Assured tenancy mandatory grounds for possession

The court usually orders outright possession of an assured tenancy if it is satisfied that the conditions for a mandatory ground are met.

This content applies to England

What is a mandatory ground for possession?

A landlord can seek possession of an assured tenancy using a mandatory ground. This includes assured shorthold tenancies. Most housing association tenants have an assured tenancy, and most private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy.

The court must order possession if it is satisfied that the conditions for the mandatory ground are met.[1] The court usually makes an outright possession order for 14 days but can postpone the possession date for up to 42 days in cases of exceptional hardship. The 42 days runs from the date the order is made.

Landlord's notice seeking possession on a mandatory ground

The landlord serves a notice seeking possession to start the possession process, also called a 'section 8' notice.

The court has the discretion to dispense with the requirement on the landlord to issue a valid notice if it is just and equitable to do. This does not apply to possession using ground 8.[2]

The notice must list the grounds relied on, explain how these grounds apply, and state a date after which court proceedings can start.[3] For most mandatory grounds the notice period is either two weeks or two months. Where the landlord uses multiple grounds on the same notice, the longest notice period normally applies.

After the notice expires, the landlord can issue a possession claim in the County Court.

Find out more about an assured tenancy notice seeking possession.

Tenant's defence to a mandatory ground

A tenant might have a defence if they can provide the court with evidence that either:

  • the landlord's ground has not been proved, or

  • the tenant has a counterclaim against the landlord

The court can strike out the possession claim if the notice has not been served correctly or does not include all the required information.

The tenant might be able to raise a public law defence if the landlord is a public body. Find out more about public law defences.

Find out more about the possession proceedings process.

Help to defend a possession claim is in scope for legal aid. If the tenant is eligible for legal aid, they can get free legal advice and representation from a solicitor or specialist adviser.

Find out more about legal aid for housing issues.

Discretionary grounds

A landlord might use discretionary grounds for possession in addition to or instead of mandatory grounds. For example, the discretionary rent arrears grounds 10 and 11 are usually used alongside the mandatory rent arrears ground 8. If the landlord has issued the notice and the claim on all three grounds, they can decide which to proceed with at the hearing. If the landlord proceedings on a mandatory ground, the court must make the possession order if it is satisfied the ground is made out.

Sometimes the landlord does not proceed on the mandatory ground. For example, because it no longer applies, or they have reached an agreement with the tenant. In this case the landlord can rely on the discretionary grounds.

Find out more about discretionary grounds for possession of assured tenancies.

Guidance for landlords

Social landlords should follow the pre-action protocol before issuing possession proceedings. The protocol requires the landlord takes reasonable steps to ensure the tenant understands information and court action is a last resort.

Find out more about the pre-action protocol for possession claims by social landlords.

Gov.uk has a guide on the possession action process for private landlords.

Ground 1: Owner occupier

The court must order possession under ground 1 when either:[4]

  • the landlord, or one of the joint landlords, lived in the property as their only or principal home at some time before the start of the tenancy, or

  • the landlord requires the property for themselves, or for their spouse or civil partner, as their only or principal home

The landlord cannot use this ground if they bought the property during the tenancy.

Notice period for ground 1

The minimum notice period for ground 1 is two months.

Prior notice required

The landlord must have told the tenant in writing before the start of the tenancy that they might use ground 1. The court has discretion to waive this requirement.

The Court of Appeal held that prior verbal, rather than written, notice was sufficient where the tenant was clear that the landlord might return to live in the property.[5]

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 1 cannot take effect during a fixed term.[6]

Ground 2: Repossession by the landlord's mortgage lender

The court must order possession under ground 2 when both:[7]

  • the property is subject to a mortgage or charge granted before the tenancy started, and

  • the lender is entitled to exercise a power of sale requiring vacant possession

When ground 2 might apply

A private tenant could become the tenant of a mortgage lender as a result of their landlord's financial problems. For example, if the landlord fails to keep up with mortgage payments.

Find out more about a tenant's rights when a landlord is repossessed.

Notice period for ground 2

The minimum notice period for ground 2 is two months.

Prior notice required

The landlord must have informed the tenant in writing before the start of the tenancy that they might use ground 2. The court has the discretion to waive this requirement.

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 2 cannot take effect during a fixed term unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise.[8]

Ground 3: Holiday let

The court must order possession under ground 3 if both:[9]

  • the tenancy is for a fixed term of not more than eight months, and

  • during the year before the start of the tenancy the accommodation was occupied for the purpose of a holiday

When ground 3 might apply

Ground 3 might apply if the property is let out for holidays during the summer and rented to tenants out of season.

It is unlikely that the landlord's own holiday occupation would meet the conditions, as it must be under a right to occupy specifically for a holiday rather than a general right to occupy.

Notice period for ground 3

The minimum notice period for ground 3 is two weeks.

Prior notice required

The landlord must have informed the tenant in writing before the start of the tenancy that they might use ground 3. The court does not have the discretion to waive this requirement.

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 3 cannot take effect during a fixed term.[10]

Ground 4: Student let

The court must order possession under ground 4 if both:[11]

  • the tenancy is for a fixed term of not more than 12 months, and

  • during the year before the start of the tenancy the accommodation was a student letting

What is a student letting?

A student letting is a tenancy granted by a specified educational institution, or another specified housing provider, to a student who is pursuing, or intends to pursue, a part time or full time course at the educational institution.[12]

The Secretary of State issued regulations to specify the educational institutions and housing providers.[13]

When might ground 4 apply

Ground 4 might apply if the property is let to students by a university during term time and rented out to tenants during the holidays.

Notice period for ground 4

The minimum notice period for ground 4 is two weeks.

Prior notice required

The landlord must have informed the tenant in writing before the start of the tenancy that they might use ground 4. The court does not have the discretion to waive this requirement.

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 4 cannot take effect during a fixed term.[14]

Ground 5: Property required for minister of religion

The court must order possession under ground 5 when the property is both:[15]

  • held for use by a minister of religion to perform their duties, and

  • required for occupation by a minister of religion

Notice period for ground 5

The minimum notice period for ground 5 is two months.

Prior notice required

The landlord must have informed the tenant in writing before the start of the tenancy that they might use ground 5. The court does not have the discretion to waive this requirement.

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 5 cannot take effect during a fixed term.[16]

Ground 6: Property required for redevelopment

The court must order possession under ground 6 if the landlord both:[17]

  • intends to demolish, reconstruct or carry out substantial works to the whole or a considerable part of the property, and

  • cannot reasonably carry out the work while the tenant remains in residence

The landlord must show their intention to demolish or reconstruct will be fulfilled shortly after the date of the hearing.[18] They do not have to provide alternative accommodation but are liable to pay reasonable removal costs.[19]

This ground can also be used where a landlord has leased the property to a housing association that has sublet to the tenant and intends to carry out substantial works.

Notice period for ground 6

The minimum notice period for ground 6 is two months.

When the landlord cannot reasonably carry out the work

The landlord must prove they cannot reasonably carry out the work with the tenant in residence. They must show the court that either:

  • the tenant does not agree to a variation in the terms of the tenancy to grant access, or

  • the tenant does not agree to accept a tenancy for a reduced part of the house, or

  • the nature of the work is such that variations to the tenancy are not practical

Restrictions on the use of ground 6

A landlord cannot use this ground if either:

  • they purchased the property during the tenancy, or

  • the tenant succeeded to the assured tenancy on the death of a regulated tenant

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 6 cannot take effect during a fixed term.[20]

Ground 7: Death of the tenant

The court must order possession under ground 7 where both:[21]

  • the tenancy has passed on by will or intestacy rules after the death of the tenant, and

  • the landlord started possession proceedings no later than 12 months after the death of the tenant or, if the court directs, the date the landlord became aware of the death

Possession proceedings means issuing a possession claim in the County Court. Service of notice is not enough for the landlord to show they started proceedings within 12 months.[22]

Notice period for ground 7

The minimum notice period for ground 7 is two months.

Restrictions on the use of ground 7

This ground cannot be used when someone has inherited the tenancy under succession rules.

Find out more about succession to an assured tenancy.

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 7 cannot take effect during a fixed term unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise.[23]

Ground 7A: Antisocial behaviour

The court must order possession under ground 7A if one of the five antisocial behaviour conditions are met.[24] A condition is not met if an appeal against the conviction, order, or finding is pending or successful.

Government guidance on antisocial behaviour powers includes information about this ground.

Condition 1: Conviction of a serious offence

The tenant, or anyone living in or visiting the property, has been convicted of a serious offence that was committed either:

  • in the locality of the dwelling house, or

  • elsewhere against a person who lives or has a right to occupy accommodation in the locality, or

  • elsewhere against the landlord or someone employed in connection with the landlord's housing management functions

A serious offence is defined in legislation.[25] It must have been committed on or after 20 October 2014.

The notice seeking possession must be served within 12 months of the conviction. If there is an appeal, the 12 months starts from when the appeal is decided or abandoned.

Condition 2: Breach of an injunction

A court must have found that the tenant, or anyone living in or visiting the property, had breached an injunction to prevent nuisance or annoyance.

The condition is not met if the breach is only a failure to participate in a particular activity. For example, if the tenant failed to attend mediation classes with neighbours.

The breach must have occurred in the locality. The condition is met if the breach happened somewhere else only if the injunction was granted to prevent harassment, alarm or distress to:

  • a person who lives, or has a right to occupy accommodation, in the locality

  • the landlord or someone employed in connection with the landlord's housing management functions

The notice seeking possession must be served within 12 months of the day the court found the breach. If there is an appeal, the 12 months starts from when the appeal is decided, abandoned or withdrawn.

Find out more about an injunction to prevent nuisance or annoyance.

Condition 3: Breach of a criminal behaviour order

The tenant, or anyone living in or visiting the property, has been convicted of a breach of a criminal behaviour order that prohibits an activity in the locality.

The condition if met if the breach happened somewhere else only when the criminal behaviour order was intended to protect:

  • a person who lives, or has a right to occupy accommodation, in the locality

  • the landlord or someone employed in connection with the landlord's housing management functions

The notice seeking possession must be served within 12 months of the conviction. If there is an appeal, the 12 months starts from when the appeal is decided or abandoned.

Find out more about a criminal behaviour order.

Condition 4: Closure order

A closure order has been made on the tenant's property and access to the property under the order or closure notice has been prohibited for more than 48 hours.

The notice seeking possession must be served within three months of the closure order. If there is an appeal, the three months starts from when the appeal is decided, abandoned or withdrawn.

Find out more about a closure order.

Condition 5: Noise nuisance

The tenant, or anyone living in or visiting the property, has been convicted of an offence for breaching either:

  • a noise abatement notice, or

  • a court order in relation to noise nuisance

The notice seeking possession must be served within 12 months of the conviction. If there is an appeal, the 12 month period starts from when the appeal is decided or abandoned.

Find out more about local authority duties to deal with noise.

Notice period for ground 7A

The minimum notice period for ground 7A is:[26]

  • one month if the tenancy is for a fixed term

  • four weeks if the tenancy is periodic

If the landlord uses multiple grounds on the notice and includes ground 7A, the notice period for ground 7A applies to the whole notice.

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 7A cannot take effect during a fixed term unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise.[27]

Discretionary antisocial behaviour grounds

There are also discretionary antisocial behaviour grounds for possession. A landlord might choose to use these grounds as well as or instead of ground 7A.

Find out more about discretionary grounds for an assured tenancy.

Ground 7B: Tenant does not have a right to rent

The court must order possession under ground 7B where the Home Office has notified the landlord that one or more, but not all, of the tenants or occupiers do not have a right to rent.[28]

Notice period for ground 7B

The minimum notice period for ground 7B is two weeks.

Who has the right to rent?

Some people automatically have a right to rent, for example British and Irish citizens. For others it depends whether they have leave or permission to be in the UK. A person with no leave to remain in the UK has no right to rent.

Private landlords are prohibited from letting out accommodation to someone who is disqualified from renting because of their immigration status.

Find out more about the right to rent.

When no one has the right to rent

Ground 7B does not apply where the Home Office has served notice that all of the tenants or occupiers have no right to rent.

Where no one has a right to rent the assured tenancy is converted to a tenancy that is excluded from protection under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. The landlord can serve a 28 days' notice on a prescribed form.[29]

Joint tenancies where another tenant has the right to rent

Ground 7B might be proven for a joint tenancy where at least one of the other tenants has a right to rent.

The court can order that the tenancy interest of the tenant without a right to rent is transferred to one of the other tenants with the right to rent. This is an alternative to awarding possession and ending the joint tenancy for everyone.[30]

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 7B can take effect during a fixed term.[31]

Ground 8: Serious rent arrears

The court must order possession under ground 8 if the tenant owes at least:

  • eight weeks rent if they pay weekly or fortnightly

  • two months rent if they pay monthly

  • three months rent if they pay quarterly or yearly

The tenant must owe the rent when the notice is served and at the time of the court hearing.

Notice period for ground 8

The minimum notice period for ground 8 is two weeks.

The court does not have the power to waive the requirement for the notice to be served.[32]

Action a social landlord should take before using ground 8

Social landlords should follow the pre-action protocol before pursuing possession proceedings on ground 8.

Find out more about the pre-action protocol for possession claims by social landlords.

When the tenant reduces arrears before the court hearing

The court considers whether the ground is met at the hearing. If the tenant reduces their arrears below the required amount by the time of the court hearing, the court cannot grant possession under ground 8.

The court cannot adjourn a ground 8 claim so that a tenant can reduce the arrears below the threshold unless there are exceptional circumstances. The court does not have the power to adjourn to allow housing benefit to pay arrears, and a housing benefit authority's maladministration is not an exceptional circumstance.[33]

Tenant's counterclaim to reduce arrears

A tenant might be able to reduce their arrears if they can prove the landlord owes them money. For example, the tenant could counterclaim for damages due to disrepair in the property.

A counterclaim can prevent a ground 8 possession order if the amount awarded to the tenant:

  • is more than the arrears

  • reduces the arrears below the level required for ground 8

Tenants who want to rely on a counterclaim should inform the court and the landlord on their defence form. If they are not successful, the tenant could be ordered to pay the landlord's cost. Tenants should speak with a housing specialist to find out more about issuing a counterclaim.

Find out more about legal aid for housing issues.

Breathing space debt respite scheme

A breathing space prevents creditors, including landlords, from taking action against debtors. This respite period is called a moratorium and lasts up to 60 days.[34]

During the moratorium landlords are prohibited from serving notice, issuing a claim for possession or applying for a warrant of eviction on the basis of rent arrears. This includes where possession is sought using ground 8.

Find out more about breathing space and possession proceedings.

Possession during a fixed term

A possession order granted under ground 8 cannot take effect during a fixed term unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise.[35]

Discretionary rent arrears grounds

There are also discretionary rent arrears grounds for possession. A landlord might choose to use these grounds as well as or instead of ground 8.

It is common for landlords to use ground 8 at the same time as the discretionary grounds 10 and 11. The tenant might prevent ground 8 by paying off some or all of the arrears by the court hearing, but the court can still order possession on grounds 10 or 11. The court can only make an order under a discretionary ground if it is reasonable to do so.

Find out more about discretionary grounds.

Table: Assured tenancy grounds for possession and notice periods

Mandatory groundNotice period
1 – Owner occupiertwo months
2 – Repossession by the landlord's lendertwo months
3 – Holiday lettwo weeks
4 – Student lettwo weeks
5 - Property required for minister of religiontwo months
6 - Property required for redevelopmenttwo months
7 - Death of the tenanttwo months
7A - Antisocial behaviourone month if fixed term, 4 weeks if periodic
7B - Tenant does not have a right to renttwo weeks
8 - Serious rent arrearstwo weeks
Discretionary groundNotice period
9 - Suitable alternative accommodationtwo months
10 - Rent arrearstwo weeks
11 - Persistent delay in rent paymentstwo weeks
12 - Breach of tenancytwo weeks
13 - Deterioration in the condition of the propertytwo weeks
14 - Nuisance, annoyance, illegal or immoral usenone, proceedings can start immediately
14A - Domestic violencetwo weeks
14ZA - Offences during a riottwo weeks
15 - Deterioration of furnituretwo weeks
16 - Employee of landlordtwo months
17 - Tenancy granted due to false statementtwo weeks

Last updated: 29 December 2023

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.7(3) Housing Act 1988 and s.89 Housing Act 1980.

  • [2]

    s.8(1)(b) and s.8(5) Housing Act 1988.

  • [3]

    s.8(3)(b) Housing Act 1988; Mountain v Hastings (1993) 25 HLR 427; Bayliss v Martin; Places for People v Green, Sheffield County Court, [2008] 11 March 2008, unreported. See SHLU, June 2008.

  • [4]

    Ground 2, Part 1, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [5]

    Fernandes v Parvardin (1982) 5 HLR 33.

  • [6]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.

  • [7]

    Ground 2, Part 1, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [8]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.

  • [9]

    Ground 3, Part 1, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [10]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.

  • [11]

    Ground 4, Part 1, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [12]

    para 8, Sch.1 Housing Act 1988.

  • [13]

    Assured and Protected Tenancies (Lettings to Students) Regulations 1998 SI 1998/1967.

  • [14]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.

  • [15]

    Ground 5, Part 1, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [16]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.

  • [17]

    Ground 6, Part 1, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [18]

    Betty's Cafes Ltd v Phillips Furnishing Stores Ltd (No 1) [1959] AC 20, HL.

  • [19]

    s.11 Housing Act 1988.

  • [20]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.

  • [21]

    Ground 6, Part 1, Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [22]

    Osada v Shepping [2000] 2 EGLR 38, (2001) 33 HLR 146.

  • [23]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.

  • [24]

    Ground 7A, Sch.2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [25]

    Schedule 2A of the Housing Act 1985

  • [26]

    s.8(3A) Housing Act 1988.

  • [27]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.

  • [28]

    Ground 7B, Sch.2 Housing Act 1988.

  • [29]

    s33D(3) Immigration Act 2014; sch.1 Immigration (Residential Accommodation) (Termination of Residential Tenancy Agreements) (Guidance etc.) Regulations 2016/1060.

  • [30]

    s.10A Housing Act 1988.

  • [31]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.

  • [32]

    s.8(5) Housing Act 1988.

  • [33]

    North British Housing Association v Matthews [2004] EWCA Civ 1736.

  • [34]

    reg 26(2) The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 SI 2021/1311

  • [35]

    s.7(6) Housing Act 1988.