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Notice of seeking possession to end an assured tenancy

This content applies to England

A landlord must serve a notice of seeking possession on an assured tenant before applying to the court for a possession order.

Requirement for a notice to commence possession proceedings

A landlord must first serve a notice of intention to bring proceedings on the tenant.[1] The notice is commonly referred to as a 'notice seeking possession' (NSP) or a 'section 8' notice.

Section 8 Housing Act 1988 requires the notice to state a date after which possession proceedings can start.

For further information about the procedure for claiming possession of a property let on an assured tenancy see the page How an assured tenancy can end.

Covid-19: Extended minimum notice periods

For notices served between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020 the minimum notice period was three months for all claims.[2]

For notices served between 29 August 2020 and 31 March 2021 the minimum notice period is six months, unless exceptions apply.[3]

The relevant notice form has also been amended.[4]

Exceptions: notices served on or after 29 August 2020

In the following circumstances an assured tenant will be entitled to a notice shorter than the minimum six months.

Four weeks notice

The notice period is four weeks where possession is sought for rent arrears and the tenant owes at least six months' worth of rent.[5]

Two weeks notice

The minimum notice period is two weeks where possession is sought on the grounds of:

  • conviction for an offence committed at a riot[6]
  • domestic violence[7]
  • acquiring the tenancy as a result of a false statement.[8]

Three months notice

The notice period is three months for notices issued on the grounds of:

  • death of the former tenant[9]
  • the tenant’s immigration status (usually a failure to pass right to rent checks).[10]

Anti-social behaviour

Where the landlord is seeking possession on the discretionary anti-social behaviour ground, the standard notice period applies (see below).[11]

Where possession is sought on the mandatory ground for anti-social behaviour, the notice period must be:[12]

  • 28 days in case of a weekly periodic secure tenancy
  • one month if the tenancy is for a fixed term.

The above rules apply even if the notice lists other grounds in addition to anti-social behaviour.

The 'Technical guidance on eviction notices' document which forms part of the updated government guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities contains a table summarising the minimum notice requirements for each tenancy.

See Grounds for possession of assured tenancies for more information about the circumstances in which a landlord can apply for possession of a secure tenancy.

Standard notice periods

The NSP must state a date after which court proceedings can start.[13]

For notices served on or before 25 March 2020 the following standard notice periods apply:

  • for grounds 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 16 – the date specified must be at least two months after service (or a period equivalent to the contractual period of the tenancy, if longer)
  • for ground 14 – court proceedings for claims can start immediately. An NSP served under ground 14 must state that court proceedings may be started immediately and give a date when the landlord requires the tenant to leave the property[14]
  • for all other grounds (except 7A) – the date specified must be at least two weeks after service.

Specific requirements when using mandatory ASB ground 7A

When possession is sought under the mandatory antisocial behaviour (ASB) ground 7A, the NSP must:

  • set out details of the conviction, order, or finding on which the landlord wants to rely to show the condition is met[15]
  • specify the date after which court proceedings can start, which must be:[16]
    • at least four weeks after the service of the NSP (or one month in case of a fixed-term tenancy), and
    • the first or last day of the period of the tenancy (unless the tenancy agreement says otherwise).

Time limits for the service

The time limits for the service of the NSP on the tenant vary according to which condition is being relied upon:[17]

  • for condition 1 (conviction of serious offence), condition 3 (breach of a criminal behaviour order), or condition 5 (noise nuisance) – the NSP must be served within 12 months of the date of conviction, or if appropriate within 12 months of an appeal being decided or abandoned
  • for condition 2 (breach of an injunction to prevent nuisance or annoyance) – the NSP must be served within 12 months of the date the court found the injunction had been breached, or if appropriate within 12 months of an appeal being decided, abandoned or withdrawn
  • for condition 4 (closure order) – the NSP must be served on the tenant within 3 months of the date the closure order was made, or if appropriate within 3 months of an appeal being decided, abandoned or withdrawn.

For more information about Ground 7A see Mandatory grounds: Assured tenancies.

Duration and expiry

An NSP expires 12 months after service. A landlord wishing to start court proceedings beyond that period will need to serve a fresh NSP.[18]

Form and content

The notice is commonly referred to as a 'notice seeking possession' (NSP) or a 'section 8' notice. The notice must:

  • be in the prescribed form, or in a form substantially to the same effect[19]
  • specify the ground(s) on which possession is being sought[20] and set out the 'particulars' of the ground, explaining how the ground applies.

If insufficient particulars are given, then the possession claim should be struck out.[21] A landlord can ask for permission to add to or alter the particulars, but permission will only be given where it would be just and equitable to do so.[22] If the particulars are inaccurate (for example, the rent arrears figure stated is later conceded to have been wrong), the court can allow the claim to proceed or the particulars to be amended.[23]

It is likely that each case will have to be considered individually and in the context of its particular circumstances. The Court of Appeal has examined the relevant case law and outlined the approach for assessing the validity of statutory notices, including 'section 8' notices for assured tenants:[24]

  1. Would a ‘reasonable recipient’ reading the notice in context understand it?[25] Consideration may be given to any covering letters accompanying the notice.[26]
  2. If the ‘reasonable recipient’ would be able to spot the error and establish the notice’s intended meaning, this is how the notice should be interpreted.
  3. Does the notice comply with the statutory requirements specific to the legal regime under which it is served? This would involve considering the purpose of those requirements, for example, whether the date that is required by statute and has been recorded incorrectly is of 'particular contractual significance'.[27]
  4. If the notice, properly interpreted, does not comply with the statutory requirements, does the relevant statutory regime permit the notice to be ‘substantially to the same effect’ as the prescribed form?

In the same case, the Court of Appeal held that where the landlord had served a 'section 8 notice' on the grounds of rent arrears and had recorded the date after which court proceedings would commence as 26 November 2017 instead of 26 November 2018, the notice was valid, because it passed the 'reasonable recipient test' (the wrong date was described by the Court as an 'obvious typographical error' and there was a covering letter that stated the correct date), and the date after which possession proceedings would commence was not of 'particular contractual significance' but provided the tenant faced with a threat of possession with enough time to consider what course of action to take.[28]

Service

A landlord is not required to serve the NSP in any particular way. In the event the tenant does not acknowledge service, a landlord must prove that the NSP was served.

Section 196 of the Law of Property Act 1925 allows for valid service of the NSP to be made by registered post or recorded delivery, or personal delivery to the tenant's property, but only when the tenancy agreement explicitly states that service will be effective where it is done in accordance with section 196. Alternatively, the agreement can provide expressly for service by these methods.[29]

Joint tenancies

The notice must be served on all joint tenants and all tenants must be named on the notice, even if some are not resident.[30]

Dispensing with requirement for notice

The requirement for an NSP to be served may be dispensed with if the court considers it 'just and equitable' to do so (eg where a tenant has caused a considerable nuisance to neighbours).[31]

Factors for the court to take into account include:[32]

  • the harm or hardship caused to both landlord and tenant
  • the effect of the notice not being served, and
  • whether the tenant has raised the notice point promptly.

The court does not have the power to dispense with the requirement for service of an NSP where the landlord is seeking possession under grounds 7A (mandatory ASB ground), 7B (no 'right to rent' ground) or 8 (rent arrears ground).[33]

[1] s.8 Housing Act 1988, as amended by s.151 Housing Act 1996 and s.97 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

[2] s.8 Housing Act 1988, as amended by para 6 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; Form No.3 Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/620, as amended by paras 11-12(1) Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.; see Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020 before 29 August 2020.

[3] s.8 Housing Act 1988, as amended by para 6 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(6) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; reg 2(c) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[4] see paras 10-12 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(10)-(11) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; reg 2 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Wales) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1044 (W.233).

[5] Grounds 8, 10, 11 Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988, see reg 3(6) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[6] Ground 14ZA, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988, see reg 3(6) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[7] Ground 14A, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988, see reg 3(6) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[8] Ground 17, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988, see reg 3(6) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[9] Ground 7 Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988, see reg 3(6) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[10] Ground 7B Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988, see reg 3(6) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[11] Ground 14, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988, s. 8(4) Housing Act 1988, reg 2(c) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[12] Ground 7A, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988, s. 8(3A) Housing Act 1988, reg 2(c) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[13] s.8(3)(b) Housing Act 1988.

[14] s.8(4) Housing Act 1988.

[15] s.8(2) Housing Act 1988.

[16] s.8(3A) Housing Act 1988 as inserted by s.97(2)(b) Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.

[17] s.8(4C to 4F) Housing Act 1988 as inserted by s.97(2)(e) Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.

[18] s.8(3)(c) Housing Act 1988.

[19] Form No.3 Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/620, as amended by Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 SI 2016/443, and from 1 December 2016 by Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment No.2) Regulations 2016 SI 2016/1118; for temporary changes during the coronavirus pandemic, see paras 10-12 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(10)-(11) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; reg 2 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Wales) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1044 (W.233).

[20] Mountain v Hastings (1993) 25 HLR 427.

[21] Torridge v Jones (1986) 18 HLR 107, CA.

[22] s.8(2) Housing Act 1988.

[23] Marath v MacGillivray (1996) 28 HLR 484, CA.

[24] Pease v Carter & Anor [2020] EWCA Civ 175.

[25] Mannai Investment Co Ltd v Eagle Star Life Assurance Co Ltd [1997] AC 747.

[26] York v Casey [1998] 31 HLR 209.

[27] The Court of Appeal used section 21(4)(a) of the 1988 Act as an example, see Pease v Carter & Anor [2020] EWCA Civ 175, para 50.

[28] Pease v Carter & Anor [2020] EWCA Civ 175.

[29] Wandsworth LBC v Attwell (1995) 27 HLR 536, CA; s.196 Law of Property Act 1925, as amended by the Recorded Delivery Service Act 1962.

[30] s. 45(3) Housing Act 1988; Newham LBC v Okotoro March 1993, Legal Action 11, Bow County Court; Ch.2.8 Defending Possession Proceedings, 8th ed., LAG 2016.

[31] s.8(1)(b) Housing Act 1988.

[32] Kelsey Housing Association v King (1996) 28 HLR 270, CA.

[33] s.8(5) Housing Act 1988, as amended by s.97(2)(f) Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and (with effect from 1 December 2016) by s.41(4) Immigration Act 2016.

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