The Difference Between a Section 8 and a Section 21 Notice

Section 8 and a Section 21 notices are both used to serve notice on a tenant, however they are very different, and it is vitally important that the correct notice is served to avoid delay and expense.

Section 8:

A Section 8 notice (also known as a Notice to Quit)  enables you to remove a tenant as they have breached their contract and therefore the landlord has grounds for possession.  The most common ground for eviction is rent arrears, although there are of course many other ways in which a contract can be breached.  If you are serving a Section 8 on the grounds of unpaid rent, you should note that the tenant must be at least 2 months in arrears.  But you must be careful because if the tenant reduces their arrears to less than 2 months at any time from the date that the notice is served to the date of the court hearing that would mean that your Section 8 notice will no longer be valid and so your application would fail.

You should in any Section 8 notice rely on Grounds 10, 11 and 12. 

If the landlord has a legitimate ground for regaining possession via a Section 8 notice, the notice can be served at any time during the tenancy, including the fixed term.  The notice can be immediate, 2 weeks, or 2 months, depending on the grounds for the notice.

A Section 8 notice has Mandatory and Discretionary Grounds: 

  • Mandatory Grounds – this covers Grounds 1 to 8 and if one of these grounds is cited on a Section 8 form the court must grant possession to the landlord.
  • Discretionary Grounds – this covers Grounds 9 to 17 and in these cases the court will only grant possession if it feels it is reasonable to do so.
GroundShort Description
Ground 1The landlord requires the property in order to use it as their main residence. This ground can only be used if the landlord used the property as their main residence prior to the tenancy beginning.
Ground 2The mortgage lender on the property has served notice to foreclose. In this case the mortgage in question has to predate the start of the tenancy.
Ground 3The property was previously used as a holiday let and is required to return to the status of holiday let. For the exact conditions that apply to this Ground please see the Housing Act 1988.
Ground 4The property is being let by an educational institution and is now required by students of the educational institution. Written notice that this may happen must be served before the tenancy begins.
Ground 5The property is owned by a religious body and they require possession for a member of their church i.e. a Minister of Religion.
Ground 6The landlord wants to demolish and reconstruct, or redevelop all or part of the property. The tenant needs to have refused to live in all or part of the property while work is carried out for this ground to be feasible. If granted the landlord is required to pay all reasonable moving costs to the tenant.
Ground 7The current tenant is a tenant heir and is not named on the original tenancy agreement. The landlord must serve a Section 8 notice within 12 months of the death of the named tenant.
Ground 8The tenant has failed to pay more than 8 weeks rent in the case of weekly payments, 2 months in the case of monthly payments or 1 quarter in the case of quarterly payments. Ground 8 is often cited in conjunction with Grounds 10 and 11 so that a partial payment by the tenant just prior to the court hearing doesn’t render the possession order obsolete. Note: When claiming possession under this ground, it is advisable to cite more than one ground since, if the tenant pays off part of the arrears shortly before the hearing, this ground can no longer be proved and possession proceedings will have to be abandoned. It is, therefore, common practice to cite more than one ground for rent arrears (i.e. grounds 8, 10 & 11), if applicable, and to also wait until at least two months’ rent (or eight weeks in the case of a weekly tenancy) is unpaid before issuing the Section 8 Notice.
Ground 9Suitable accommodation of the same type and quality has been offered to the tenant and refused. The landlord is required to pay all reasonable removal costs if possession is granted.
Ground 10The rent is in arrears but by no more than 8 weeks in the case of weekly payments, 2 months in the case of monthly payments and 1 quarter in the case of quarterly payments.
Ground 11The tenant is repeatedly late with payments or repeatedly fails to pay their rent until prompted by the landlord.
Ground 12The tenant has breached any of the terms listed in the tenancy agreement.
Ground 13The tenant has neglected or damaged the property, or they have sublet the property to another individual who has neglected or damaged the property.
Ground 14The tenant is considered a nuisance to neighbours or other tenants and has received complaints concerning their conduct.
Ground 15The furniture listed on the property inventory has been misused, damaged, broken or sold by the tenant or any individual living with them.
Ground 16The property was let to the tenant as a condition of their employment but the employment has now come to an end.
Ground 17The property was let on the basis of false information provided by the tenant or one of their referees/ guarantor.

It is often easier to serve a Section 21, even if the tenant is in arrears, as the process for a Section 8 can be costly and any grounds you give can be contested by the tenant in court.  It is possible to serve both notices at the same time.

Section 21:

A Section 21 notice (also known as a Notice of Possession) can not be served in the first 4 months of a tenancy (or any subsequent renewal). The notice cannot end before the fixed term, and is valid for up to 6 months.  A landlord does not have to give any reason for serving the notice in order to regain possession.

All tenancies (including renewals but not tenancies that continue on a statutory periodic basis) that started after the 1st October 2015 are now subject to new regulations associated with the service of Section 21 notices.
You must provide your tenants with the following documents at the commencement of the tenancy:
A valid gas safety certificate (CP12)
A copy of the EPC
A copy of the “How to rent” checklist
Proof that any deposit is held in a deposit scheme 
You will not be able to serve a Section 21 notice if you have not supplied your tenants with these documents. It is strongly recommended that you retain evidence that these documents have been provided to your tenants.
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