Your landlord can use a section 8 notice if they have a legal reason to evict you. You may be able to challenge it in court.
What is a section 8 eviction notice?
A section 8 notice is the first step towards ending an assured or assured shorthold tenancy through the courts.
Your landlord must have a valid legal reason for giving you a section 8 notice. They can give more than one reason.
These reasons are known as grounds for possession.
The notice must state your landlord's reasons for wanting the property back.
Some grounds can't be used during a fixed term tenancy.
These are mandatory grounds.
This means that if the landlord follows the correct process and proves the ground, the court must order eviction.
Examples of mandatory grounds include:
- Ground 8 - at least 8 weeks' rent arrears when you get the notice and at the date of the hearing
- Ground 7A - you've been convicted of a serious offence or breached an injunction for antisocial behaviour
These are discretionary grounds.
This means that even if the landlord can prove the ground, the court decides if it's reasonable to evict you.
Examples of discretionary grounds include:
- Ground 10 - rent arrears when you get the notice and when court action starts
- Ground 11 - you have a history of paying your rent late
- Ground 12 - breach of a term in your tenancy agreement
- Ground 14 - nuisance and antisocial behaviour
Your landlord may use a section 21 eviction notice if you're an assured shorthold tenant. They can give you a section 8 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 possession.
Depending on the reason your landlord wants to evict you, the notice period will be either 14 days, 4 weeks or 2 months.
Check if your landlord is using mandatory or discretionary grounds. Think about whether they'll be able to prove the ground in court.
2. Applying to court
When the notice period ends, your landlord can apply for a possession order.
They must apply to court within a year of giving you the notice. If they don't, the notice will expire and the landlord can't use it.
The court will send you papers which include:
- a defence form
- details of the court hearing date
- any evidence your landlord has submitted
Use the defence form to explain your situation and provide your own evidence.
This could include a counterclaim against your landlord. For example, a claim for compensation if your tenancy deposit wasn't protected.
You have 14 days to complete and return the defence form.
3. Court hearing
A judge will listen to both sides at a possession hearing.
Hearings usually last about 10 minutes and take place in the judge's office.
It's your opportunity to explain your situation and present your evidence.
Go to the hearing if you can. You can attend even if you didn't return your defence form.
You may be able to legal advice from a court duty scheme adviser.
4. Court decision
There are 2 types of possession order:
- outright order
- suspended order
The judge must make an outright order if the landlord proves a mandatory ground.
The date for possession is usually set for 14 days after the hearing.
The judge can also make a possession order if the landlord proves a discretionary ground but they could decide to suspend the order.
This means you can stay in your home if you keep to the conditions in the order.
If the judge doesn't make a possession order they will either:
- dismiss the case - if the landlord followed the wrong process or couldn't prove a ground for possession
- adjourn the case - for example, if there are low level rent arrears and you agree to pay them off
- give case management directions - if you have put in a defence and there needs to be a longer hearing
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.
5. Eviction 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
- break the terms set out in a suspended possession order
An eviction warrant allows the court bailiffs to evict you 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
You may qualify for free legal advice and representation through legal aid.
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
You can usually get help at court through a duty scheme but it's better to get advice before the hearing if you can.
Complete the defence form
You should 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.
You can bring a solicitor or legal representative with you.
Most courts have a court duty scheme for tenants who don’t have a solicitor or representative.
You may be able to ask the judge 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 judge 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.
Last updated 19 Dec 2019 | © Shelter
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