Section 21 notice to quit

Section 21 of the the Housing Act 1988 notice that landlords can use to end a tenancy, in order to regain possession of the property.

This gives the landlord a legal right to ask tenants to vacate the property. You can serve Section 21 for any reason, so long as you give the tenants at least 2 months' notice to leave the property (on or after the fixed term has ended).

You must follow the correct legal procedure, so if you are unsure what to do or have any queries in this regard, you should contact a solicitor for legal guidance.

There are two types of Section 21; one is for tenancies where the fixed term has ended (Periodic Tenancies) and another to be served while the fixed term is still in place.

Section 21 for periodic tenancies

If the tenancy has turned into a periodic tenancy, then you will have to serve a Section 21 (4)(a). This gives your tenants a minimum of two months' notice to vacate the property, but must end on the last day of a tenancy period (e.g. the last day before 'rent day').

If you plan to use Section 21 (4)(a), then you must pay close attention to the dates you use. If you use the wrong dates in your Section 21 (4)(a) then the notice is invalid, and you will have to start again from scratch (this could be very costly and inconvenient, so make sure you get it right.)

If you are in any doubt whatsoever about the procedure for serving a Section 21, then seek advice from a solicitor.

Section 21 for fixed term tenancies

If you want your property back on the day your tenant’s fixed term ends, then you will need to serve a Section 21 (1)(b). You must ensure that you serve the notice at least two months before the end date on the tenancy, and no earlier than four months after the first day of the tenancy.

If your tenant has legally breached their contract (tenancy agreement) then you can serve a Section 8 eviction notice, but you must be able to prove the breach in court (if it gets to court). If this is the case, then we strongly advise you to get professional advice from a solicitor.

Serving a section 21 notice to quit

If you need to serve a Section 21 notice to quit (and most landlords will have to at some point or another), then there are a few pointers you should bear in mind.

  1. Make sure you keep a copy. If your tenant digs their heels in and you have to go to court then the judge will need a copy of the Section 21 – if only copy is in the tenant’s possession, they may refuse to disclose it, and you’ll have to start again from scratch.
  2. The Section 21 must be 100% accurate. If the tenancy agreement is for a Mr A Tenant, make sure the Section 21 is also addressed to ‘Mr A Tenant’ and not ‘Mr Adam Tenant’, or ‘Mr Tenant’.
  3. Check the spellings, if you misspell any names in the document, the judge could throw it out.
  4. Check the date. The date on the Section 21 must be correct for it to be valid.
  5. You can send the Section 21 by post, but you should use recorded delivery. Make sure the Section 21 is ‘post-dated’, because as far as the courts are concerned, the day of service is the day the letter arrives, not the day it was posted. Some Landlords choose to send two Section 21s from two different post offices to ensure the tenant cannot claim that it must have been ‘lost in the post’.
  6. Alternatively, if you are local to your tenant, it may be easier to serve the Section 21 in person. Take a third party along to ensure that if the tenant tries to claim that they never received the notice, you have a reliable witness to prove that you did serve the notice.
  7. You cannot use a Section 21 if you did not secure the tenant’s deposit properly.
  8. You cannot serve a Section 21 if your tenant has recently made a written complaint about the condition of your property, or if your local housing authority is deliberating whether to issue an improvement notice in relation to your property. If you have been issued with an improvement notice, you cannot serve a Section 21 for six months from the date the notice was served. Find out more about Section 21s and repairs.
  9. Any Section 21 notice you serve will be invalid if at the start of the tenancy you did not provide your tenant with an energy performance certificate, gas safety certificate and the government’s “How to rent” booklet.
  10. If you are not sure about the law, and how Section 21 can be applied to your particular circumstances then get professional advice from a solicitor. It may seem expensive, but it is definitely worth it to get your property back!

Disclaimer: Commercial Trust does not accept any liability for misinterpretation or misuse of the information provided in this article, we have published it purely for guidance and information only. If you are looking for specific information regarding your own circumstances we recommend you contact a solicitor specialising in property law.

This information should not be interpreted as financial advice. Buy to let mortgage rates are subject to change. Speak to our advisors for a mortgage illustration.

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