The powerful tools called Section 8 and Section 21

Last time I looked at the legal basis of asking a tenant to leave your property. Provided you have followed all the rules heaped upon you as a buy-to-let landlord, any reasonable tenant will leave peacefully and when due.

But, of course, we’re not talking about reasonable tenants: we’re discussing nightmare tenants. And that’s exactly the sort that thinks he or she can ride roughshod over you (and the law). When you’ve been perfectly reasonable, played the game by the rules, and followed the law to the letter, and the client still refuses to leave, you’ll need to revert back to the law. In this case, it’s Sections 8 and 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

Section 8 Notice

A Section 8 notice can be used at any time, even during the fixed term, but the grounds for seeking possession of the property must conform to a set of grounds that are laid out in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988. I’m not going to go into these here – I simply don’t have space – but the applicable clauses in Section 2 are numbers 2, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 17.

When you issue a Section 8 notice, you’ll need to give notice of between two weeks and two months.

One big tip here for the buy-to-let landlord: when you’re writing the tenancy agreement, make certain that it contains conditions that cover the grounds applicable under Section 2 of the Housing Act. If it doesn’t, and you try to take possession with a Section 8 Notice, the court will find against you and you’ll be stuck with nightmare tenants for many more months.

Section 21 Notice

Section 21 is by far and away the best tool for the buy-to-let landlord. It gives you the right of possession without the need to provide grounds for doing so. The drawback is that it can’t be used during the fixed term period, but even so, it’s a powerful tool – provided you have protected the tenant’s deposit correctly. If you do serve a Section 21 during the fixed term, the leave date must be after the end of the fixed term.

One other caveat is that the Section 21 Notice requires you to give two months’ notice to leave (now you can see why it can take up to four or five months to evict a tenant).

What happens if the tenant still refuses to leave?

While a Section 21 or Section 8 is the next step in the process of taking back possession of your property, there will be nightmare tenants who still refuse to quit! If this is the case, as a buy-to-let landlord you will need to apply to the courts for a warrant of possession. This is when things start to get expensive, with the court arranging a bailiff to evict the tenant (you’ve probably seen this happening in action in various television programmes).

Getting back your property can be a long, drawn-out affair. However, there is a way to speed everything up: and in the final part of this series, I’ll look at how to accelerate a Section 21 possession.

In the meantime, if you have further questions relating to this topic, feel free to contact the team on +44 1522 503 717.

Yours in effortless property management,

Arlene Alegre-Wood