• Ending a tenancy

    Ending a tenancy

     

    Strictly speaking, neither the landlord or the tenant can end a tenancy without financial penalty during the fixed term of a contract unless the other party has done something wrong. And, just to be clear, tenants have to have done something pretty bad for landlords to be able to evict them.

    If tenants are in breach of contract, landlords can issue a Section 8 notice to start re-possession proceedings, but this is a long, drawn-out, expensive and exhausting legal process best avoided. If at all possible, it’s better to negotiate with the tenant to come to some mutually acceptable arrangement, or wait for the end of the fixed term to get rid of them.

    For this reason, it’s essential to insert a break clause in every tenancy agreement. Then, when there’s a break (which can be inserted any time after the first six months), you can simply issue a Section 21 notice giving the tenant two months to leave, rather than having to wait until the end of the contract to get them out or going through the more expensive S8  eviction process.

    Even at the end of the contact, you can’t assume your tenants will leave. If you want them to go, you must give them two months’ notice, otherwise the tenancy will roll over into a periodic, in other words, it will roll on month by month or week by week until one party gives notice.

    The tenant, on the other hand, doesn’t need to give the landlord any notice if they intend to leave on the last day of their contract, they can just go, which doesn’t seem right, but there you have it.

    If the tenancy becomes periodic, all the existing terms and conditions apply. When the tenant wants to leave they must give the landlord a month’s notice or longer if this was specified in the original contract. The landlord must always give the tenant two months’ notice.

    Section 21

    When you want to bring a tenancy to an end, you must issue a Section 21 notice, which you can find online. This government website gives further details about which S21 form to use (there are 2 types) and how to serve it.

    Previously you could simply write to your tenant to let them know you wanted them to leave, but now, technically, you must serve notice using the prescribed form mentioned above. If you don’t, your tenant doesn’t have to leave.

    Make sure when you fill out the form that you don’t make any mistakes, such as with the tenant’s name,the property address or the date that you want the tenant to leave. If you do, the tenant can dispute the notice and you’ll have to start again, giving them another 2 months’ notice.

    Remember you need to give the tenant at least 2 months’ clear notice and the notice period can’t start until the tenant has received the S21, so if you’re posting it, allow at least 4 days for it to arrive. If you hand deliver the notice, make sure you have an independent witness and make a note of the date in case the tenant tries to claim they didn’t receive the notice.

    It used to be possible for landlords to issue a Section 21 notice as soon as tenants moved in, to expire on the last date of the tenancy agreement, but last October the law changed to prevent landlords from doing this.

    Now you can’t issue a Section 21 notice during the first four months of a tenancy and Section 21 notices will expire after 6 months. Initially this will only apply to new tenancies that started on or after October 1, but it will apply to all tenancies from October 2018.

    However, landlords no longer need to worry about the S21 notice expiring on the last day of the rental period, as they did previously. Now, a S21 notice can expire at any time, regardless of whether the tenant has a fixed contract or a periodic contract, as long as there’s a break clause allowing the landlord to regain possession and they give the tenant a clear 2 months’ notice.

    To end a tenancy using an S21,  you must have correctly protected any deposit paid by the tenant and issued them with an EPC and a Gas Safety Record. Landlords also have to give tenants a new How to Rent guide. You can download and print out hard copies or email them to tenants.

    Serving notice on tenants, even when you want them to say. Odd, eh?

    Personally, I would serve tenants with a S21 two to six months before the end of their contract even if I wanted them to renew their tenancy.

    Why?

    Because tenants, who have the luxury of walking out of a property at the end of the fixed term without giving any notice, often don’t let landlords know their intentions. To avoid this, I recommend serving them notice to quit but give them 28 days before the end of the contract to let you know if they want to stay. If they do, happy days, if you don’t hear from them, you’re free to start re-marketing the property.

    Find out here how to handle viewings with tenants in situ and what to do if they refuse permission for viewings.

    *Please note, this site is run by experienced landlords, not lawyers and as such none of the information is intended as legal advice. If you are unsure of your situation, you are best advised to consult a qualified lawyer.*