Ending and extending a shorthold tenancy
A fixed term tenancy agreement will allow the tenant to occupy the property for a fixed period. It can also include a break clause which allows either the landlord or the tenant to bring the tenancy to an end before the actual end date of the contract, if they give suitable notice (it is worth noting that the tenant will have a minimum right of occupation for 6 months before a landlord can bring it to an end).
How to extend an Assured Shorthold Tenancy:
If you’re happy for the tenant to stay, and use an agent, the agent will be able to organise a new fixed term contract for you along with any renewal fees that may be applicable. This is also the time to discuss any potential rent increase or decreases with the tenant so that the new agreement can be updated accordingly.
An alternative to arranging a new fixed term contract is to allow the tenant to stay and let the tenancy roll on a monthly periodic basis. All the obligations will remain as detailed in the original contract but there will be no fixed end date and the tenancy will keep rolling until either the landlord or the tenant serves notice to bring it to an end.
How to end an Assured Shorthold Tenancy:
If your tenants are on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), and you want to give them notice to vacate at the end of the tenancy you should serve a Section 21 notice. This is a legal notice letting the tenants know that you wish to take the property back. The same notice can be used if you want to enact a break clause that is included within their AST. This cannot be served within the first four months of the tenancy.
If the tenants fail to vacate the property in line with the notice, you will need to initiate legal proceedings within six months of the date the notice was served to get a court order to take possession back.
Temporary changes to eviction notice periods
A Section 21 notice usually requires you to give at least two months’ advance written notice to your tenant. However, in March 2020, the government temporarily extended eviction notice periods from two months to six months.
Since 1st June 2021, eviction notice periods have dropped to four months and from 1st October 2021, this returns to two months.
In Wales, a ban on bailiff-enforced evictions is in place until 30th June 2021, however this is subject to regular reviews. You will need to give your tenants six months’ notice before eviction proceedings can begin.
In Scotland, the eviction ban has been extended until 30th September 2021 for areas under level 3 or level 4 coronavirus restrictions, although this is being reviewed every three weeks.
Evictions can be enforced in all other parts of Scotland. You are required to give your tenant six months’ notice, or 28 days’ notice if there has been a breach of the tenancy agreement. However, if you or your family intend to move in to the property, the notice period drops to three months.
There is no eviction ban in Northern Ireland, but, until 1st October 2021, you will need to give your tenants 12 weeks’ notice before starting the eviction process.
Serving a Section 21 notice
To serve a Section 21 notice successfully you will need to ensure, amongst other things, that you have:
- Properly registered the deposit with an approved scheme and provided all the relevant information to the tenancy in a timely manner
- Provided the tenant with a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), Gas Safety certificate and How to Rent booklet
- Complied with the requirements to have a smoke alarm on every floor and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room that has a solid fuel combustion appliance
It is important to note that even though you own the property, you do not have the right to remove a tenant by force. If an issue arises whereby the tenant will not vacate the property you will need to start the eviction process through the courts.
If you are in any doubt at all, over your rights as a landlord, please seek legal advice or guidance.
Evicting your tenant for other reasons
Using a Section 21 does not require a landlord to give a reason for giving notice to take the property back. Often it is simply a case of wanting to sell the property, move back in or redevelop it.
However, there are occasions where a landlord will need to evict their tenant because they have broken one or more of the terms of the rental agreement. This is very much the exception rather than the norm but it is a risk with all tenancies: The most significant breach for most landlords is the tenant’s failure to pay the rent properly and in this case, you should issue a Section 8 notice.
This notice formally advises the tenant of the problem that has occurred (eg rent arrears), gives a time frame for the issue to be resolved and advises that if the issue is not resolved the landlord will take the matter to court. If you, as the landlord, decide to take the matter to court it is normal to seek to get the property back and also a remedy for the issue. In the case of rental arrears, for example, there will be a court order detailing what the tenant has to pay which may also include costs as well as rent and a possession order requiring the tenant to surrender the property.
TIP: Check out the video recording of our Section 21 webinar, in conjunction with ARLA PropertyMark, for more information here.