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Notices to quit: Tenants

This content applies to England

A tenant can end a periodic tenancy by serving a valid notice to quit (NTQ).

This applies to any type of periodic tenancy or licence, unless the tenant/licensee is an excluded occupier.

Notice period

A NTQ must be in writing and the notice period must be at least:

  • four weeks[1] or
  • if longer, equivalent to the period of the tenancy or licence (except for yearly periodic tenancies where the notice period is six months).[2]

A tenancy agreement may require the tenant to give a longer period of notice.

An NTQ once served cannot be withdrawn.[3]

In calculating the notice period the day on which an NTQ is served is included but the last day referred to in the NTQ is not.[4] For example, an NTQ served on a Tuesday that expires on a Tuesday four weeks later would comply with the four weeks' notice requirement.

An NTQ must expire on either the first or last day of a period of the tenancy/licence.[5] For example, an NTQ served on the first of a month to end a monthly tenancy that began on the first of January could expire on the first day of a whole period of the tenancy, ie the first of February. It could not expire on the last day of the period, ie 31 January, because that would not constitute a full monthly period of notice (it would be short by one day).

An NTQ that includes an appropriately worded 'savings clause' will be valid,[6] for example 'the tenancy will end on [date] or on the first Monday after that date being at least four weeks after the service of this notice'.

If a notice to quit is invalid, the tenancy will continue and the tenant will remain liable for the rent.

Special rules: flexible tenancies

If a flexible tenant is in rent arrears or otherwise in breach of the tenancy agreement, the tenancy will not end on the date set out in the NTQ unless the tenancy agreement explicitly allows for this to happen. For further information see Ending a flexible tenancy.

Service

Section 196 of the Law of Property Act 1925 allows for valid service of the NTQ to be made by registered post or recorded delivery, or personal delivery, but only when the tenancy agreement explicitly states that service will be effective where it is done in accordance with section 196. Alternatively, the agreement can provide expressly for service by these methods.

Section 196 also provides that, subject to the specific requirements of the tenancy agreement, notice must be served on the landlord or her/his agent at their last known abode or place of business. In the absence of a last known address, the property owner’s address on the Land Registry (where the landlord is the property owner) can be used for service.[7]

Where a tenancy agreement makes no reference to section 196 (or express provision for service by the methods set out in section 196) then under common law a tenant needs to serve the NTQ on the landlord personally or provide evidence that it has come to the landlord’s attention.[8] In practice, the tenant by producing a recorded delivery slip (or possibly a certificate of posting) will normally be able to prove service to the satisfaction of the court.

Tenants' status after their notice period expires

A valid NTQ served by the tenant will end their periodic tenancy. A tenant’s status in the property after the notice period expires will depend on the type of tenancy they had.

Section 3 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (PEA 1977) imposes an obligation on landlords not to evict a tenant without obtaining a court order for possession (except where the tenant is an `excluded occupier’). This protection can extend to a former tenant but only if they are not a ‘statutorily protected tenant’ as defined by section 8 of the PEA 1977.

’Statutorily protected tenants’

If any of the following types of tenant remains in the property after the notice period they gave in a valid NTQ expires, they may lawfully be evicted without a court order:[9]

  • Rent Act protected/regulated tenant
  • assured and assured shorthold tenant
  • agricultural assured, and agricultural assured shorthold, and protected (by the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976) agricultural occupier
  • assured tenant, where it arises on expiry of a long lease
  • tenant of an agricultural holding or farm business tenant
  • business tenant
  • other tenants who are excluded occupiers[10].

However, if the landlord tries to evict one of these former tenants without obtaining a possession order they risk criminal prosecution if they use or threaten violence (against a person or property) to regain possession if anyone is present in the property[11] – see Criminal Law Act 1977 for more information.

Other former tenants

The following former tenants remain protected by section 3 of the PEA 1977 after the notice period they gave in a valid NTQ expires:

  • secure tenant
  • flexible tenant
  • introductory tenant
  • family intervention tenant
  • demoted local authority tenant

The landlord must obtain a court order in order to evict any of these former tenants if they remain in the property after the NTQ expires.[12]

Mesne profits and double rent

Regardless of the type of tenancy, any tenant who remains in occupation after the valid notice to quit served by the tenant takes effect will be liable to pay mesne profits. If they remain without the landlord's permission they may be liable to pay 'double rent'. For more information see Payments after the tenancy ends.

Joint tenants/landlords

An NTQ served by only one joint tenant is sufficient to end a periodic tenancy (or licence) for all joint tenants. It is not necessary for any other joint tenant to consent or have knowledge of the service of the notice.[13] The courts have held that one joint tenant unilaterally serving an NTQ does not breach the rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 1 of its First Protocol of the joint tenant who did not serve the notice.[14]

However, where the landlord is a public authority, it must consider whether it is necessary and proportionate to take steps to recover possession from the remaining joint tenant. One county court, in a non-binding decision, held that where the local authority landlord had 'encouraged' the departing joint tenant, following a relationship breakdown, to serve an NTQ (and there was no other basis on which the landlord could have obtained possession) an order for possession was a disproportionate breach of the remaining tenant's article 8 rights.[15] See the page Public law and human rights defences for more information on this potential defence.

An NTQ served on only one of the joint landlords is sufficient to end a periodic joint tenancy.

Fixed term agreements

An NTQ can only be served to end a periodic tenancy. An NTQ served by a tenant during the fixed-term of a tenancy will be invalid. It will not end the tenancy even if the notice period expires after the expiry of the fixed term.

The exception is if the agreement contains a break clause that allows for early termination. In this case the notice given must comply with the conditions set out in the agreement.

Statutory v contractual periodic tenancies

Normally, on expiry of a fixed-term tenancy protected by one of the Housing Acts (for example, an assured shorthold tenancy or a flexible tenancy), the tenancy will continue as a statutory periodic tenancy. Any clause in the tenancy agreement requiring more than the minimum notice period, as set out above, will be of no effect.

However, where the tenancy continues as a contractual periodic tenancy (for example a tenancy agreement that states it is 'for a term of twelve months and thereafter shall roll on from month to month') the tenant will be required to give a longer period of notice if there is a clause in the tenancy agreement to that effect.

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] s.5 Protection From Eviction Act 1977.

[2] Doe d Peacock v Raffan [1806] 170 ER 812; Parker d Walker v Constable [1769] 95 E.R. 913.

[3] Tayleur v Wildin (1868) LR3 Ex 303; see also Fareham v Miller [2013] EWCA 159.

[4] Schnabel v Allard [1967] 1 QB 627.

[5] Crate v Miller [1947] All ER 45, CA.

[6] Fletcher v Brent LBC [2006] EWCA Civ 960.

[7] Oldham MBC v Tanna [2017] EWCA Civ 50.

[8] see Enfield LBC v Devonish and Sutton (1997) 29 HLR 691, CA.

[9] ss.3 and 8(1) Protection from Eviction Act 1977; McPhail v Persons Unknown [1973] Ch 47, CA.

[10] s.3A Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

[11] s.6 Criminal Law Act 1977.

[12] s.3 Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

[13] Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v Monk [1991] UKHL 6; Greenwich LBC v McGrady (1982) 6 HLR 36, CA.

[14] Sims v Dacorum BC [2014] UKSC 63; Harrow LBC v Qazi [2003] UKHL 43.

[15] Chesterfield BC v Bailey Derby County Court [2011] EW Misc 18 (CC).

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