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Requirements for tenant's notice to end a periodic tenancy or licence

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An NTQ once served cannot be withdrawn.[3]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, in the case of a monthly tenancy commencing on the first of the month, the notice can expire on the last day of any given month or the first (even if that is a short month, such as February).

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 the notice to quit is invalid, the landlord or the tenant is entitled to treat it as ineffective and continue with the tenancy until a valid notice is served. However, the landlord and the tenant can agree to treat the notice as if it were valid.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] 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 notice to quit (NTQ) served by the tenant will end their periodic tenancy. 
The tenancy ends when the NTQ expires.

Former tenants who can be lawfully evicted without a court order after their notice expires

The following occupiers can be lawfully evicted without a court order if they remain in the property after the notice period they gave in a valid NTQ expires:[10]

  • excluded occupiers
  • statutorily protected tenants.

Statutorily protected tenants are:

  • Rent Act protected/regulated tenants
  • assured and assured shorthold tenants
  • agricultural assured, agricultural assured shorthold, and protected (by the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976) agricultural occupiers
  • assured tenants, where it arises on expiry of a long lease
  • tenants of an agricultural holding or farm
  • business tenants.

Excluded occupiers can end their tenancy or licence by a notice that does not meet the NTQ requirements as they are subject to contractual and common law provisions rather than the PEA 1977 regime.[11]

If a landlord uses or threatens violence against a person or property to regain possession and there is someone present in the property, the landlord may risk prosecution under the Criminal Law Act 1977.[12]

Former tenants who retain the right to a court order after their notice expires

The following former tenants cannot be lawfully evicted without a court order even after the notice period they gave in a valid NTQ expires:[13]

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

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.

To establish the occupier's tenancy type, see Security of tenure

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.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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 and contractual periodic tenancies

Unless a tenancy is excluded or has basic protection, a statutory periodic phase will arise if:

  • the initial fixed-term agreement does not provide for a periodic phase after its expiry
  • the tenant remains in occupation when the fixed term ends.

A tenant who wishes to end the statutory periodic phase should serve an NTQ in line with the requirements set out above. For example, a requirement that an assured shorthold tenant gives a notice longer than the minimum NTQ period after the tenancy becomes statutory periodic could be challenged as unenforceable.[17]

If after the expiry of the fixed term the tenancy continues as contractual periodic (for example a tenancy agreement that states it is 'for a term of twelve months and monthly periodic thereafter'), the tenant may be required to give a notice in line with the contractual requirements.

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] Hackney LBC v Snowden (2001) 33 HLR 49.

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

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

[10] see s.3 Protection from Eviction Act 1977 for the provisions relating to the right to a court order and and s.8(1) Protection from Eviction Act 1977 for the definition of a 'statutorily protected tenant'; McPhail v Persons Unknown [1973] Ch 47, CA.

[11] ss.3A and 5(1B) Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

[12] s.6 Criminal Law Act 1977.

[13] s.3 Protection from Eviction Act 1977; the term 'statutorily protected tenancies' in s. 8(1) Protection from Eviction Act 1977 does not apply to these tenancies. 

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

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

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

[17] see s.5(3)(e) Housing Act 1988.

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