How to serve a Section 8 Notice
What is a Section 8 Notice?
A Section 8 notice - or simply an ‘eviction notice’ - is used by landlords in England and Wales to terminate an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) when a tenant has breached the agreement or fallen into rent arrears.
Under the Housing Act 1988, a landlord is entitled to take possession of a property and issue a Section 8 notice when a tenant breaches certain criteria. Notices are usually served due to rent arrears, or things like property damage and noise complaints.
Section 8 notices, however, cannot be issued simply because the landlord changes their mind about the tenant or wishes to move into the property themselves!
When can a landlord serve a Section 8 Notice?
Essentially, a landlord can issue a Section 8 notice at any time during the tenancy period - as long as there is a legal ground for eviction.
In the case of rent arrears, the notice can only be used when the tenant is in rent arrears of at least two months or more (or eight weeks for a weekly tenancy). For example, if the monthly rent is £500, then the rent arrears must be at least £1,000.
The main grounds for issuing a Section 8 notice when the tenant is not in rent arrears are:
- The house is being repossessed by the mortgage lender. (The landlord is required to have advised the tenant of this possibility before the tenancy began).
- The terms of the tenancy agreement have been breached by the tenant.
- The tenant has caused damage to the property through their own neglect, or through the actions of someone living with them.
- The tenant has received a conviction because the property has been used for illegal activities.
- The tenant is causing a nuisance to neighbours.
- The tenant has been found to have given false information when entering into the tenancy.
Depending on the reason for eviction, a Section 8 notice can be given to a tenant for a period of 2 weeks, 4 weeks or 2 months, after which time the tenant will be asked to leave.
How to serve a Section 8 notice?
All landlords must follow the correct legal process by filling in a Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy form, and specifying the terms that have been breached.
Before using this notice, the landlord should take every opportunity to remind a tenant of the fact they’re in breach of the tenancy agreement, by sending them reminder letters at staggered intervals, such as 7, 14 and 21 days.
After the notice is issued, landlords may inform the tenant that they wish to seek possession - and the notice could be included with a final rent reminder statement. By using this notice, a landlord can start the process of gaining possession of a property and make a claim to have the rent arrears paid.
If the rent is paid in advance, then the tenant is in rent arrears by the full period as soon as the payment is missed. For example, if the rent is paid monthly on the first day of the month, then on the second day of the month the tenant will be in arrears by one month. Therefore, for a tenant paying monthly, this notice can be issued after a month and one day of non-payment.
A Section 8 Notice can also be used if the tenant has been consistently making short payments, as long as the total rent arrears add up to the equivalent of two months’ rent. Therefore, if the tenant has paid half the rent for four months, they will be in the equivalent of two months’ rent arrears, and a landlord can serve the tenant with a notice.
If the rent arrears history is complex, it may be helpful for landlords to give the tenant a schedule of arrears to show them exactly how the arrears have been calculated. If the tenant’s rent arrears history is simple (ie. if it’s just two straight months), then this isn’t necessary.
The notice should be served on the tenant by the means specified in the tenancy agreement. If an assured tenancy agreement is used, the Section 8 Notice must be given to the tenant directly, or put through the door of the property, or sent by first-class post. A copy of the notice should also be sent to any guarantors, even though they are not named as defendants.
The tenants must sign and return a copy to the landlord. Landlords should always keep a copy of the notice, along with a record of the date and method of service and the name of the person who served it, plus any witnesses.
It is always sensible to have a witness when sending the notice. When using a postal service, it is advisable that the notice be sent by proof of delivery and that a minimum of three working days is allowed for the notice to arrive.
Who should the Section 8 Notice be addressed to?
Landlords must include the names of all tenants in the notice and the names of the parties and the address should match those in the tenancy agreement. Even if some tenants have moved out, they should still be named on the notice if they were named on the most recent tenancy agreement.
As an extra precautionary measure, each individual tenant must be served with a notice. If the tenant is renting a room in a shared house, the landlord must specify the room (eg. ‘room 1’) rented by the tenant, as well as the full property address.
It is vital that the Section 8 Notice includes all the key information as there are a number of common mistakes that are likely to lead to your submission being rejected by the court. These include:
- Failure to use the most up-to-date form.
- Failure to give the full and proper address of the property on the form.
- Failure to list every tenant in cases of joint tenancy.
- Failure to provide details of the claim; for example, a payment schedule showing which payments have been missed.
- Failure to state the grounds exactly as they appear in the Housing Act.
What happens after a Section 8 notice has been served?
If an assured shorthold tenancy agreement is used, then the date of service will be the day after the landlord posts the notice or puts it through the door of the property. In most cases, once a tenant receives the notice they vacate the property to avoid any court hearings. However, if this is not the case, the landlord should apply for a possession order from a court. This is when bailiffs and police can get involved to ensure the tenant leaves the property and make sure there is no breach of peace.
Here’s more information on Evicting Tenants with Section 8 Notice.