Ending a tenancy agreement in England & Wales

From Lawpack's Residential Lettings Kit.

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 terminating a tenancy agreement in England and Wales.

As a landlord, when you're asking your tenant to move out it's very important that your notice to terminate a tenancy agreement is in the correct form, as otherwise you won't be able to use it in court proceedings for possession. A letter simply asking the tenant to leave by a certain date will not be sufficient.

For all notices the names of the parties and the address should match those in the tenancy agreement (even if some tenants have moved out, they should still be named on the notice if they were named on the most recent tenancy agreement). If the tenant is renting a room in a shared house, you need to specify the room (e.g. 'room 1') rented by the tenant, as well as the property address.

The tenancy agreement notices should be completed as follows:

Section 21 Notice

When you terminate a tenancy it's important that the correct notice period is given to the tenant. There is a general minimum period of two months, but 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 first date of a 'period' will be the date immediately after the last day of the fixed term of the tenancy.

For example, if the last day of a tenancy is 31 December, then the first day of the first period will be 1 January. If the Section 21 Notice is then given on 2 January, the date given in the notice must be 31 March. This means, in effect, that the notice will usually give the tenant between two and three months.

For weekly tenancies, it's the day in the week that the tenancy runs from that is important, rather than the date in the month. So in the example given above, if a weekly tenancy ended on Wednesday 31 December, then the periodic tenancy would run from Thursday to Wednesday.

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 tenancy 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 Section 8 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 Section 8 Notice 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 personally, then the notice period (if just 14 days have been allowed) may be insufficient and the notice invalid.

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 Section 21 Notice and Section 8 Notice

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.

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Published on: August 1, 2008

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