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What to look out for when checking a notice

Advisers from Shelter's Helpline Plus outline the basic principles of checking whether a notice served by a landlord is valid.

Published November 2021

When is a notice needed?

A notice is the first step in the landlord regaining possession of a rented property. Eviction is a three-step process. After the notice expires the landlord must obtain a possession order and a bailiffs’ warrant before the tenant has to leave. 

This article does not cover notices for lodgers. 

Types of notice a landlord can give

The type of notice a person is entitled to depends on what type of tenancy they have. For example, secure council tenants are entitled to more detailed notices than tenants who rent privately.

It is not always clear what tenancy someone has from their written contract alone. It is always important to check the facts of the situation. 

A common problem for tenants is that the landlord describes them as a lodger, in order to avoid having to comply with the legal requirements of the full eviction process. 

Use Shelter's tenancy status checker.

Form, content, and service

Most notices follow strict rules regarding form and content. For example, the correct form for the ‘no fault’ section 21 notice is the form 6A.

If the notice is not served on the specified form, it must contain the same information to be valid. The form the landlord uses must be current when the notice is served. This is important because some forms have been updated throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Grounds for possession 

Some notices must state the landlord’s reasons for eviction, known as grounds. The grounds are set out in the legislation and are specific to each tenancy type. Most private landlords can serve a section 8 notice if they can prove the tenant is in rent arrears. Alternatively, they can serve a section 21 notice which does not require grounds.

How notice is served 

A notice is served when it is given to the tenant. If a notice is sent by post, it is usually deemed to be received by the tenant two business days after posting, even if they have not looked at it. The landlord can also deliver the notice by hand. A notice can only sent by email if the contract allows for it.

The landlord must prove a notice was served if the tenant says they have not received it. The court will decide whether it is more likely than not that the notice was served. 

Dates matter

Most notices have a minimum period which is set out in legislation and calculated from the day the notice was served. How much time the landlord has to give the tenant depends on the:

  • tenancy type

  • notice

  • grounds for eviction

The landlord must wait until the notice expires before applying for a possession order. There are rare exceptions, for example where the landlord relies on grounds for anti-social behaviour. 

Time limits for court action

After the notice expires, the landlord has a set period of time to apply for a possession order. The time limits vary depending on the notice type.

Additional requirements and restrictions 

There are additional rules which may invalidate a notice, even if it appears valid. For example, section 21 notices are often invalid because the landlord has not complied with additional requirements relating to:

  • deposit protection

  • energy performance and gas safety certificates

  • How to Rent guide

Other types of notices have their own additional rules. It is always important to check whether the landlord has complied with them. 

Check the contract

The contract can give the tenant more rights than they have under the law, although it cannot take their rights away. For example, a term in the tenancy agreement can give the tenant rights to a longer notice but cannot deprive them of the minimum notice length they are entitled to under the law. 

A tenancy agreement does not have to be in writing. It can be difficult to prove what was agreed if it has not been written down.

Further resources

Shelter Legal

Tenancy status checker - establish what kind of tenancy or licence and occupier has

Notices in possession proceedings - notice requirements by tenure

Section 21 validity checker - find out if a section 21 notice is valid using this interactive tool

About the authors

Madeleine Hunter, Noor Khan, Adam Lindsay and Ian McGarry are caseworkers for Shelter's Helpline Plus service.