What is Section 8?
11 March 2020 15571 Views
With confirmation that Section 21 will be scrapped, how can agents get ready for life after no-fault evictions?
What is a Section 8 notice?
A Section 8 notice is a possession notice that can be served on tenants in England and Wales if a tenant has broken the terms of a tenancy at any point during an assured tenancy or assured agricultural occupancy. It was introduced in Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988.
The most common reason to serve such a notice on your tenant is if they are more than two months in rent arrears – not including the current month’s rent.
What is the process?
Before resorting to a Section 8 notice you should first try talking to the tenant. See what their circumstances are and why they haven’t paid the rent. It may be a temporary issue and the tenant might be able to clear their arrears with a payment plan, without the landlord having to resort to legal action (with your assistance, if need be).
If you can’t get hold of the tenant or they are refusing to talk to you, the next step is to send a letter, with proof of postage, giving them a minimum of seven days to bring their account up to date. At this stage, you can advise them that failure to do this may result in legal action.
Once the deadline passes and if the arrears amount is more than two months’ rent (not including the current month’s rent), you can serve a Section 8 notice. This gives the tenant a minimum of 18 days to pay the rent arrears or vacate the property.
If the tenant does not pay or vacate the property by the time the notice expires (usually after 18 days) you are legally entitled to apply to the courts for a possession order to get the property back.
Other breaches of a tenancy agreement can also be grounds to serve a Section 8 notice and attempt to gain possession. However, it’s always advisable to seek legal advice before getting started, which Agent Smart can help with.
What is the best way to prepare for a Section 8 eviction?
Firstly, get all your paperwork in order. Make sure your tenancy agreement is correct, any deposit has been correctly registered, and the tenant has received all the documents they should have, like a Gas Safety certificate.
Send the Section 8 notice by first class Royal Mail post with proof of postage, as this is a recognised method of delivery by the courts. Include a covering letter and a rent schedule detailing all rent due and any payments received. This needs to go back to the date when the rent arrears first accrued, or else a minimum of six months.
Why use a specialist like Agent Smart?
For agents and landlords, an eviction can be stressful, leaving them worrying if they have served the right documents at the right time. Agent Smart specialises in property-focused legal services, giving agents and landlords the peace of mind that they’re sending the right letters and notices at the right time, and fixing any errors or discrepancies before the process starts.
Once the abovementioned notice expires and the tenant has not vacated the property, Agent Smart will help pass the details onto solicitors and the courts, taking stress and worry away from the landlord and letting agent.
What common mistakes occur?
Agent Smart advises agents or landlords to contact them before attempting to serve a Section 8 notice. It can save a lot of time and money to bring in an expert at an early stage, to ensure mistakes aren’t made.
Typical DIY Section 8 notices can include mistakes like typing errors in a tenant or landlord’s name on official tenancy documents. If it’s a joint tenancy or there are multiple landlords, one name might be missing. Also common are notices where the landlord’s details don’t match what is on the land registry deed for the property. Worse still, property addresses are sometimes incorrect, and postcodes don’t match what is written on the Royal Mail postcode finder.
Agents and landlords also need to ensure that all other private rented sector regulation is complied with, including deposit registration. Tenants must also have been issued with copies of their tenancy agreements, Gas Safety certificates, How to Rent leaflets and EPC certificates. They must have also received Prescribed Information about their deposit and a Deposit Certificate within 30 days of the agent or landlord receiving the deposit. Electricity certificates will also need to be issued on all new tenancies and renewals from 1 June 2020.
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