Section 21 notices for assured shorthold tenancies

A landlord can serve a valid section 21 notice to end an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) without proving any ground for possession.

This content applies to England

When a section 21 notice is required

A landlord can end an assured shorthold tenancy without having a reason or ground for possession (such as rent arrears) by first serving a valid section 21 notice in writing on the tenant.

A landlord can end an assured shorthold tenancy by serving a valid section 21 notice in writing on the tenant. They do not need a reason or ground for possession.[1]

The landlord must then:

  • issue a court claim for a possession order

  • apply for a warrant to allow bailiffs to evict the tenant

The tenant might have a defence to the proceedings if the notice is invalid. A notice will be invalid if it has not been served correctly, or if the landlord has not complied with other requirements.

If there are grounds for possession, a landlord could serve a section 8 notice.

Timing of service

A landlord cannot usually serve a section 21 notice within the first four months of the original tenancy. [2] This includes tenancies that start with a fixed term or as a periodic (rolling) tenancy.

If a tenancy has an initial fixed term of less than four months and the tenancy has been renewed following the fixed term (a new fixed term or contractual periodic), the landlord can serve a section 21 notice four months after the date on which the original tenancy began. If the new tenancy is statutory periodic the landlord can serve a section 21 within the first four months.[3]

Form of section 21 notice

The landlord must use the prescribed form 6A to serve a section 21 notice.[4] A version of form 6A and guidance notes are on Gov.uk.

The landlord can also use a form substantially to the same effect which contains all the same information.[5]

Since 1 October 2018, use of the form is mandatory for all assured shorthold tenancies, irrespective of when the tenancy was granted.[6]

The guidance accompanying the current form 6A still implies that it is mandatory only where the tenancy began on or after 1 October 2015. However, when the form was changed in 2019, the limited application to only post-2015 tenancies was removed.[7]

Section 21 notice period

The standard minimum notice period for a section 21 notice is two months. In some cases, the notice may need to be longer.

Fixed term and statutory periodic tenancies

A landlord can use a section 21(1)(b) notice for fixed term and statutory periodic tenancies. This notice must give at least two months' notice.[8]

A statutory periodic tenancy arises automatically when a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy ends other than by a court order or a surrender.[9]

A landlord cannot start possession proceedings until the fixed term of the tenancy has ended. [10] The landlord can end a fixed term tenancy early if there is a break clause allowing them to do so. A section 21 notice can be used to activate a break clause without a separate notice.[11]

A section 21 notice served during a fixed term remains valid in a subsequent statutory periodic tenancy.[12] If the notice expires before the last day of the fixed term, it is likely that it is invalid.

Contractual periodic tenancies

A landlord can use a section 21(4) notice where a tenancy is contractual periodic from the start. This notice must:[13]

  • give at least two months' notice, or notice equal to the length of the period of the tenancy, whichever is longer

  • state that possession is required under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (the prescribed Form 6A satisfies this requirement)

Where the contractual period of the tenancy is longer than two months, the section 21 notice period must be for at least a full period of the tenancy. It may specify any date on or after the earliest day a notice to quit could take effect. For example the minimum notice period must be at least:[14]

  • 3 months for a quarterly tenancy

  • 6 months for a six monthly tenancy

  • 6 months for a yearly tenancy

It is likely that these requirements also apply when a contractual periodic tenancy arises following an initial fixed term.

Where a contractual periodic AST started before 1 October 2015 it was a requirement that the notice expired on the last day of a period of the tenancy. This requirement ceased to apply on 1 October 2018.[15]

Temporary extension of notice periods due to COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, the notice period was extended.[16]

Between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020 the minimum notice period was three months.[17]

Between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021 the minimum notice period was six months. [18]

Between 1 June 2021 and 30 September 2021 the minimum notice period was four months.[19]

The time limit for starting court action following the expiry of the notice was also extended.

Find out more about the time limits for starting court action during the section 21 possession process.

Service of section 21 notice

A landlord is not required to serve a section 21 notice in any specific way. If the tenant does not acknowledge service, a landlord must prove that the notice was served.

The section 21 notice must be served by the tenant's immediate landlord or their agent.[20]

It is unclear if a notice served by email is valid. It is likely that a notice can be served by email where the tenant has agreed to accept notices by email or where the tenant accepts that they received the email with notice.

Section 196 of the Law of Property Act 1925 allows for valid service of the notice to be made by registered post or recorded delivery, or personal delivery to the tenant's property, but only when the tenancy agreement explicitly states that service will be effective where it is done in accordance with section 196. Alternatively, service can be made by other methods specified in the tenancy agreement. [21]

Joint tenancies

In the case of a joint tenancy, the prevailing view confirms the common law position that a valid section 21 notice must contain the names of all joint tenants and be served on at least one of them. The tenant is all of the persons who share the joint and several liability, and the tenant is correctly named by inclusion of all of those names.[22]

Repayment of rent in advance

Where a tenancy ends as a result of the service of a section 21 notice before the end of a rental period and the tenant has paid rent in advance for that period, the tenant is entitled to a repayment of rent for the period they were not in occupation.[23]

This includes when the tenant leaves on the day specified in the section 21 notice.

Notice of non-renewal for housing association tenants

A landlord who is a private registered provider of social housing must give certain assured shorthold tenants a notice of non-renewal before serving the section 21 notice.

This applies to ASTs which were granted on or after 1 April 2012, and for a minimum fixed term of two years.[24]

If the tenancy agreement contains a valid break clause and the landlord relies on it to terminate the tenancy during the fixed term period as allowed by the agreement, the requirement to serve a notice of non-renewal before issuing possession proceedings does not apply.[25]

If the tenancy agreement does not contain a break clause, the landlord must serve the notice of non-renewal during the fixed term and wait until the termination of the fixed term before starting possession proceedings following a section 21 notice.

A notice of non-renewal must:[26]

  • be in writing

  • be of a period of at least six months

  • state that the landlord does not intend to grant a further tenancy

  • inform the tenant how to obtain help or advice on the notice

A tenant has no statutory right of review of the landlord's decision not to renew the tenancy. The tenancy might have a defence to a claim for possession based on the section 21 notice on public law or human rights grounds.

Last updated: 1 June 2022

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.21 Housing Act 1988.

  • [2]

    s.21(4B) Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.36(2) Deregulation Act 2015.

  • [3]

    s.21(7) Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.99 Housing Act 1996 and amended by s.36(3) Deregulation Act 2015; s.21(4C) Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.36(3) Deregulation Act 2015; s.21(4B)(b) Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.36(2) Deregulation Act 2015; s.5(2) Housing Act 1988.

  • [4]

    The current version is prescribed by the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies and Notices) (Amendment and Suspension) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/994 with effect from 1 October 2021.

  • [5]

    s.21(8) Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.37(8) Deregulation Act 2015; s.41(3) Deregulation Act 2015.

  • [6]

    for a full explanation see paras 9.41 and 9.42 of Defending Possession Proceedings, 9th edition, 2021, Legal Action Group.

  • [7]

    Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/620, as amended by the Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/915.

  • [8]

    s.21(1) Housing Act 1988; Spencer v Taylor [2013] EWCA Civ 1600.

  • [9]

    s.5(2) Housing Act 1988.

  • [10]

    Gloucestershire HA v Phelps May 2003 Legal Action 35, Gloucester County Court.

  • [11]

    Aylward v Fawaz (1996) 29 HLR 408 CA.

  • [12]

    s21(2) Housing Act 1988.

  • [13]

    s.21(4) Housing Act 1988; Parker d.Walker v Constable (1769) 3 Wils. K.B. 25.

  • [14]

    s.21(4)(b) Housing Act 1988; Parker d.Walker v Constable (1769) 3 Wils. K.B. 25.

  • [15]

    s.21(4)(a) Housing Act 1988 and s.21(4ZA) Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.35 Deregulation Act 2015.

  • [16]

    para 7, schedule 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, suspended by reg 2 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies and Notices) (Amendment and Suspension) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/994.

  • [17]

    see schedule 29 Coronavirus Act 2020 before 29 August 2020.

  • [18]

    para 7, schedule 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(7) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

  • [19]

    para, 7 schedule 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(7) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914 and reg 2(8)(a)-(b) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/564; reg 3 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/564.

  • [20]

    ss.21(1)(b) and (4)(a) Housing Act 1988; (1) Barrow & (2) Amey v Kazim & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 2414.

  • [21]

    s.196 Law of Property Act 1925, as amended by the Recorded Delivery Service Act 1962; Wandsworth LBC v Attwell (1995) 27 HLR 536, CA; Blunden v Frogmore Investments [2002] EWCA Civ 573.

  • [22]

    s.45(3) Housing Act 1988; unreported County Court case of Hacking v Jones (2012).

  • [23]

    s.21C Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.40 Deregulation Act 2015.

  • [24]

    s.21(1A) Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.164 Localism Act 2011.

  • [25]

    Livewest Homes Ltd v Bamber [2019] EWCA Civ 1174.

  • [26]

    s.21(1B) Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.164 Localism Act 2011.