How and when to serve notices
A tenancy is a type of contract which establishes either a landlord-tenant or landlord-lodger relationship. Naturally, if either party wants to end this relationship, they must communicate this to the other by serving a notice. This article explains the notice periods which must be observed when terminating a tenancy. It is important to note that notices can't be served if the landlord has not provided the how to rent letter, gas safety and energy performance certificate to the tenant or if they have not protected the tenant's deposit with a government approved deposit protection scheme. Letting agents can also serve notices on the landlord's behalf if they have their permission.
During the fixed term of an AST
Note: An AST (assured shorthold tenancy) is the default type of tenancy in England and Wales and is commonly used by private landlords in the private rented sector.
- If there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement, the landlord should trigger this and follow the notice period it provides. However, repossession of a property is not guaranteed within the first 6 months of the tenancy.
- If there is no break clause, a landlord can only end the tenancy during its fixed term by serving a Section 8 Notice. There are 17 grounds on which this notice can be served, many of which are situations where the tenant is in significant breach of their obligations under the agreement. The notice period for a Section 8 Notice ranges between 2 weeks and 2 months, depending on the ground the landlord is relying on.
- Under coronavirus legislation: the minimum notice period in Wales must last at least 6 months, unless it relates to antisocial behaviour on the part of the tenant, in which case it can last at least 3 months. Notice periods in England vary from 2 weeks (e.g. in instances of domestic abuse) to 6 months, and we explain the grounds for serving a section 8 eviction notice. These grounds relate to a breach of the assured shorthold tenancy agreement such as serious cases of rent arrears which can lead to court orders being enforced by bailiffs.
- If there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement, the tenant should trigger this and follow the notice period it provides.
- If there is no break clause, the tenant should speak to the landlord and try to reach an agreement to end the tenancy early. However, a landlord is under no obligation to take the property back before the originally agreed end date, so a tenant may be required to pay rent until a new tenant is found and pay reasonable costs to relet the property.
At the end of the fixed term of an AST
- If a landlord wants a tenant to move out at the end of the fixed term tenancy, then they can serve a Section 21 Notice to repossess the property if at least 4 months have passed from the start of the tenancy. The Section 21 Notice has to be received by the tenant at least 2 months before the date the landlord wants the property empty, but this date needs to be after the end date of the tenancy has passed i.e. the notice cannot expire during the fixed term.
- A tenant does not need to give notice to leave at the end of the fixed term (even if a tenancy agreement says they must) but it is customary and courteous to tell a landlord of one’s intention to move out of the property before the final day on the lease.
When the tenancy is periodic
Note: A tenancy is periodic if it runs on a rolling basis e.g. from month to month, or if the fixed term of an AST has ended but the landlord allows the tenant to keep living at the property.
- The landlord must give the tenant at least 2 months’ written notice of their intention to repossess the property. This is also known as Section 21 Notice, and the date the tenant must leave by should be at least 6 months after the start date of the original tenancy. In England, if the tenancy started or was renewed after 1 October 2015, landlords need to use the following Form 6A to serve a valid Section 21 Notice.
- Longer notice periods existed under coronavirus legislation: In England, Section 21 Notices served between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021 must give tenants 6 months’ notice; between June 2021 and 30 September 2021, must give tenants 4 months’ notice; from 1 October 2021, notice periods are expected to return to 2 months’. In Wales, Section 21 Notices served between 24 July 2020 and 30 June 2021 must give tenants 6 months’ notice.
- A tenant can end a periodic tenancy at any time by giving the landlord written notice to quit the tenancy. For tenancies where rent is paid weekly, fortnightly, or four-weekly, the tenant must give at least 28 days’ notice. If rent is paid monthly, the tenant should give at least 1 month's notice. The notice must end on the last day of a rental period i.e. the day by which the rent is due.
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When there is a lodger or licence agreement
- A resident landlord needs to give their tenant reasonable notice to end the agreement. Notice is usually reasonable if it is at least as long as the rental period, but the lodger agreement may specify a different length. For example, a live-in landlord might need to give two weeks' notice to end the lodger licence agreement.
- If a resident landlord doesn’t share living space with the tenant, the property is not the tenant’s main/only home, and rent is less than £250 per year, then the arrangement will be a non-excluded tenancy. In this case, the landlord can give written notice to quit at any time, and it usually lasts at least 4 weeks.
- If a licence agreement specifies a notice period, then the lodger must observe it.
- If a licence agreement doesn’t address notice periods, a lodger can just agree with their landlord on when they will leave without giving a set amount of notice.
Some important notes on serving notices
- It is important for both landlords and tenants to follow the correct notice procedure and timelines. If a tenant does not give notice the right way, they may still be liable to pay rent and other bills even if they have moved out. The tenant may also struggle getting their deposit back or getting a reference for future homes. Similarly, if a landlord does not give notice the right way, that notice may be unenforceable and they may have to serve a new one. A landlord must also be careful about how they deal with tenants who have not left after a notice period has expired: it is a criminal offence to attempt to evict someone without a court order.
- Joint tenants — while any tenant in a joint tenancy can give notice to end a tenancy, it is generally recommended that all other joint tenants consent to a notice because it will end the tenancy for everyone.
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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.