Home > Property > Section 8 Notices for Landlords: What Are the Grounds for Possession?

Section 8 Notices for Landlords: What Are the Grounds for Possession?

If you’re a landlord seeking to end an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) legally, there are two avenues you can pursue.

In many cases, issuing a Section 21 notice — often called a “no-fault eviction notice” — is the more straightforward route. 

With Section 21, you don’t have to give a reason to evict the tenant(s). 

In most circumstances, you only have to give your renters two months’ warning by correctly serving a Section 21 notice, and they will be obliged to vacate. If they don’t, you can issue a possession claim and obtain a court order. So far, so good.

However, you can’t use Section 21 to terminate a tenancy before a fixed term is complete or with less than two months’ notice. There are also some circumstances where it isn’t possible or appropriate to serve a Section 21 notice, for example, if you haven’t registered a deposit correctly or there is another issue or problem. 

There is also considerable social and political debate regarding whether Section 21 Notices and ‘no-fault’ evictions should remain as available options. There is currently significant political pressure to scrap ‘no fault evictions’. It appears likely that the current Section 21 no fault eviction process may change. Section 21 remains good law at present but cannot be relied on moving forward.

A Section 8 Notice can provide a useful alternative option.

The most common reason to use a Section 8 notice is to evict renters in serious arrears or who engage in activities you find objectionable, such as causing nuisance or anti-social behaviour. It is worth noting that many landlords currently use the no fault eviction route via Section 21 notice even where there is tenant fault, simply because it is a quicker and cheaper process. 

The notice period for a Section 8 eviction is often as short as two weeks. No notice is required in specific circumstances, although this is rarely an appropriate approach.

So, how can you terminate an AST and obtain a Section 8 eviction?

What Is a Section 8 Eviction?

If you’re a landlord seeking to reclaim possession of your property before an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement ends, issuing a Section 8 Notice warns your renter(s) that you intend to evict them for cause if they don’t vacate.

Under the Housing Act 1988, a Section 8 notice can be the first step in terminating an AST tenancy on legal grounds — but there are many requirements and exceptions. 

One advantage of a Section 8 over a Section 21 notice is that landlords can typically use it regardless of whether the tenancy agreement’s fixed term has expired. 

However, you must give legal grounds for possession — and prove them before the Court if challenged. 

It’s also essential to follow the correct procedures.

Serious rent arrears and anti-social behaviour are the most commonly used grounds of possession for a Section 8 eviction. 

But Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 provides 17 grounds (plus amendments) that you can use for a Section 8 eviction.

Section 8 grounds for possession fall under two categories: mandatory and discretionary. 

If you can prove a mandatory ground for possession, the Court will order your tenant to vacate. 

If you pursue eviction on discretionary grounds, the Court must decide the outcome.

Mandatory Grounds for Possession

Here is a summary of the eight mandatory grounds for possession set out in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 and subsequent addendums.

If you can prove a mandatory ground of possession before the Court, your tenant will be forced to vacate. It is usually sensible to ensure that at least one mandatory ground is applicable. In this way, the court has no discretion and must order possession in your favour if a claim is later needed.

Ground 1 — Owner Occupancy 

There are two circumstances where Ground 1 applies:

  • You or a joint landlord (often a spouse) once occupied the property as your primary home and wish to move back in.
  • You or your spouse/civil partner wishes to occupy the property as your principal (or only) home.

Successors in title can also use Ground 1 if they did not purchase the dwelling.

Minimum Notice Period

Two months

Ground 2 – Repossession by Mortgage Lender

If you have a mortgage predating the assured tenancy and your lender repossesses the property, the lender may use Ground 2 to terminate the tenancy if it requires vacant possession to exercise a power of sale. 

Minimum Notice Period 

Two months

Ground 3 — Holiday Let

If you’ve rented your property out as a holiday let within the last 12 months and your tenant has a fixed-term tenancy of 8 months or less, you can end the tenancy in time for summer. 

You must give the renters notice in writing before the tenancy commences that your property will resume holiday let status as of a specific date.

Minimum Notice Period 

Two weeks 

Ground 4 – Student Rental

The tenancy is for a fixed term of a year or less in student accommodation owned by an eligible educational institution or housing provider. The tenant must pursue — or plan to pursue — part or full-time study.

Minimum Notice Period

Two weeks 

Ground 5 – Property Owned By a Religious Organization

Ground 5 is relevant only if the property belongs to a religious organisation and they require it to house a minister.  

Additionally, the organisation must have informed the tenant in writing before the lease began that Ground 5 may be used in an order for possession at a later date.

Ground 5 cannot be used to end a fixed-term tenancy before its agreed end date.

Minimum Notice Period 

Two months

Ground 6 – Property Redevelopment

If your property is scheduled for redevelopment or demolition, Ground 6 could allow you to recover possession if the works are sufficiently substantial that it’s unreasonable for the tenant to remain in residence.

You may be required to prove that it’s not practical for the tenant to occupy the property while works are underway, that your renter refuses to grant necessary access, or that they don’t agree to live in a reduced part of the property until work is complete.

If the tenants already lived in the property when you purchased it, you cannot use Ground 6. Additionally, Ground 6 cannot be used to end a fixed term tenancy prematurely.   

Minimum Notice Period 

Two Months

Ground 7 – Death of Tenant

If your tenant passes away, you can use Ground 7 to claim possession as long as you start proceedings within one year of the tenant’s death. 

However, Ground 7 cannot be used to evict a surviving joint tenant, such as a civil partner or spouse.

Find out more about who — and who cannot — be evicted under Ground 7 here.

Minimum Notice Period 

Two months

Ground 7A – Anti-Social Behaviour

Ground 7A can be used in “cases where serious anti-social behaviour has already been established in other court proceedings.” 

Examples of tenant anti-social behaviour covered by Ground 7A include:

  • Conviction for a serious criminal offence
  • Breach of a criminal behaviour order
  • Breach of a civil injunction prohibiting anti-social behaviour

For government guidance on what falls under Ground 7A vs Ground 14, click here.

Minimum Notice Period 

  • Fixed term tenancy: 1 month*
  • Periodic tenancy: 4 weeks

* Only if stipulated in the tenancy agreement.

Ground 7B – No Legal ‘Right to Rent’

As a landlord, you’re legally obligated to check the immigration documents of adults renting your property before granting an AST agreement. 

British and Irish citizens have an unlimited right to rent but don’t make the mistake of assuming a person’s nationality without doing a thorough document check. 

Discriminating against anyone based on where they’re from is illegal. You’re required to ensure that anyone over 18 residing on your property has a legal right to rent, whether their name is on the letting agreement or not.

Here’s how to do a check.

As a landlord, you can’t invoke Ground 7B to evict a tenant yourself. Instead, the Home Office must notify you that one or more (but not all) of your tenants or occupants have no legal right to rent.  

If none of the tenants have the right to rent, a different procedure applies. 

If you fail to verify tenants’ right to rent, you could face serious consequences, including substantial fines or up to five years in prison. 

Minimum Notice Period 

Two weeks

Ground 8 – Substantial Rent Arrears

Rent arrears is a highly prevalent mandatory ground within a section 8 notice. You can use Ground 8 for possession if your tenant fails to pay rent for an extended period. However, care is needed to ensure that the arrears is net of any sum the tenant might be able to claim against you due to any deposit-related claim or alleged disrepair. 

The court will factor in such damages for counterclaims when assessing rent arrears. The legal test is also that there must be at least two months (or eight weeks) arrears both at the date of service of the notice and at the date of the hearing. 

It’s not unheard of for the tenant to minimally reduce the arrears immediately before a hearing, deliberately bringing the amount owed slightly below the mandatory threshold.

The required period varies based on how often rent is due.

  • Weekly or Fortnightly: 8 weeks arrears
  • Monthly: 2 months arrears
  • Quarterly or Yearly: 3 months arrears

Minimum Notice Period 

Two weeks

Discretionary Grounds for Possession

There are nine discretionary grounds for possession.

Ground 9 – Offer of Suitable Alternative Accommodation

If you can offer your tenant suitable alternative accommodation, you can seek possession under Ground 9. 

The new property must be comparable to the existing one. 

For instance, if the current rental is furnished or has a garden, the alternative property must offer similar amenities.

Tenants frequently challenge this discretionary ground for possession by claiming the alternative rental isn’t equivalent or suitable to their needs. 

If the tenant isn’t happy with the alternative property you offer, the Court will determine its suitability and whether it’s reasonable for eviction to proceed.

Minimum Notice Period 

Two months

Ground 10 – Rent Arrears

If your tenant is in arrears when you issue the Section 8 notice and refuses to vacate, you may be able to evict them using Ground 10 if it remains unpaid when you take the renters to court.

Unlike the mandatory Ground 8 for rent arrears, no fixed period must elapse before you can issue a Section 8 notice for Ground 10.

If the property has fallen into disrepair, be aware that tenants can make a counterclaim for a ‘set-off’ for all or part of the arrears. 

If you’re a social landlord, specific procedures should be followed before you issue a Section 8. 

Minimum Notice Period 

Two weeks

Ground 11 – Persistently Late Rent Payments

You can use Ground 11 if your tenant is persistently late paying rent and you’ve kept a history of delayed payments. 

There may be outstanding rent arrears, but that’s not a prerequisite for you to claim Ground 11 in Court.

If applicable, the Court will consider factors beyond your tenant’s control that have delayed the rent payments. For example:

  • Delays in housing benefits payments
  • Disability
  • Age

You cannot issue a Section 8 notice for Ground 10 or 11 if your tenant has a temporary debt moratorium or ‘breathing space’.

Minimum Notice Period 

Two weeks

Ground 12 – Breach of Tenancy Agreement (Unrelated to Rent)

Ground 12 covers any breach of the tenancy agreement unrelated to rent.

Common examples of tenant actions that may be against the terms of the rental agreement include:

  • Engaging in antisocial behaviour
  • Keeping pets
  • Sublets

Minimum Notice Period 

Two weeks

Ground 13 — Property Deterioration Due to Action or Neglect

Ground 13 covers damage deterioration to the property or any communal areas caused by tenants’ actions or neglect. It can also apply to a renter’s family members, visitors, lodgers, and sub-tenants.

Minimum Notice Period 

Two weeks

Ground 14 – Nuisance, Annoyance, Illegal or Immoral Use

You can seek possession under Ground 14 if your tenant is a nuisance to neighbours or uses the property for immoral or illegal purposes. Ground 14 also extends to sub-tenants, lodgers, and visitors.

Minimum Notice Period 

No notice period is required to begin proceedings

Ground 14A – Domestic Violence

Ground 14A is only applicable if you’re a registered social housing provider.

If so, and you rent to a same-sex or opposite-sex married or cohabiting couple — or a couple in a civil partnership — and one relationship member leaves due to threats or domestic violence, you can apply for possession under Ground 14A.

Minimum Notice Period 

Two weeks

Ground 14ZA – Riot Offence

If your tenant is convicted of an indictable offence during or at the scene of a riot in the UK, you can apply Ground 14ZA. 

Note that Ground 14ZA does not apply to summary offences or acts that took place prior to May 14, 2014.

Minimum Notice Period 

Two weeks

Ground 15 – Damage to Furniture 

If your property was rented as furnished, Ground 15 may be grounds for possession if the tenants damage your furniture or cause it to deteriorate outside of reasonable wear and tear.

Minimum Notice Period 

Ground 16 – Tenant Is a Former Employee

If you granted tenancy as a condition of employment, you may be able to use Ground 16 to gain possession if your tenant no longer works for you.

In most cases where a landlord employs a tenant, they are considered a licensee, and Section 8 grounds for possession are not relevant.

Minimum Notice Period  

Two months

Ground 17 – False Statements

Introduced by the Housing Act 1996,  Ground 17 covers cases where you granted the tenancy based on a renter’s false statement or a false statement made by someone acting on their behalf.

Minimum Notice Period 

Two Weeks

Notice Periods for Assured Tenancy Grounds for Possession 

Mandatory Grounds for PossessionNotice Period
1. Owner OccupancyTwo months
2. Repossession by Mortgage LenderTwo months
3. Holiday LetTwo weeks
4. Student RentalTwo weeks
5. Property Owned by Religious OrganisationTwo months
6. Property RedevelopmentTwo months
7. Death of TenantTwo months
7A. Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed term tenancy: 1 month*Periodic tenancy: 4 weeks*Only if stipulated in the tenancy agreement

7B. No Legal ‘Right to Rent’Two weeks
8. Substantial Rent ArrearsTwo weeks
Discretionary Grounds for PossessionNotice Period
9. Offer of Suitable Alternative AccommodationTwo months
10. Rent ArrearsTwo weeks
11. Persistently Late RentTwo weeks
12. Breach of Tenancy Agreement (Unrelated to Rent)Two weeks
13. Property Deterioration Due to Action or NeglectTwo weeks
14. Nuisance, Annoyance, Illegal or Immoral UseNo notice is needed to commence proceedings
14A. Domestic ViolenceTwo weeks
14ZA. Riot OffenceTwo weeks
15. Damage to FurnitureTwo weeks
16. Tenant Is a Former EmployeeTwo months
17. False StatementsTwo weeks

How Long Does a Section 8 Eviction Take?

Once you’ve served a Section 8 notice citing one or more grounds for possession as outlined above, you must wait for the required notice period to elapse. 

How long it takes to evict after that depends on whether the tenant disputes the notice, fails to respond or otherwise refuses to leave.

If you wish to pursue the eviction on mandatory or discretionary grounds, the next step is to file a claim for possession with the appropriate Court. 

It’s essential to have evidence to support your grounds for possession and that you followed the correct procedures. Otherwise, the court may reject your claim for that reason alone.

Many landlords elect to obtain legal advice before ever drafting or serving a Section 8 notice. 

This approach prevents wasting time and money due to procedural errors or a misunderstanding of the law and ultimately saves time. If you take the initial steps in error, your tenant can seek to reclaim their legal costs.   

Errors and omissions in a Section 8 Notice will cause delays, and the Court may reject the Notice, meaning you have to start all over again. 

In the meantime, rent arrears might continue to accrue, and unless you have a guarantor, your prospect of recovering rent arrears may be low. 

If you carry a mortgage, your obligations to pay the lender in a timely fashion remain regardless.

Once you apply for the possession order, you must await a hearing before the Court. Scheduling time varies based on the property’s location and the capacity of the relevant Court. 

Wait times for a hearing vary widely between different local county courts. On average, a hearing is now often taking eight to twelve weeks.

If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing or file a defence, the judge will usually issue an Order of Possession with 14 days’ notice.

If the tenant disputes your claim, the timeframe depends on the directions the court orders. 

It’s not unusual for the court to order directions if there is a counterclaim by the tenant — such as allegations of disrepair or similar. 

In those circumstances, claims often take 6-12 months to be resolved. Again, this emphasises the importance of getting things right the first time.

Sometimes, tenants will leave of their own accord if faced with an Order of Possession. At that stage, it may not be necessary to take matters further. 

However, if the tenant remains in situ after the possession order expires, your next steps will include instructing a court bailiff to regain possession. 

Wait times for this can vary depending on the local court. At present, an 8-12 week wait is not unusual. 

The additional delay of waiting for a bailiff can be frustrating. However, it is essential to follow the correct procedure to avoid the risk of a tenant’s claim against you for unlawful eviction damages and other claims such as trespass to goods.

In some instances, your tenant may apply to the court to stop the bailiffs from taking possession or to delay eviction further. However, they cannot halt the process for rent arrears under Ground 8.  

Generally speaking, the average timeframe for an undefended Section 8 eviction is approximately three months if:

  • There are no errors in the notice
  • The notice is served correctly
  • The tenant offers no defence

If the tenant mounts a defence or counterclaim, eviction often takes approximately 12 months.

Need Advice? Contact Helix Law.

Issuing a claim for possession is a serious step. 

Taking expert legal advice before you serve a Section 8 Notice can speed up the eviction process by ensuring your approach at every stage is valid and correct. 

It may even help you avoid going to Court. 

If you’re using a discretionary ground for the Section 8 Notice, the Court will expect you to have made an effort to negotiate with your tenant to resolve the matter; we typically try to position you so that you can rely on a mandatory possession ground. 

If you’re taking the time and incurring costs by pursuing eviction, you will understandably want an outcome that positions you well to achieve your commercial aims regarding the property. 

A prescribed pre-action protocol states that landlords must take reasonable steps to ensure a tenant understands the eviction process and that court action is a last resort. 

As litigation experts in these types of claims, but with our team also deeply involved in more complex litigation and broader disputes, we’re well positioned to help you deal with issues such as technical challenges or defences if/when raised by tenants. 

If issuing a Section 8 Notice is the best option for meeting your objectives, taking expert legal advice helps avoid costly errors and ensures a smooth and speedy eviction process.

There may be better alternatives.

The Renters (Reform Bill) 2023 proposes the abolition of Section 21 evictions, commonly referred to as ‘no fault’ evictions, meaning that Section 8 may soon be the only option if you wish to evict a tenant.

Until then, Section 21 evictions can still be enforced. 

We’re fully on top of all developments as the position changes. 

Currently, the Renters (Reform Bill) 2023 is poised to force landlords to become more aware of when they can (and can’t) end a tenancy for cause and the use of mandatory and discretionary grounds for possession, similar to the Section 8 regime.

Citing the correct grounds under the law and following the proper procedures is essential to regain possession.

Choosing the wrong ground or one your tenant can successfully defend is unlikely to produce the desired outcome, causing unnecessary expense, delay, and frustration.

Taking legal action should be a last resort. It’s expensive and time-consuming. 

Our expert property litigation team advise landlords, letting agents and investors on many types of property and tenant-related disputes. 

We look at your situation in the round and advise you of your best options to achieve your aims. 

We don’t advise tenants.

Helix Law can help you terminate an assured shorthold tenancy through a no-fault Section 21 Notice or secure a Section 8 eviction using the mandatory or discretionary grounds for possession.  

Contact Helix Law today. We aim to respond to all queries within an hour.

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