A quick guide to residential tenancy possession in England

Chafes Solicitors explain the to go about claiming possession

As a landlord, there are often times when you will unfortunately need to seek possession of your property. For example, if your tenants are in arrears or your property has been damaged through anti-social behaviour (the top two reasons for a landlord being forced to go down this route.)

If your tenants have signed an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), there are two options open to you. So which is the right course of action?

Well, it all depends on your circumstances of course – why and when are you seeking to repossess your property?

As a landlord, you must serve notice on your tenants in order to claim possession and there are two ways for you to do so.

  1. Section 21(S21) – known as an Accelerated Possession Procedure, or
  2. Section 8 (S8) – known as a Standard Procedure

So what do you need to know about both routes?


This route gives you the right to possession at, or after, the expiry of the tenancy period provided you serve a S21 notice to your tenants two months before you wish to claim possession. Remember, you are not automatically entitled to possession upon expiry of the tenancy unless you first issue the S21 notice.

This route means that there is no need for a court hearing so it is likely to be less hassle; providing you have correctly served the S21 notice (and the court papers are in order) the court must order that you can possess your property.

However, the court does not have the power to make a money judgment under this route. So this means it cannot order your tenant to repay any rent in arrears, for example, although it is possible to issue separate legal proceedings in respect of arrears.


Use an S8 notice if the terms of the tenancy have been breached. You have the right to possession on 17 different grounds – commonly rent arrears – and the length of the notice will vary upon the grounds you have sought possession.

See section 8 grounds for repossession for more information.

S8 claims also allow for a money judgment to be obtained along with an order for possession, which the S21 route does not allow.

Bear in mind however that S8 proceedings can often be lengthy as they are likely to be defended by the tenant, so the nature of the breach of tenancy will be important. For example, if your tenants are in arrears you might want to consider likelihood of recovering this money in the long term.

Where both routes apply – such as when the tenancy is ending and there are also rent in arrears – it can be advisable to use the often simpler and quicker S21 route instead as faster possession will allow you to re-let your property sooner.

Regardless of your chosen route, remember that you must have served notice on the tenant before any court proceedings can be begin.

Claiming possession of property can be concerning and stressful for all involved. The NLA can provide advice and guidance for landlords through its Online Library (FREE for NLA members) and Telephone Advice Line (Exclusive for NLA members). Visit the NLA Online Library here.

This blog has been provided by Michael Devlin of Chafes Solicitors LLP.

One thought on “A quick guide to residential tenancy possession in England

  1. For the benefit of members in Scotland, it would be beneficial to point out at the beginning of the piece that this doesn’t apply to them.

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