Tenancy Contract Types

In an ideal world, no landlord would ever have to end a tenancy early. Unfortunately, however, we don’t live in an ideal world, and as a result, ending tenancies early is something that both landlords and tenants have to be prepared for. Given that it happens so often and for so many reasons, there’s a lot of confusion out there when it comes to what the specific precedent needs to be in order to comply with UK law. A single Google search throws up thousands upon thousands of results, meaning that for landlords and tenants both, the topic can be overwhelming at times.

Is It Easy To End A Tenancy?

Many landlords make the mistake of assuming that just because they’ve got a tenant and the property, potentially ending the agreement will be easy and straightforward. In reality, while this isn’t far from the truth, these matters can unfortunately be a little more complicated than you might have allowed for. As well as the legal details in the UK that have to be complied with, you’ll also have to take into account your tenant’s feelings, since that’s the best way to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

Do Tenancies Automatically End On The Date Specified?

This is probably the single biggest misconception UK landlords have when they’re considering the state of affairs of the tenancy agreements they’ve signed with the tenant. Plenty of perfectly well-meaning lessors make this common mistake, which can lead to an enormous amount of stress and hassle down the line.

The ‘end date’ specified in the tenancy agreement doesn’t actually stipulate when the agreement will be terminated for good. Rather, it describes the point after which the agreement can be terminated. Notice the crucial distinction here — the agreement can be terminated after that point, but it won’t necessarily be. This means that as a landlord you can’t just tell them to leave your property once the specified end date rolls around.

The Legal Process Of Ending A Tenancy

As a lessor, you have certain duties to your tenant that must be followed in order to remain compliant with UK law. The most obvious example of these duties is the obligation you have to serve the tenant with a reasonable amount of notice, as specified in the original agreement you signed with them. However, tenants themselves have rights, and — much as we might wish things were different — not every tenant is a dream to have in your home. They can make things tricky if they decide they want to, which is why it’s so important to stay calm and keep your patience, even in the face of the most obstructive of lessees.

Mutual Agreement

This is by far the most amicable way to terminate a tenancy agreement in the UK, and if possible, you should be aiming to conclude the relationship this way. A mutual agreement to terminate the contract will involve both the landlord and the tenant giving their consent to finish the tenancy. Even though this is the most painless way to go about it, it doesn’t necessarily always arise from the best circumstances. For example, if a tenant wants to end the agreement, it’s usually best to just give in and accept their decision rather than tire yourself out in a long struggle. This can be frustrating, but the easiest way for you to handle it as a landlord is to just immediately start looking for another tenant and assume that the lessee you’re currently working with will end up going one way or another.

Section 21

A Section 21 notice refers to Section 21 of the Housing Act of 1988, and refers to the landlord’s legal right to take back their residence when the end of a tenancy agreement rolls around. This will usually be able to happen after the end date specified in the original paperwork, but it’s not as straightforward as just asking them to leave. It will only be required if the tenant doesn’t want to go and a mutual agreement can’t be reached.

A Section 21 notice can be used to evict a tenant without specifying a reason. Most landlords who use this notice do so because it is a guaranteed way to remove antisocial tenants who are causing a nuisance to the house, as well as their other housemates, and cannot be subject to a judge’s discretion.

Reasonable notice (a legal minimum of two months’ written notice, according to the legislation) must be given to the tenant if you’re going to try and serve them with a possession order under Section 21. One important distinction to note is that it’s not an eviction order, nor is it a claim that the tenant has done anything wrong to violate the agreement. All it is is a legal way of explaining that you want to take back ownership of your property. Another thing to keep in mind is that a Section 21 possession order can’t terminate a tenancy during the term agreed upon; it will only come into effect after the end date has come and gone.

The landlord must comply with the following requirements:

  • Verify that the tenant’s deposit is protected, and the prescribed information was served electronically at the start of the tenancy ;
  • Hand-deliver the Section 21 notice with evidence of service or send it via recorded delivery, giving at least two months’ notice ;
  • Allow the tenant to vacate the property ;
  • If the tenant remains, apply for a possession order ;
  • Utilize bailiffs if the tenant refuses to leave.

Tenant Eviction (Section 8 Notice)

Evicting a tenant is the most adversarial way to end a tenancy agreement, and because of the numerous rules that must be followed in carrying out the eviction, it should really only be used as a last resort, or if the tenant has seriously damaged their standing with the landlord. For example, if rent arrears have been allowed to build up, the landlord is well within their rights to begin the eviction process.

Other grounds for evicting a tenant include, but are not limited to:

  • The landlord requires the property in order to live in it
  • The property was being used as a holiday let for at least 12 months before the tenancy started, and possession of the property is required
  • Criminal behaviour has taken place in the property, and the tenant has been convicted of an offence under Section 30 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act of 2014
  • The tenant has failed to pay rent on a regular basis
  • The residence has been neglected and its condition has deteriorated as a result
  • The neighbours have made complaints due to an additional person or persons the tenant has been living with in the property
  • The tenancy was granted because of a false statement, rendering the agreement void

The amount of notice that must be given for an eviction varies from two weeks to two months, depending on which specific grounds are being cited by the landlord in order to end the tenancy agreement. For more information about all of the possible grounds for eviction, check out this page.

Surrender Of Tenancy

This is a way a tenancy agreement can be terminated at the behest of the tenant themselves. By choosing to officially begin the departure process — in legal terms, by serving the landlord with a surrender notice — the tenant is essentially voluntarily giving up the tenancy and agreeing to depart the property for good on whichever date is specified in the notice.

The tenant must provide their landlord with at least a months’ notice, although the specific amount of notice required varies depending on the precise conditions of the tenancy agreement. In order for the surrender of tenancy to comply with UK laws and regulations, the tenant must make sure that the landlord receives the tenancy notice a month before the date.

Simply sending the notice won’t suffice, and it’s the tenant’s responsibility to ensure that they’re on top of the scheduling with regards to when the landlord actually formally receives the notice. Mistakes made with the amount of notice can result in the surrender of tenancy being null and void, legally speaking.

Other Clauses For Terminating A Tenancy Agreement

There are other ways a tenancy agreement can be terminated, known as break clauses. These will have been specified in the original tenancy agreement. The best way to think of a break clause is as a mutually-agreed point in time at which the landlord and tenant will agree to discuss the future of the agreement. For example, one common way these break clauses are included in the paperwork is at a point halfway through the total duration, i.e. one year into a two-year agreement. For the break to be official, a Section 21 notice and a surrender notice must both be served with at least two months’ notice.

Best-Practice Tips To Follow

In order to make sure everything goes as well as possible, keep a couple of these tips in mind:

  • Be reasonable and fair
  • Keep careful track of all paperwork
  • Be on top of timing
  • Remember that notices alone won’t end the tenancy

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