The following information only applies to ending Assured Shorthold Tenancies.
In order to end an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the first step is for the landlord to give notice (advanced warning) to the tenant(s).
Strictly speaking, a notice is merely notification to the tenant that if they do not leave, the landlord can apply to a Court for possession. The only way to legally evict a tenant who refuses to leave is to apply to a Court for a Possession Order and for the Court Bailiffs to evict the tenant.
In practice, most tenants will be advised to leave on or before the expiry date of a valid notice because if they stay, it will be their responsibility to pay any Court fees. It is likely that the only time an 'Assured Shorthold' tenant would be advised to stay would be if the landlord had declared that they had legal grounds for eviction and the tenant disputed that such grounds existed. For example, if the landlord claimed there were rent arrears and the tenant disputed this, then the tenant may choose to stay and let a Court decide who is right.
It is very important that the correct procedure is followed. Failure to do so is illegal; it is a criminal offence. The penalty for being convicted is an unlimited fine and/or a 2 year prison sentence.
In addition, a Court will not award a possession order if the notice given by a landlord is incorrect (called invalid). If a notice is found to be invalid, the only way to evict a tenant is to serve a new, valid one.
It is good practice to either give the notice to the tenant(s) in person or to send it by some form of guaranteed delivery. This should prevent any later argument about the date that the tenant received it.
The method for ending an Assured Shorthold Tenancy depends on how long the tenancy has been operating and whether or not a written agreement is still in force.
Eviction During the Fixed Term of the Agreement
When there is a written agreement still in force, an Assured Shorthold Tenancy can be ended in two ways:
By writing to the tenant, giving at least 2 months notice, provided the date when the notice ends (the expiry date) is after the end of the contract.
For example, if a 6 month contract started on the 1st January, two months notice can be given at any time up until the end of June. A notice given during the first 4 months of the tenancy will expire on 30th June. A notice given to the tenants after 1 April should expire on a date at least 2 months after it was served.
To end a tenancy during the period covered by a contract is much more complicated. This is because the landlord must give legal reasons (called 'grounds') for ending the tenancy.
'Grounds' include reasons such as rent arrears, damage to the property and breach of tenancy conditions. The notice is called a 'Notice Seeking Possession' and must contain very specific wording.
Depending on which legal ground the landlord wishes to use, the notice period is either 2 weeks or 2 months. There is a booklet available on request which lists all of the grounds and gives further details of the process a landlord must follow.
Eviction after the Fixed Term of the agreement (or if there was no written contract)
A tenancy that does not run for a period defined in writing is called a periodic tenancy. The rules for ending a periodic 'Assured Shorthold Tenancy' are different to those that apply when there is a written contract in operation.
If there was a written contract for a fixed period that has now passed or if there was never an agreement for a specific period of time, the notice (called a 'Notice Requiring Possession') given to a tenant must contain specific information to be valid. This includes:
The part of the Housing Act on which it is based. The name and address of both landlord and tenant. The date it was given to the tenant ('served'). The date on which it expires.
The notice for a periodic Assured Shorthold tenancy must give the tenants 8 weeks notice (if the rent is paid weekly) or two months (if it is paid monthly). In addition, it must end on the last day of a rental period. This is the day before the rent is normally due.
Example: A tenant moves in to a rented property on the 14th of January, is given a written contract for 6 months and pays rent monthly. In August, the landlord decides that the property should be sold. A notice given before 14th August must be for two months and end on the day before rent is due. The notice should therefore be dated to expire on 13th October.
If, however, the notice is served after 14th August (say, on the 16th) then it must expire on 13th November. This is because it must be for two full months and expire on the day before rent is due. If the notice was dated 13th October, it would not be for two full months and the end of the next rental period is 13th November.