Britain Cuts ProtestThe purpose of this post is to provide a brief guide to what is referred to as ‘Ground 8’, ‘Ground 10’, ‘Ground 11’ & ‘Ground 12’. There are fears that housing associations may use Ground 8 as an excuse for ordering the quick eviction of a tenant for non-payment of rent particularly in association with the bedroom tax. However, recent experience is that housing associations in Merseyside are also looking to use ‘Ground 10’, ‘Ground 11’ & ‘Ground 12’.

There is scarcely any council housing stock on Merseyside – 99% of social housing is owned by quasi-public housing associations. Council tenants would have had what is known as a secure tenancy regulated by the 1985 Housing Act. Housing Association tenants whose tenancy agreements predate 1989 may still have secure tenancies; these are regulated by the 1985 Housing Act. Since 1989, however, tenancy agreements are almost certainly either assured or assured short-hold tenancies, which are regulated by the 1988 Housing Act. These tenancies have fewer rights than secure tenancies. Section 8 of the 1988 Act provides 21 grounds on which a landlord can seek eviction of a tenant through the courts. There are two grounds which relate to rent arrears – 8 and 10.

Ground 8 reads: “Both at the date of the service of the notice under section 8 of this Act relating to the proceedings for possession and at the date of the hearing— (a) if rent is payable weekly or fortnightly, at least [‘eight weeks’] rent is unpaid; (b if rent is payable monthly, at least [‘two months’] rent is unpaid; (c) if rent is payable quarterly, at least one quarter’s rent is more than three months in arrears; and (d) if rent is payable yearly, at least three months’ rent is more than three months in arrears; and for the purpose of this ground “rent” means rent lawfully due from the tenant.”

Essentially, if you are an assured tenant and your rent arrears exceeds the equivalent of eight weeks rent (if you pay weekly) or two months (if you pay monthly) then your housing association can seek your eviction on Ground 8. They have to send you a letter giving you two weeks’ notice to reduce or clear the arrears. If after the two weeks your arrears are still greater than eight weeks or two months the housing association can get a court order for your eviction. The point about Ground 8 is that the court has no discretion over the matter; it has to rubber-stamp the order. All it can do is request a delay for exceptional circumstances.

Ground 10 can be invoked when some rent lawfully due from the tenant is unpaid on the date on which the proceedings for possession are begun; and except where subsection (1)(b) of Section 8 of this Act applies, was in arrears at the date of service of the notice under that section relating to those proceedings. Section (1)(b) reads that there is no need for a landlord to issue a notice if ‘2he court considers it just and equitable to dispense with the requirements of such a notice.”

As things currently stand, Ground 10 is a ‘catch all’ – it can be invoked whatever the level of arrears. The covering letter from some housing associations is very intimidating with threats of repossession and county court judgements. It is being issued to terrify tenants into paying off the arrears and taking out a standing order to cover future payments – this is what happened with the first case we came across. It is discretionary – in other words, a court has no obligation to seek repossession and since some of the arrears cited has been very small (£136) it is unlikely that it would.

Ground 11 I have not seen this used as yet, but given its wording it might well be – whether or not any rent is in arrears on the date on which proceedings for possession are begun, the tenant has persistently delayed paying rent, which has become lawfully due. Again, this is discretionary.

Ground 12 can be invoked when any obligation of the tenancy (other than one related to the payment of rent) has been broken or not performed. Again, this is discretionary.

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