Ending or extending your tenancy
When the time comes, it’s important to know your options so that you can make an informed decision on whether to extend or end your current tenancy.
Ending a tenancy
If you want to end the tenancy during the fixed term, rather than at the end, you will only be able to do so if there is a break clause in the agreement. Break clauses are normally mutual and, as the landlord is legally required to give a specific notice period under an AST contract, the tenant is normally required to do the same.
If you have a break clause in your agreement and would like to use it, you will need to send your notice, in written form, to the landlord or managing agent. Your tenancy agreement will stipulate the address this needs to be sent to. If sending it in hard copy, it is good practice to send an electronic copy too.
If the contract does not have the option to break early but you still need to leave, you should discuss the issue with the landlord or agent and they may be willing to release you from the contract early, subject to you covering their reasonable costs for doing so and any rent they may lose. If you are in a house/flat share, undertaking a change of tenant and replacing you on the contract with a new person may be another option.
If you’re planning on vacating a property on the last day of the tenancy, there isn’t a specific notice period, although you should give the landlord enough notice to be able to remarket the property.
The Coronavirus Act 2020: temporary changes to eviction notice periods
In March 2020, the government in England temporarily banned bailiff-enforced evictions and eviction notice periods were extended from two months to six months. This was initially intended as an emergency short-term measure, but it was extended several times.
Since 1st June 2021, the ban has been lifted and eviction notice periods have dropped to four months. From 1st October 2021, this returns to two months.
In Wales, the eviction ban has been extended until 30th June 2021, however this is subject to regular reviews. A landlord will need to give you 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. A landlord is required to give you six months’ notice, or 28 days’ notice if there has been a breach of the tenancy agreement. However, if your landlord has decided 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, a landlord will need to give you 12 weeks’ notice before starting the eviction process.
How does the eviction process work?
If your landlord wants to end your tenancy early, they can do so without a reason by serving a Section 21 notice.
This is commonly referred to as a ‘no-fault eviction’ notice and gives a date for you to leave your home by. You can be given this notice if your tenancy has no fixed end date – which is known as a ‘periodic’ tenancy – or after your fixed-term tenancy ends.
However, if there has been a breach of your tenancy agreement, for example if you’ve fallen behind on rental payments or damaged the property, a landlord can serve you with a Section 8 notice which gives you just two weeks’ notice to leave the property.
REMEMBER: The landlord cannot take the property from you without serving the proper notices and going through the due legal process.
Extending your tenancy
Although a tenancy agreement will have an end date, the agreement between you and the landlord will only come to an end once you have vacated the property and it has been given back.
As the end of the initial agreement approaches, there are normally two options if you want to stay:
- Renew your fixed term contract
- Move to a rolling tenancy
Renew your fixed term contract
This is where the contract is formally extended, by written agreement, and a further period and terms are agreed.
Usually, the fixed term will mirror that of the original agreement you signed. So, for example, if your original agreement was for 12 months, the renewed contract would be for the same 12 months.
If you require a different length of term or the inclusion of a break clause, you will need to ensure this has been included within the new agreement.
Moving to a rolling tenancy means your tenancy becomes a statutory periodic tenancy and rolls, each month, according to the rent period. So, if your tenancy is paid monthly it will roll from month to month.
Though useful in certain circumstances, a rolling tenancy doesn’t give you, or the landlord, the security of knowing how long they the extended stay in the property will be for.
With rolling contracts, the tenancy can be brought to an end by either party, at any time, as long as the required notice period (normally two months) is given.
A rolling contract does have the benefit that neither party need do anything unless they want to end the tenancy, which can be useful in certain circumstances.
If the landlord wishes to increase the rent as part of the renewal process, they would need to reach an agreement with you as to what the terms are, which would include the cost of the rent, before the extension is signed.
Alternatively, the tenancy agreement may already contain a renewal clause which specifies the rent for a renewal period. If this is the case, then agreement from everyone signing the original tenancy agreement would have been needed. If you are unable to agree on the terms for a renewal, then you can serve a notice to end the tenancy.
It’s worth remembering that getting the highest rent possible is not always the landlord’s main priority. Where tenancies have gone smoothly, the property well maintained and rents paid on time, the landlord is far more likely to prioritise keeping a good tenant in place over large rent increases, as they avoid any risk of the property being empty for a period if the tenant vacates.