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If you get a section 8 notice

This advice applies to England

If you get a section 8 notice, it's the first step your landlord has to take to make you leave your home. You won't have to leave your home straight away.

If your section 8 notice is valid, your landlord will need to go to court to evict you.

You might be able to challenge your eviction and stay longer in your home.

When you can get a section 8 notice

You might get a section 8 notice at any time during your tenancy. It depends on the reason your landlord is using to try to make you leave.

Your section 8 notice will only be valid if you've got an assured or assured shorthold tenancy.

You can check what type of tenancy you have on Shelter's website.

Your landlord has to give you a reason for giving you a section 8 notice. There are lots of reasons your landlord can use, for example if you:

  • have rent arrears
  • damage your landlord's property
  • cause a nuisance to your neighbours

Your landlord could give you a section 21 notice as well as a section 8 notice. Your landlord doesn't need a reason for giving you a section 21 notice.

If you get a section 21 notice, don't ignore it. You'll need to deal with it as well as your section 8 notice - and the steps are different.

Read our advice on what to do if you've got a section 21 notice.

How much notice you'll get

The amount of notice you get will depend on what grounds for possession your landlord has used. Normally, you'll get at least 14 days' notice - you won't have to leave straight away.

Coronavirus - your landlord might have to give you more notice 

The government have temporarily changed the law around evictions. 

The length of notice your landlord has to give you depends on the type of tenancy you have and when they asked you to leave.  You should check if your landlord has given you the right amount of notice

You should think about whether you have a good case to stay in your home if you go to court. You should also think about what your options are if you decide to leave.

If you leave your home before the date on your section 8 notice, you could be considered 'intentionally homeless'. This could make it harder for you to get help from your local council.

You should get help before you decide to leave your home.

Check your landlord has given your section 8 notice correctly

Your landlord should give your section 8 notice in writing using 'form 3' or a letter with the same information. You can find form 3 on GOV.UK if you're not sure what it looks like.

Your notice won't be valid if it doesn't include:

  • your name
  • the address of the property
  • the 'grounds for possession' - these are the reasons why your landlord wants you to leave your home
  • the date your notice ends - your landlord will need to get a possession order from the court if you don't leave by that date

If your landlord hasn't given you the notice correctly, they could still ask the court to order you to leave your home. You'll have a chance to put your case forward and the court will make a decision.

Check the reason on your section 8 notice is valid

Your landlord has to give you a valid reason for giving you a section 8 notice. These reasons are known as 'grounds for possession'. The court will have to accept your landlord's grounds for possession before they decide whether you have to leave.

Your section 8 notice should explain:

  • what grounds for possession your landlord is using to try to evict you - they might use a few
  • why your landlord is using the grounds for possession, for example if you have rent arrears, or if you've damaged the property

The grounds for possession are numbered 1-17. The court will decide whether you have to leave your home or if you can stay - it'll depend on the grounds for possession your landlord has used.

The ground number and explanation should be on your section 8 notice. If they're not, the section 8 notice won't be valid.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help understanding the grounds for possession your landlord is using.

If your landlord's grounds for possession are numbered 1 to 8

Your landlord will have to prove to the court the grounds for possession they've used are right for your situation. For example, because you have rent arrears of at least 8 weeks both when you got your section 8 notice and at the court hearing.

If your landlord can prove the grounds for possession, the court will usually have to order you to leave your home. This is because grounds 1-8 are 'mandatory grounds' for possession. This means that the court has to accept your landlord's reasons if they can prove them.

Grounds 1-8 also include things like if:

  • your landlord wants to move back into the property
  • your landlord is behind with their mortgage payments and the property is being repossessed
  • you've been convicted of a serious criminal offence near your home

Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you're not sure about the grounds for possession that have been used.

If you have rent arrears

It's a good idea to show the court you've tried to lower your rent arrears. Make sure you keep a record of what you've paid.

You should pay as much as you can afford to reduce your rent arrears. It could mean the court will decide you can stay in your home. Find out more about dealing with rent arrears.

Your landlord can use more than 1 ground for possession if you have rent arrears or if you've paid your rent late. The grounds for possession your landlord can use will depend on your situation.

Your landlord will have to prove the amount of arrears you have to the court. They'll also need to show you had the arrears when you got the section 8 notice.

If your section 8 notice says your landlord is using 'ground 8' and the court accepts your landlord's case, you'll usually have to leave your home.

Your landlord can only use 'ground 8' if you have arrears of at least:

  • 2 months - if you pay your rent monthly
  • 8 weeks - if you pay your rent weekly
  • 3 months - if you pay your rent quarterly or yearly

If you can reduce your rent arrears below these levels before the court hearing, your landlord won't be able to prove ground 8. The court will then decide if it's reasonable for you to leave your home.

If you think your landlord owes you money, you might be able to ask the court to use this money to lower your arrears. Your landlord might owe you money if they:

The court is more likely to decide you can stay in your home if you can show you're dealing with your rent arrears and can afford to keep paying your rent.

Example

Joe pays his rent weekly and is 9 weeks behind with his rent. His landlord has given him a section 8 notice and used grounds for possession numbered 8 and 10.

Ground 8 is a 'mandatory' ground for possession. If Joe's landlord can prove he is at least 8 weeks behind with his rent when he got the notice and when he went to court, the court will have to order that he can be evicted.

Ground 10 is a 'discretionary' ground for possession and can be used for any amount of rent arrears. This means if Joe's landlord can prove he is behind with his rent, the court will decide whether it's reasonable for him to be evicted.

If Joe is able to pay back 2 weeks' rent arrears before the date of the court hearing, he'll only have 7 weeks of rent arrears.

This means that Joe's landlord can't prove he's 8 weeks behind with his rent in court. His landlord can still prove that Joe has rent arrears but the court can decide whether he can stay in his home.

If your landlord's grounds for possession are numbered 9-17

Your landlord will have to show the court that the grounds for possession they've used are right for your situation. For example, because you're in rent arrears or because you've damaged the property.

The court will then decide whether they accept your landlord's grounds and think it's reasonable for you to leave your home. This is because grounds 9-17 are 'discretionary grounds'.

If your landlord has 2 or more grounds for possession

Your landlord might use more than one ground for possession. For example, if you're in rent arrears there are 3 grounds that can be used.

If any of your grounds for possession are numbered 1-8, the court will order you to leave your home if they accept your landlord's case. This is because grounds 1-8 are 'mandatory grounds' for possession. This means that the court has to accept your landlord's reasons if they can prove them.

If all of your grounds for possession are numbered 9-17, the court will decide whether they think it's reasonable for you to leave your home. This is because grounds 9-17 are 'discretionary grounds'.

The court will look first at whether they can make you leave your home using the mandatory grounds. If your landlord can't prove any of the mandatory grounds, the court will then look at the discretionary grounds to decide whether you need to leave your home.

Challenge your eviction

You might be able to challenge your eviction if your section 8 notice isn't valid or you have a good reason why you shouldn't leave your home. This is called 'defending possession'.

It's a good idea to talk to your landlord if you feel able to. They might decide to let you stay in your home if you can show you can repay your arrears, for example.

If you don't leave your home

If you don't leave by the date on your section 8 notice, your landlord will have to go to court to make you leave. This is called starting a possession claim. Your landlord can't go to court until after the date given on your section 8 notice.

Coronavirus - if your landlord goes to court to evict you

Evictions can take place again. Talk to an adviser as soon as possible if you get letters or paperwork from the court.

If your landlord started court action against you before 3 August 2020, they have to send you a letter before they can continue with their court claim. This letter is called a ‘reactivation notice’ – you can check what to do if you get a reactivation notice

If your landlord started the claim after 3 August 2020, talk to an adviser.

Your landlord has to start a possession claim within 12 months of the date on your section 8 notice.

If you get court papers

You'll get court papers when your landlord starts a possession claim.

The papers will include a copy of the form your landlord filled in when they started the claim – this is called the ‘claim form’. The claim form tells you why your landlord is trying to make you leave your home.

The papers will also include a form to challenge the eviction – this is called a 'defence form'.

You might be able to challenge your eviction and stay in your home. You should act straight away if you get court papers.

You might have to pay your landlord's court costs if your landlord starts a possession claim. Court costs can be expensive.

You might be able to get legal aid to help you with your case, for example if you're on a low income or get benefits.

If you get legal aid, you might get protection from paying your landlord's costs if you can't afford to pay them.

Read more about getting help with legal costs.

Write down why you’re challenging the eviction

You can challenge your eviction if for example: 

  • the details on your section 8 notice are wrong
  • your landlord hasn't given you a proper reason

If you can, talk to an adviser before you challenge your eviction.

You can use the defence form that came with the court papers to give your reasons for challenging your eviction. You can also find a copy of the defence form on GOV.UK – it’s called form N11.

If you find it difficult to use the defence form, write what you want to say on a piece of paper instead. Write your case number on the piece of paper – you can find your case number on the claim form.

It's best to give as much detail as possible - the court will look at what you say to decide whether you can stay in your home.

Tell the court if you’ve been struggling because of coronavirus

For example, tell the court if:

  • you or someone you live with had coronavirus
  • you’ve had to self-isolate
  • you’ve lost your job or you’re earning less

If you get a possession order, you'll usually have to pay any court costs within 14 days. Ask the court if you want to pay the court costs over a longer time - for example by making a smaller payment every month.

If you think your landlord has discriminated against you

If your landlord has treated you unfairly because of who you are, you might be able to stop your eviction. For example, they might have harassed you because of your gender or refused to make changes for your disability.

The court might stop the eviction or award you compensation to lower any rent arrears you owe.

Check if your problem counts as discrimination to find out whether you can add it to your eviction defence.

If the reason you're being evicted is connected to your disability

You might be able to challenge the eviction. For example if you’re being evicted for rent arrears, but the reason you got into rent arrears was because your learning difficulty made it hard to follow your landlord’s payment policy.

You might be able to defend your eviction using discrimination law - check if your housing problem is discrimination.

If you're being evicted because you complained about discrimination before

This could be a type of discrimination called victimisation. You might be able to defend your eviction using discrimination law.

Explain how you're making the situation better

Your landlord might be able to evict you using a section 8 notice if, for example:

  • you don't pay your rent, or pay it late
  • you've got a pet but your tenancy agreement says you can't keep pets
  • you've damaged your home

You might be able to defend your section 8 notice if you explain to the court what you're doing to put things right. For example if you've paid some of your rent arrears or if you've repaired any damage you caused. You should also explain why it won't happen again.

Make sure you write on your defence form why you think you should be allowed to stay in your home.

Delaying the date you'll need to leave

You should use the defence form to explain to the court why you think you should have more time in your home. You'll need to explain your situation in as much detail as you can.

The court could delay the date you'll need to leave your home. The amount of extra time the court can give you depends on the reason, or ground, your landlord is using.

Depending on the reason your landlord has given on your section 8 notice, the court could either:

  • let you stay in your home if you follow their orders, for example if you agree to pay off your arrears - this might happen if your landlord has used grounds 9 to 17
  • delay the date you'll need to leave by up to 6 weeks if leaving in the usual 14 days would cause you problems - this might happen if your landlord has used grounds 1 to 8

You'll need to have a good reason to delay the date you leave, for example if you've got a serious illness or disability.

The court will decide whether you can stay in your home and how long for.

Send the defence to the court

You should send the defence form or what you've written back to the court within 14 days - the address will be on the form. If you miss the deadline, you should still send it as soon as possible. Make sure you keep a copy - you'll need to remember what you've written later on.

Check what happens after you send your defence form

The court will tell you when it will look at the case for the first time - this is called the 'review date'.

You can find the review date in the ‘notice of review’. The court will send you the notice of review either:

  • at the same time as the claim form
  • after it gets your defence

Your landlord should send you a copy of all the documents the court will look at – this is called the ‘bundle’. If you haven’t got the bundle 2 weeks before the review date, tell the court – you can find the contact details of the court on GOV.UK.

You can talk to a free legal adviser on the review date – they’re called the ‘duty adviser’. Before the review date, read the letters from the court and make sure you know how to contact the duty adviser on the review date.

Check what happens on the review date

You don’t need to go to court – but you should make sure you can talk on the phone.

It’s worth talking to the duty adviser even if you’ve already got advice. They can talk to your landlord for you. They might be able to get your landlord to agree to pause or stop the eviction.

If you and your landlord can’t agree, the court will look at all the documents. If there’s a problem with your landlord’s documents, the court might pause or stop the eviction.

If there’s no problem with the documents, the court will decide when to have a court hearing – this is called the ‘possession hearing’. The possession hearing will be at least 4 weeks after the review date.

Prepare for your possession hearing

The court will tell you when your hearing is and where you need to go for it.

You should go to the possession hearing – it's your chance to put forward your case in court and give reasons why you should stay in your home.

If you can’t go to the possession hearing, tell the court as soon as possible. Explain why you can’t go – for example because you have to self-isolate. The court might:

  • arrange for the hearing to happen by phone or video call
  • change the date of the hearing

You can check how to prepare if the court decides to arrange a hearing by phone or video call.

Read all the documents you've got from the court and your landlord. Take any evidence with you to court, for example:

  • a copy of your tenancy agreement
  • a letter from your GP if you couldn't pay your rent because you were ill and unable to work
  • a bank statement or wage slip to show how much you can afford to repay if you're in rent arrears

You can get a lawyer to represent you in court. If you’ve got no income or a low income, you might be able to get legal aid to help with the cost. Find out if you can get help with legal costs at GOV.UK.

On the day of the hearing, you’ll also be able to contact the duty adviser – it doesn’t matter how much income you have. Before the date of the possession hearing, read the letters from the court and make sure you know how to contact the duty adviser.

If you can’t contact the duty adviser on the day of the hearing, tell the usher or the judge before the hearing starts – the judge might agree to delay the hearing.

Talk to an adviser to find out what legal advice you can get.

Go to your possession hearing

Coronavirus - wearing a face mask or covering at court

When you go to the court in person, you’ll have to wear a mask or covering for your mouth and nose. If you don’t wear one, you won’t be allowed in the building. Some people don’t have to wear one – check who doesn’t have to wear a mask or face covering on GOV.UK.

You should make sure you go to the possession hearing even if you've not sent your defence. It's your opportunity to explain your situation to the court.

You could give any extra evidence you have, for example if you've got a new job and could afford to pay back some arrears.

If you've sent your defence form and you don't go to the hearing, the court could ignore it and just rely on the evidence your landlord has given them.

You can take someone with you for support, for example a friend or family member. They might not be able to speak for you in court.

Getting a decision from the court

You'll be told by the court if you can stay in your home or if you'll have to leave.

They'll usually tell you their decision on the day of the hearing.

If the court needs more information, they might decide to hear the case on another day.

If you don't go to the hearing, you could find out the court's decision by phoning them or speaking to your landlord. The court will also send a letter telling you whether you have to leave your home.

Even if you have to leave your home, the court might give you more time to find somewhere else to live.

If you have to leave

You normally won't have to leave your home straight away - you'll get a notice from the court telling you when you're supposed to leave. This is called an 'outright possession order'.

You'll usually be given 14 days to leave, but it could be longer.

You can appeal against the decision of the possession order, but only if you can prove that mistakes were made in the possession hearing. For example if the court didn't look at relevant information or used the wrong law.

You might be able to stop a possession order if your situation changes, for example if you start getting benefits and can repay your rent arrears. This is known as 'suspending' a possession order. Whether you can do this depends on the ground your landlord uses.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you get a possession order.

If you couldn't go to the court hearing

If you couldn't go to the court hearing you might be able to get the court to look at your case again.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help if you couldn't go to the court hearing.

If you can stay in your home

If the court accepts your defence, they could decide to:

  • let you stay in your home if you meet certain conditions, for example if you pay your arrears - this is known as 'suspending' a possession order
  • dismiss your landlord's case - this means you'll stay in your home and you won't need to meet any conditions

You'll only be able to suspend a possession order if your landlord has used grounds 9-17. This is because they are discretionary grounds.

You might have to pay court costs - the judge will tell you how much.

You can also apply to change an order later, for example if you can't keep to the terms of the order any more.

If you don't leave your home

Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice straight away if you've been told bailiffs are coming to your home.

Your landlord will have to get an eviction warrant from the court if you don't leave your home by the date on the possession order. This means they can ask the court to send 'enforcement officers' to make you leave.

Enforcement officers are also known as bailiffs. Bailiffs are employed by the court to help landlords get their property back.

Bailiffs have to give you a notice of eviction with the date and time of your eviction. They have to give you the notice at least 14 days before they evict you.

Depending on the ground your landlord has used, you might be able to ask the court again to to delay the date you'll need to leave. For example if you can now repay your arrears in a reasonable time.

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