This information is relevant to private landlords letting property to tenants on Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements in England.
Seeking possession of your rental property from your tenants is not an inherently negative action. There may be some circumstances where even landlords with the most ideal tenants will have to make a possession claim.
There are two notices that can be served to tenants in order to seek or acquire possession: Section 8 and Section 21.
Before proceeding further, it is worth clarifying that, as of October 2021, the notice periods and processes for evictions have returned to pre-pandemic normality. Before this date, tenants were either protected from evictions or required (in some cases) much longer notice periods.
Section 8 notice
Section 8 notices are used when your tenant has broken the terms of your tenancy agreement. You must be able to prove that your tenant has broken the agreement in order to serve a Section 8 notice.
One of the most common reasons for serving a Section 8 notice is rental arrears. In this circumstance, the arrears must amount to two months’ worth of rent.
Another example would be damage to the property or furnishings that have been provided with the property. This is why it is important to have an accurate inventory of all contents and their conditions included within the property at the start of a tenancy agreement.
Section 8 notice period
In England, a Section 8 notice to evict your tenants must provide them with at least 2 months’ notice to leave the property.
There are some circumstances where you may be eligible to serve a shorter notice period than 2 months. The particulars surrounding this can vary from case to case, so we recommend contacting our solicitors if you want to evict your tenants and regain possession of your property quickly.
Section 21 notice
Section 21 notices are used when your fixed-term Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement ends. They can also be used for periodic tenancies with no explicit fixed term, although this may affect the notice period you need to provide.
Section 21 notice period
In England, a Section 21 notice to evict your tenants must provide them with at least 2 months’ notice to leave the property.
On the other hand, if your fixed-term tenancy has transitioned into a periodic tenancy agreement then there is the chance that the notice period will have to be longer. This is largely dependent on how frequently your tenant pays rent. If they pay every three months, then there will need to be a three-month notice period, for example.
Because this eviction notice is served at the end of tenancy agreements, this can be easier on your tenants as they will be aware of the approaching conclusion of the tenancy.
If you are having problems with your tenants and you are approaching the end of your tenancy agreement, then it may be easier to use a Section 21 notice as opposed to a Section 8 notice if you think your tenant would react disruptively to the receipt of a Section 8 notice.
How to enforce a possession order
The court will only grant your possession order if it is lawful. You must have legal recourse that backs up your claims made in Section 8 or Section 21 notice forms. For example, you cannot evict your tenant for having a baby as this counts as discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
For Section 8 notices, you will need to fill in Form 3 of the Housing Act 1988. Within this form you can select whether you are proceeding with a mandatory ground or a discretionary ground, which will affect how your claim progresses in court should your tenant refuse to leave the property.
For Section 21 notices, you will need to fill in Form 6a of the Housing Act 1988.
Provided that your relevant Section documents were filed and noted correctly, your tenant will have to vacate the property by the date listed. If the tenant does not leave by this date, then you can apply to the court for a possession order.
When serving a notice to your tenants, it is highly recommended that you keep proof of your own records should the case progress to court. This can either be done by filling in the Certification of Service Form N215 or including a clause on the notice that looks like this: ‘served by [your name] on [the date]’.
Then, if your tenants do not leave by the date that you have specified within your notice then you have recourse to apply for an accelerated possession order from the court.
Upcoming changes to evictions
For some time now there has been public discourse surrounding the introduction of a Renters Reform Bill. This was even included as part of the Conservative Manifesto in 2019.
In June 2022, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published a policy paper titled ‘A fairer private rented sector’, which included information on how the government plans to make changes to the private rental sector through the Renters Reform Bill.
This Bill will introduce changes to eviction notices, specifically the Section 21 notice to combat concerns that landlords are abusing Section 21 notices to force tenants from their property. When the Bill receives Royal Assent, there will be:
- A list of mandatory landlord circumstance grounds for possession that the government have deemed reasonable. They must be used if the landlord chooses to evict their tenants, and they come with fixed 2-month notice periods
- A list of tenant fault/circumstance grounds that can be used by landlords to evict their tenants if they have broken terms of the tenancy agreement, each coming with a defined notice period
These plans will come into action after the Bill has secured Royal Assent, with a minimum of 6 months’ notice before the Bill is implemented.
We will provide further updates when the Renters Reform Bill is passed.