Your landlord can try and use a section 8 notice if they have a reason to evict you. You may be able to challenge it in court.
What is a section 8 eviction notice?
Your landlord can give you a section 8 notice if they want to end your assured or assured shorthold tenancy for a particular reason or 'ground'.
Some grounds can be used at any time during your tenancy, including during a fixed term.
Grounds that your landlord can use include if you:
- have rent arrears
- are involved in criminal or antisocial behaviour
- break other terms of your tenancy agreement, for example causing damage to the property
Stopping a section 8 eviction
You may be able to stop a section 8 eviction in court if you have a defence.
For example, if you can show the court that:
- the notice didn’t include the right information
- the landlord’s reasons for evicting you aren’t true
- you have a counterclaim that will reduce the amount of arrears
A counterclaim is a claim for money against the landlord. For example, a claim for compensation if your tenancy deposit wasn't protected.
Your landlord may prefer to use the simpler section 21 eviction procedure if they can. They could give you a section 8 notice and a section 21 notice at the same time.
Section 8 eviction process
Your landlord must send you a notice of seeking possession using Form 3 or a letter with the same information. It must include the grounds for eviction.
Depending on the reason your landlord wants to evict you, the notice period will be either 14 days, 4 weeks or 2 months.
2. Applying to court
Your landlord must apply to court for a possession order if they want to evict you.
They can normally only do this after the notice period ends, but no later than a year after they gave you the notice.
The court will send you papers which include:
- a defence form
- details of the court hearing date
- any evidence your landlord has submitted
You have 14 days to complete and return the defence form, although the court may accept it late.
You can use it to explain your situation and provide your own evidence, including a counterclaim against your landlord if you have one.
3. Court hearing
A judge will hear the case at a court hearing.
The hearing is your opportunity to explain your situation and present your evidence.
You should always go to the hearing. You can attend even if you didn't submit a defence form.
It helps the court if you attend the hearing and provide information in advance if possible.
4. Court decision
The court can decide to:
- dismiss the case (this means you can stay in your home)
- adjourn the case (for example if more evidence is needed)
- make a suspended possession order (allowing you to stay if you keep to the conditions the court sets)
- make an outright possession order (ordering you to leave, usually in 14 days)
You are usually told the decision on the day. If you don't attend the hearing, the court sends you a letter with their decision.
A suspended possession order allows you to stay in your home, provided you follow certain terms. For example, the court could say you must pay your rent and a set amount towards the arrears every week.
If you break the terms of this agreement, your landlord can ask the court for you to be evicted by bailiffs.
Your landlord can ask the court for an eviction warrant if you:
- don't leave by the date set out in an outright possession order
- don't follow the terms set out in a suspended possession order
An eviction warrant allows the court bailiffs to evict you and anyone else from your home.
How to defend a section 8 eviction
Decide if you have a case
You may be able to successfully challenge a section 8 eviction in some circumstances. For example if:
- the notice isn't valid
- your landlord can't prove you owe rent arrears
- you have evidence that disproves your landlord's case
Get legal advice
It's important to talk to a legal adviser if you want to defend a section 8 notice.
An adviser can:
- tell you how likely it is that your defence will succeed
- make you aware of any risks or costs involved
- help you fill in a defence form
- help you with a counterclaim
If you claim benefits or have a low income, you may qualify for free legal advice and representation through legal aid.
Complete and return the defence form
You must complete and return the defence form within 14 days. You can use it to explain your situation and why you shouldn't be evicted.
Include any evidence that could help the court make a decision, for example:
- bank statements to show when you paid your rent
- a job offer letter that shows you can now afford to pay arrears
Also include details of any counterclaim if this will reduce the amount of rent you owe.
Attend the court hearing
The court hearing is your chance to explain your situation to the court.
You can bring a solicitor or legal representative with you. Most courts have a legal adviser on duty for tenants who don’t have a solicitor or representative.
Contact the court in advance to ask if there is a duty advice scheme.
You may be able to ask the court to delay the hearing to another date if you have a defence but need more time to gather the necessary evidence. This is called an adjournment.
If you are willing to move out but need more time, you can explain to the court why leaving in 14 days would cause you problems. The court may agree to give you more time to find somewhere else to live.
If you don’t attend the hearing and haven’t submitted a defence then the court will make its decision based on the evidence submitted by your landlord.
You will usually have to pay court costs if you lose your case. This can include court fees and your landlord's legal costs.
Reasons for eviction
Your landlord must prove to the court that they have 'grounds for possession'. These are legal reasons to evict you.
Some of the grounds are mandatory. This means that if the landlord can prove the ground, the court must order you to leave.
Other grounds are discretionary. This means that if the ground is proven, the court will also decide if it is reasonable for you to have to leave.
Rent arrears is the most common reason for landlords serving a section 8 notice.
You must have rent arrears on both the following dates:
- when your landlord gives you notice
- when the case is heard in court
If you have rent arrears of at least 2 months (if you pay rent monthly) or 8 weeks (if you pay rent weekly) they can use a mandatory ground for possession.
This means if your landlord can prove you are in 2 months or 8 weeks arrears, the court must order you to leave.
If you have less than 2 months arrears the landlord can use a discretionary ground and the court will decide if it is reasonable for you to have to leave.
Even if you aren’t in arrears when you get the notice or on the day of the court hearing, the landlord may be able to convince the court to evict you if you’ve been late with your rent on many occasions.
Other mandatory grounds include if:
- your landlord needs to move back in the property, and they told you about this before your tenancy began
- you or someone in your household have been convicted of a serious crime or have breached an antisocial behaviour injunction
Other discretionary grounds include if you:
- regularly pay rent late
- breach your tenancy agreement
- damage your landlord's property
- are involved in antisocial behaviour
Even if your landlord can prove the ground, the court will decide if it is reasonable for you to lose your home and may refuse to let you be evicted.
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Last updated 27 Aug 2019 | © Shelter
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