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An assured shorthold tenancy (AST) is the default residential tenancy in England and Wales. Importantly, the tenants under an AST fall under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, meaning that unless they voluntarily move out of the property, a landlord or letting agent needs to go through the courts to evict them i.e. by serving a Section 8 or Section 21 notice. This article explores how a landlord or their agent can end a tenancy without resorting to serving one of these notices.
Ending an AST during its fixed term
An AST is a tenancy which is generally granted for a specific period of time known as the “fixed” or “initial” term. The first thing to consider is whether there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement, as this may provide the landlord with a way to end the tenancy before the fixed term. The landlord should trigger the break clause and observe the notice period it provides. It is important to note that legally repossession of a property isn’t guaranteed within the first 6 months of a tenancy. Further, if a break clause can only be exercised by the landlord and not the tenant, it is likely to be an unfair term and thus unenforceable.
If there is no break clause in the tenancy agreement, please see the section below titled “Ending a periodic tenancy”.
Ending an AST at the end of the fixed term
If there is a clause in the tenancy agreement saying that if the landlord allows the tenant to keep living in the property at the end of the fixed term, then a contractual periodic tenancy will be formed; however, if the landlord does not allow the tenant to stay in the property past, the tenant has to move out by a certain time and date (a tenancy legally ends at midnight on the last day of the fixed term). If the tenant is reminded by the landlord or agent that their lease is expiring soon, they can start planning to move out. However, if the tenant refuses then the landlord cannot make them move out (this would be an illegal eviction) so they would actually need to go through the courts. Good communication and an amicable relationship between the landlord and tenant is important in ensuring the tenant knows, before the lease expires, that the landlord would like vacant possession of the property because, say, new tenants have to move in.
Ending a periodic tenancy
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. A landlord or their agent may go about ending such a tenancy the same way they would end an AST in its fixed term when there is no break clause.
Without serving a formal notice to repossess, the best option to end the tenancy is for the landlord or letting agent to come to an agreement with the tenant. This can be achieved through negotiation and reaching a compromise. This is another situation where an amicable relationship between the parties will be invaluable. A landlord can explain why they need the property back to the tenant and even offer to help them with the process of being rehoused, but the tenant should be aware that they are under no obligation to leave until a court order is made to that effect. The landlord should be very careful not to harass the tenant as this is a crime.
The most common reason a landlord has for wanting to end an AST is because rent is in arrears. A landlord or agent may want to send a rent arrears letter, which can be created and signed on a platform such as Legislate, in order to communicate the seriousness of missed rent payments. For more information, read our tutorial on rent arrears letters or book an introductory call with one of our team members.
The content on this page is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.
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