Legislation requires that the landlord and tenant provide each other with notice whenwishing to terminate a tenancy. It is important that both understand how to correctly complete and serve notices.
Completed notices must be ‘served’ on the tenant or tenants on or before the date on which the notice begins to run. Where there is more than one tenant the notice must be served on all of them.
Notices should advisably be served in person, but there is a statutory presumption that a notice addressed to the lessee by name and sent to his place of abode has been received (provided that the letter is not returned unopened). However, this may easily be rebutted, so it is advisable for the landlord to seek confirmation that the tenant has received it. Leaving the notice at the property may not be sufficient; it should be confirmed that it has been brought to the tenant's attention.
Notice must be given by the landlord to each of the joint tenants. (s. 45(3) Housing Act 1988).
Where a notice to quit a periodic tenancy is given by one joint tenant to the landlord, without the agreement or even knowledge of the other(s), this notice is effective to terminate the tenancy. However, the tenancy agreement may prohibit the giving of notice by one joint tenant without the consent of the other(s).
Notice is required from all tenants in order to terminate a fixed term tenancy.
A tenant may only terminate a fixed term tenancy early if the landlord agrees or if this is allowed for by a break clause in the agreement and the tenant has followed the requirements for giving notice.
If tenancy has no fixed term, and the notice period is not specified in a break clause, then the tenant must give the landlord reasonable notice in writing of their intention to leave.
A notice to quit – more properly known as a ‘notice requiring possession’.
A 'notice to quit' is the formal notification from a landlord to a tenant (or vice versa) terminating the tenancy on a specified date. The notice must be clear and unambiguous and it must terminate the tenancy in relation to the whole of the rented property; a notice to quit part of the property can be valid only if specifically allowed by the tenancy.
The termination of common law or non-Housing Act tenancies requires a notice to quit, which can be given by either the landlord or tenant to the other. To be valid at common law, a notice to quit must:
- be of the correct length – this will normally correspond to the period of the tenancy, so a week’s notice is required to terminate a weekly tenancy, or a month to end a monthly tenancy. However, a yearly tenancy requires only six months notice. The parties may decide between themselves on a different period.
- expire on the first or last day of a period of the tenancy.
There are also two further requirements to terminate a periodic tenancy of a dwelling-house. The notice to quit must:
- be in writing, and must contain certain information prescribed by the Notice to Quit (Prescribed Information) Regulations 1988 and s5(1)(a) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
- expire no earlier than four weeks from the date it is served. (s. 5 Protection from Eviction Act 1977). However, tenancies with a period duration of a month or more require an even longer period of notice.
A notice to quit is only valid when used in conjunction with non-Housing Act 1988 or common law tenancies; it should not be used when seeking possession of ordinary assured or assured shorthold tenancies. Specific forms of notice are required to terminate an assured shorthold tenancy after the expiration of the fixed term (s. 21 Housing Act 1988) and a to terminate a tenancy during the term due to breach by the tenant (s. 8 Housing Act 1988).
s. 21 HA 1988 notice – Notice Requiring Possession
This is the main notice requirement, and must be served on the tenant when the landlord wishes to obtain possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy at the end of the fixed term or after it has expired.
There have been two slightly different formats for serving notice under s. 21. These depend on whether the tenancy is a fixed term or a periodic tenancy. Following the introduction of the Deregulation Act 2015 landlords must use a prescribed section 21 notice for new tenancies granted on or after 1st October 2015.
S. 21(1) relates to the seeking of possession under a fixed term tenancy, and a notice pursuant to this provision must be in writing and given with at least two months notice. It may be given before or on the day on which the tenancy comes to an end. Notice under this subsection can be served at any time during the fixed term of the tenancy (but not before the tenancy begins) unless the tenancy was granted on or after 1st October 2015 in which case it cannot be served within the first four months of the original tenancy.
The tenant must be given a minimum of two months notice and the date should allow sufficient time to ensure that the notice is properly served on the tenant. This will depend on the method of service being used and landlords should check whether the tenancy agreement makes specific provision about service. If the notice is given during the original fixed term of the tenancy, it simply takes effect at the end of the fixed term or two months after it is served, whichever is the later.
Where the original term of the tenancy has expired, a statutory periodic tenancy will arise automatically by operation of statute unless the parties agree that the tenancy will become periodic at the end of the fixed term in which case a contractual periodic tenancy will arise. A notice under s. 21(4) has been traditionally used for a statutory periodic tenancy but since Spencer v Taylor 2013 notice can be served under s21(1).
Under s21(4) the notice must:
- be in writing;
- give the tenant at least two months notice;
- give a date stating that possession will be required from the tenant after that date; and
- for contractual periodic tenancies granted prior to 1st October 2015 the date must end on the last day of a period of the tenancy
A contractual periodic tenancy will arise where the parties agree that the tenancy will become periodic after expiry of the fixed term.
All of these requirements must be complied with before the court will grant a possession order. Appropriate forms can be found under Letting Statutes and Forms on the Letting Centre website.
In the case of joint landlords, the notice must be given by one of them (s. 21), and where there are joint tenants the notice must be given to all of them (s. 45(3)).
The advantage of using this route is that every assured shorthold tenancy landlord has a right to be granted possession at the end of the tenancy under s. 21, so there is an element of certainty as the court must award possession wherever the notice is properly served. However, the requirement of two months notice may be a disadvantage.
For further information, see
Letting Factsheet No. 21- Notice Requiring Possession of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.
Before 28 February 1997, before granting an assured shorthold tenancy landlords were required to serve a s. 20 Notice of Assured Shorthold in the prescribed form and completed with the correct dates. This is no longer necessary, as all tenancies are assured shorthold tenancies unless otherwise it is specifically provided otherwise.
s. 8 HA 1988 notice – Notice of Seeking Possession
Where the landlord wishes to recover possession of a property as the tenant is in breach of a term of the tenancy, such as non-payment of rent or breach of some other term of the tenancy, he must serve a s. 8 notice on the tenant. The notice must be issued in the prescribed form, and requires the landlord to select one of the 17 grounds for claiming possession (listed in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988) as the one he is relying on. The landlord must then prove this ground at the possession hearing. The s. 8 form is available on the Letting Centre website under Letting Statutes and Forms.
It is very important that the form is completed correctly, and includes the:
- Name of all tenants
- Address of the premises
- Grounds relied on – the full and exact wording of the grounds for possession used in the Act must be used on the s. 8 notice
- Reasons why each ground is being relied on
- Proceedings date (the date when the notice expires)
- Name and address of landlord
- Details of landlord’s agent
Some of the grounds are mandatory, so a court has no choice but to award the tenant possession if he proves one of them. The others are discretionary, so even if the tenant proves one of them the court will only award him possession if it is reasonable to do so. Some of the mandatory grounds can only be used if the landlord informed the tenant in writing before the tenancy started that he intended one day to ask for his property back using those grounds.
The period of notice required differs between the grounds, but ranges from no requirement of notice (where the tenant or a visitor has been guilty of conduct that is likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours), two weeks notice or two months notice. However, for a statutory periodic tenancy the period of notice must be equal to the period of the tenancy (up to one year). For yearly tenancies, six months notice is required.
The s. 8 notice for gaining possession is also the appropriate route for a landlord to take where he wishes to recover possession of a tenancy let on an ordinary assured tenancy. Also see Letting Factsheet No. 8 - Claims for Possession: The Section 8 Notice.
s. 48 – Notice of Landlord's Name and Address
It is a legal requirement that a landlord shall furnish a tenant with an address in England or Wales at which notices may be served on him. It is sufficient to incorporate such notice within the body of the agreement.
Other Statutory provisions require the use of prescribed notices, including:
- s. 6(2) Housing Act 1988 – Notice proposing different terms for statutory periodic tenancy. This is used by landlord or tenant if they wish to alter any of the terms of a statutory periodic tenancy.
- s. 6(3) Housing Act 1988 – Notice proposing different terms for statutory periodic tenancy. To be used by tenant or landlord if they wish to refer the matter to the local rent assessment committee or tribunal.
- s. 13(2) Housing Act 1988 – Landlord’s notice proposing a new rent. This notice is required in order to propose an increase in rent during a periodic statutory tenancy, but need not be used if the landlord and tenant can agree a new rent between them or if there is a rent fixing mechanism in the contract.
- Sch 2A Housing Act 1988 – Tenant’s notice proposing that an Assured Tenancy be replaced. This is used where the tenant wishes to change the tenancy from an assured tenacy into an assured shorthold tenancy.
- Sch 2A Housing Act 1988 – Notice proposing Assured Shorthold Tenancy for agricultural worker. To be used where a landlord wishes to let a property on an assured shorthold tenancy to a person meeting the specifications of an agricultural worker in Sch 3 of the Act.
Many modern leases now stipulate that the tenant needs to inform the landlord before they sublet the property, which is generally done by way of a notice. It makes no difference whether the letting is an assured shorthold and no special wording or format is required.
It is good practice to ask the landlord to acknowledge the notice, so an extra copy will often be enclosed and the landlord asked to sign it and return it to the tenant.