How to end an assured shorthold tenancy agreement

by Tessa Shepperson

How can you terminate a tenancy agreement in England and Wales? What legal forms do you need and what is the process you must follow? Stop worrying: here's your guide to ending an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) in England and Wales.

When ending a tenancy agreement, you must use the correct notice to terminate based on the situation and where you live. There are two notices used in England & Wales:

  1. Section 21 Notice - Used when you want to ask the tenant to leave at the end of the fixed term
  2. Section 8 Notice - Used when you want to evict the tenant because they are in rent arrears

Here's some more information on when to use which notice and how to complete them.

Section 21 Notice

When you terminate an AST it's important that the correct notice period is given to the tenant. There is a general minimum period of two clear calendar months, but a notice cannot end earlier than the end of the fixed term.

This means that the notice period must be two full months or more. Therefore, a notice served on 20 March could not expire any earlier than 20 May. However, a notice cannot end earlier than the end of the fixed term.

If the notice is served after the fixed term has ended, the notice must give the tenant at least two months to vacate and the notice must end on the last day of a 'period of the tenancy'. The last day of a period of the tenancy will be the day before the day the rent was supposed to be paid in the fixed-term contract. 

For example, if the rent is due on the 1st of each month, then the end of a period will be the last day of the preceding month. So, if the notice is then given on 2nd January, the expiry date given in the notice must be 31st March, being the day before the rent is supposed to be paid as the notice must be two clear months. 

This means, in effect, that the notice will usually give the tenant between two and three months. Note that for weekly tenancies, it's the day in the week that the rent is paid on that is important, rather than the date in the month. 

So in the example given above, if a weekly tenancy existed where the rent was paid first on Wednesday 31 December, then the periodic tenancy would run from Wednesday to Tuesday.

Make sure that you don't serve the Section 21 Notice at the same time as the tenants sign the tenancy agreement, as this can invalidate the notice. But this isn't a problem if the notice is served one day after they have signed the agreement.

If the date given in the notice is incorrect, this won't invalidate the notice, provided that you use Lawpack's Section 21 Notice. This is because Lawpack's form states how the notice period should be calculated if the landlord puts the wrong termination date in the notice by mistake.

Section 8 Notice

The Section 8 Notice can be used if the tenant falls into rent arrears. Under the Housing Act, if the tenant is in rent arrears of at least two months or more (or eight weeks for a weekly tenancy), at the date of the service of this notice, and at the date of any court hearing, you're entitled to an order for possession as of right.

The notice shouldn't, therefore, be used until the rent arrears have reached two months. For example, if the monthly rent is £500, then the rent arrears must be at least £1,000.

The notice to terminate must give the tenant a notice period of at least two weeks for them to sort things out and repay their rent arrears. But it's wise to allow a bit longer than two weeks' notice, because if the notice takes longer than you anticipated to serve it, or if you serve it by leaving it at the property rather than by handing it to the tenant, then the notice period (if just 14 days have been allowed) may be insufficient and the notice invalid.

Lawpack's Section 8 Notice template includes some wording about a schedule of arrears. If the arrears history is complex, it may be helpful at this stage to include a schedule of rent arrears to the tenant to show them how the arrears figure you have put on the form is calculated. But if the arrears history is simple (i.e. if it's just two straight months) then this isn't necessary. 

If the notice is being served by your letting agent, then, ideally, the agent's address should appear as well as your own (unless your address is c/o the agent).

Serving the eviction notices

Whenever it's possible, you should serve these notices either by handing them to the tenant personally, or by leaving them at the property, normally by inserting them through the letterbox of the property in an envelope addressed to the tenant.

If you're unable to do this, the tenancy agreement form provides for you to send it by post. But unless you trust the tenant to sign and return the copy notice to you to prove service, service by post isn't recommended. This is because there is no way you can prove that it was ever delivered (e.g. if you're challenged by a tenant at court saying that they have never received the notice). You can send the notice by recorded delivery, but tenants often refuse to accept and sign for recorded delivery items.

When you want to terminate a tenancy of a difficult tenant, you should only ever serve a notice by hand. It you can't do this yourself, arrange for someone else to serve it for you or arrange for the notice to be served by a professional process server. If you think that the tenant may lie and deny that they received the notice, even when it was delivered by hand, it's best to use a process server or arrange to have an independent witness present.

Further information


Published on: March 29, 2012

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Section 21 Notice

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Section 8 Notice - Rent Arrears Claim

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