tenant's breach of their contractual agreement (except for non-payment of rent). If for example, your tenant has introduced pets to the property and you have a 'no pets' clause in the tenancy agreement, then ground 12 can be used. Remember this is a discretionary ground so you may not get the outcome you are hoping for.
Ground 13 - Again, this ground is one that is quite likely to be used if rent arrear grounds are not cited. It can be used if the condition of the property has deteriorated due to the behaviour of the tenant. It covers waste, neglect or default concerning the accommodation or communal areas. It can also be used if the damage was caused by sub-tenants, lodgers, the tenants family or other visitors.
Ground 14 - Like grounds 12 and 13, ground 14 is quite likely to be used if rent arrears are not cited. The landlord can seek possession of the property if the tenant, sub-tenant, lodger or other visitors has or is continuing to cause a nuisance to neighbours or is using the property for illegal or immoral purposes. Since the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 came into effect, this ground also applies if the tenant causes a nuisance to you or someone employed (whether or not by you) in connection with the management of your property.
Ground 14a - This ground cannot be used by private landlords. It can only be used by registered social landlords or charitable housing trusts. Ground 14a can be used if a couple, one or both of them being the tenant occupy the property, and one leaves due to domestic violence, and is unlikely to return. The Section 8 Notice must be served to both parts of the couple (so you will need to find out where the other half of the couple is).
Ground 14za - This ground was also implemented by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Applicable only to properties in England, it states that a landlord can seek possession if an adult tenant, sub-tenant or lodger has been convicted of a crime that took place during a riot. Only ‘indictable offenses’ – that is, serious offenses that went or could have gone to the Crown Court for a trial by jury – apply.
Ground 15 - This ground can be used when the tenant or someone living with the tenant has caused damage to the furniture belonging to the landlord.
Ground 16 - This ground is rarely used. It covers cases where the tenant was an employee of the landlord at the start of the tenancy, but has since left that employment. As most resident employees are licensees, they are not covered by housing acts, hence the rarity of this ground being cited.
Ground 17 - This is a relatively new ground, being introduced by the Housing Act 1996. It covers cases where the tenancy has been obtained by the tenant as a result of a false statement, knowingly made by the tenant or someone acting on his or her behalf.
Section 8 and rent arrears
The most common reason for a landlord to serve a Section 8 Notice is non-payment of rent. If your tenant misses a rent payment, you will need to get in contact with them as soon as possible, to find out why they have not paid.
There are a few key points for you to remember:
- You should deal with rent arrears ASAP. Don't stick your head in the sand and hope the problem will go away. It won't. The sooner you deal with it the better.
- Try to be as sympathetic as possible. Yes, it is frustrating, and upsetting for you, but the reason they have failed to pay may be something out of their control.
- If your tenant fails to communicate with you over this problem, then you may have a serious problem, and you should talk to a professional solicitor or eviction service to sort the problem out as quickly as possible.
The majority of tenants are honest, so don't go in 'all guns blazing', your tenant will probably pay up once they've been reminded - it could simply be 'human error'. A quick phone call may be all you need to do.
If the tenant is experiencing unforeseen financial difficulties, (for example, they have lost their job, or had to take a pay cut) then you could come to a mutually agreeable arrangement. Any verbal arrangement you make though, must be formalised in writing, as a payment plan, so you both know what the agreement consists of and how to proceed. Make sure you include your name and address, as any formal demand for rent has to contain this information by law.
If the problem persists and you do end up having to issue a Section 8, you must demonstrate to the courts that you have made all reasonable efforts to remedy the situation. So entering into a payment plan with the tenant is an option you should not overlook.
Section 8 grounds for eviction (rent arrears)
Section 8 comprises of 17 'Grounds' for eviction. Three apply to rent arrears:
Ground 8 is a mandatory ground for possession: the tenant will definitely be ordered to leave if you can prove they are in breach of their agreement with you.
If rent is unpaid when the Section 8 notice is served, and remains unpaid at the time of the hearing for a possession order then the amount it is outstanding by must either be:
- Eight weeks late if rent is paid weekly or fortnightly, or,
- Two months late if rent is paid monthly, or,
- Three months late if rent is paid quarterly or yearly.
It is important to note that the whole rent must be outstanding, not just a portion of it. If for example, your tenant pays only half their rent each rent day, you will effectively have to wait twice as long to evict them than you would have to if they missed the entire amount.
Remember, in order to evict tenants on ground 8, the rent must remain unpaid in full up to and including the day of the hearing. It is not a cheap procedure, so in order to ensure a favourable outcome it would be wise to cite more than one ground (so long as it is accurate and provable).
Most landlords will use ground 10 in conjunction with ground 8. It is, however a discretionary ground, so the ruling of the court is not guaranteed to rule in favour of the landlord.
Ground 10 covers arrears of rent being outstanding by any amount, hence its usefulness in conjunction with Ground 8.
Additionally, if the court consents you can recover the debt by distress warrant.
You can cite Ground 11 if payment of rent is persistently late. You must be able to show a pattern of late payments, a 'one-off' probably won't be enough to evict your tenant. Make sure your rent book is kept up to date.
As with Ground 10, this is commonly used in conjunction with Ground 8, and like ground 10 is a discretionary ground, so if the tenant is having trouble with their housing benefit payments, for example, then the court may not rule in your favour.
Section 8 and non-rent issues
Even if your tenant pays their rent on time and in full, you may still want to evict them. If, for example they display anti-social behaviour, or have caused damage to your property.
If you have received complaints about your tenant's behaviour, for instance if they have been playing loud music late at night then your first port of call is to talk to your tenant. They could have just had a 'one-off' party to celebrate their birthday; a gentle reminder to them to keep the noise down in future may well be heeded. If, on the other hand, they are persistently playing loud music and you have received more than one complaint, then you will have to gather evidence of their behaviour before you can issue a Section 8. For noisy tenants, we have an Unsatisfactory Level of Noise letter for you to download and send to your tenant - see Landlord forms for more free downloads.
Where do I get a Section 8?
When issuing a section 8, it is vital that you do so in the prescribed format, otherwise your possession claim could be thrown out of court. Be wary that different versions of the form exist for landlords in England and Wales.
You can obtain a section 8 notice in the prescribed format from a solicitor or a legal stationer. Alternatively, if you belong to a landlord’s association, they might have a version you could use. You may even be able to find a free or inexpensive version online – but be sure to check that it is valid before using it.
Disclaimer: Commercial Trust does not accept any liability for misinterpretation or misuse of the information provided in this article, we have published it purely for guidance and information only. If you are looking for specific information, regarding your own circumstances we recommend you contact a solicitor specialising in property law.