In this article:
- 1 Introduction
- 2 What is the section 21 notice
- 3 Section 21 for Fixed term tenancies
- 4 Section 21 for Periodic tenancies
- 5 When is a section 21 invalid
- 6 Common mistakes landlords make when serving section 21
- 7 Section 21 for tenancies started or renewed after October the 1st 2015
- 8 What happens after the section 21’s two months are due
- Section 21 Notice to quit is served as the first step in every eviction process. The notice gives you two months to leave, before the landlord seeks possession of the property.
- Section 21 can be served without a particular reason.
- Section 21 must give you two months of time since the date being served to you. It must be in writting and clear a number of requirements to be valid.
- To be valid, your landlord must protect your deposit in a goverment authorised scheme and serve you prescribed information in 30 days after receiving the money. Otherwise, section 21 cannot be used and they are liable in court for failing the protection procedure.
- If you’re renting on a fixed term tenancy, section 21 must respect the fixed term and end no sooner than the last day of that term.
- If you’re renting on a periodic tenancy, section 21 must end on the last day of the tenancy period (e.g. the last day of the month).
- When the tenancy ends, or is renewed, a new section 21 must be served.
- Any spelling mistakes, or incorrectly listed names, dates and contacts will render the notice invalid. Check the spelling when you’ve been served a section 21 notice.
- Tenancies started or renewed after October the 1st 2015 feature additional rules about the usage of Section 21. These cases forbid the notice to be used in the first 4 months of the tenancy. Also, section 21 cannot be used after the landlord is served with an improvement notice by the local council. (see more below)
- After June 1st 2019, landlords and letting agents cannot use Section 21 notice if they hold illegally collected fees and deposits.
- Under no circumstances can the landlord forcefully evict you from the property. Section 21 only grants them the authority to seek possession from the court. Only the county bailiffs can physically remove you from your home.
If you rent from a private landlord you most likely use an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). Under its laws, the landlord can start an eviction process to claim back their property. This can be unsettling if you are happy in your rented home with no desire to move. But, be assured that it is not necessary for you to have done anything wrong.
The “shorthold” part gives them a reasonable right to their property, regardless if you have broken the tenancy agreement or not.
Fortunately for tenants, the eviction procedure is nothing like most would think of it. You can’t really come back from work only to witness all your belongings waiting for you on the street. Instead, you will most likely get back to a section 21 form in your mail, or otherwise known, notice to quit.
What is the section 21 notice
Under the Housing Act 1988, a landlord has a legal right to repossess his/her property at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy. To do it legally, however, the owner must operate within strictly defined procedures. The first step of every procedure is the section 21 notice. It’s a letter of notification that the landlord must serve to the tenant, prior to the eviction. The notice to quit is purely informational and doesn’t carry any legal power.
What must the section 21 include
Although the notice to quit can be written in a relatively free form, it must include several key items.
- Obviously, it must be written that this is a section 21, in it’s correct variation (more below), under the Housing Act of 1988.
- It must be in writing. The only notice to quit that can be “served” verbally, is when renters are lodging. They live with their landlords and share communal areas.
- There must be a start date and end date. The landlord should always provide a minimum of two months between the dates. If the tenancy runs on a weekly basis there must be a notice period of eight weeks.
- It will be valid for 12 months from the end date. When they expire, the landlord must serve a new section 21, before they go to court.
Essentially, a notice to quit only politely asks the tenant to leave. Renters can choose to move out or not. The actual eviction only starts in the court. It only ends when the Court bailiffs have executed the order of possession.
The landlord can serve a notice to quit at any desired time (more below). However, it may only take effect if some criteria are met. Depending on the particular tenancy, there are two versions of the section 21 form.
Section 21 for Fixed term tenancies
Fixed term tenancies usually run on a six or twelve month periods. During the fixed term, tenants are protected from “no fault” evictions. This includes a section 21 eviction. Landlords can still serve a notice to quit, but it must respect the fixed term until it has expired. The start date is of little importance, but the end date must fall no sooner than the last day of the fixed period. In addition the notice to quit must still respect the two month period required by the law.
For fixed term tenancies, landlord can use the Section 21(1)b form.
If the owner wants to evict before the fixed term is over, they must use a different route – section 8 notice. Section 8 notice is mostly used when the tenant has broken the terms of the contract – e.g. the tenant is two months in arrears. There are several other uses, however, they all require solid grounds, presented at the court, to receive a possession order.
Section 21 for Periodic tenancies
Periodic tenancies run on the basis of payment periods. Usually it’s on a month by month basis. Fixed term tenancies automatically continue as periodic, when the term has expired. Periodic tenancies allow the landlord a relatively fast and easy way to evict their tenants.
Landlords can use the Section 21(4)a form.
The notice to quit has to provide two full months of time to the tenant. And, the end date must always fall on the last day of the tenancy period. To clarify a bit more, let’s consider the following example:
The tenants are renting with a periodic tenancy that runs on a monthly basis. Every tenancy period starts on the 20th of the month and ends on the 19th on the consecutive month. Usually, tenancy periods will correlate with the date you pay your rent. But it might not be the case every time so be sure to check with your tenancy agreement, for the exact information.
When is a section 21 invalid
Notice to quit letters, although freely phrased, must pass a number of rules to be legal. If there is any error in the section 21, it becomes invalid. The landlord cannot proceed with the eviction and must serve another one. The new notice will restart the timer, giving the tenant more time. That’s why it’s important to always check the notice to quit for errors. A more thorough guide you can find in our special guide on section 21 errors.
The tenancy deposit was not protected
Protecting the tenancy deposit is a basic landlord responsibility. Failure to do so is a common indicator about the readiness to tackle problems and work in the interest of the tenant.
- The tenancy deposit must be protected in a government authorised scheme.
- The tenant must have been provided with a set of prescribed information, issued by the said company.
- Third and finally, both of these actions must be executed no more than 30 days of the date on which the renters paid their deposit.
The section 21 notice is automatically invalid if your landlord has not protected the tenancy deposit. It must happen in either: My Deposits, The Dispute Service or Deposit Protection Service within 30 days from receiving the deposit.
If you have not been provided with the prescribed information, the notice is invalid.
Also, when this 30 day period expires, tenants can make a legal claim for not protecting the deposit. This claim is irrevocable. If correct, the court has no option than to award the tenant with 1 to 3 times the deposit sum, as payable by the property owner. If such a claim has been made, the section 21 is invalid.
If landlords repay the full amount of the original deposit (aside from anything rewarded by the court), they are entitled to use section 21 once more.
The laws regarding the tenancy deposit and section 21 notices are complex. We advise seeking legal help if you’re about to make a claim about the deposit.
The landlord has renewed the tenancy
Section 21 is only valid for the current tenancy. Every time the tenancy ends legally, the notice to quit also expires. This is valid when the tenancy is renewed for either a new fixed term or a new periodic tenancy. When the rent is increased or decreased, a new tenancy has to be issued, so any notice served is deprecated.
Section 21 notices always respect the fixed term. If your landlord has renewed a new fixed term with you, the section 21 must end no sooner than the last day of the new period. Any notice served prior to the new contract is automatically invalid.
If you live in an HMO that doesn’t have proper license
Do you share the property with other tenants ? Then you live in a house of multiple occupations – HMO. If they shelter more than five people of different households, these buildings need a special license. The landlord must obtain from the council, otherwise, they are renting it out illegally. If that’s the case, then a no-fault eviction cannot be used.
Your landlord or letting agent have collected illegal fees, chargers or deposits from you
Under the Tenant Fees Act 2019, all fees charged to tenants except a carefully defined list are banned and illegal. All tenancy deposits and holding deposits are capped to a certain amount. Find more information in our dedicated guide – Letting Agent Fees.
Landlords and letting agents who have taken excessive fees and deposits and have not returned them to the tenant lose their right to use Section 21 until the problems are resolved. Any notice served while in breach of the Tenant Fees Act becomes automatically invalid. After rectifying the problems, your landlord or agent will need to serve a new notice.
Common mistakes landlords make when serving section 21
It might sound humorous, but the law has no regard for spelling mistakes. If the landlord has served you with a notice to quit, but some important details are misspelled, the notice is most likely invalid.
Here is what to watch out for:
- The tenant’s name spelled correctly
- The right address of the rented property
- The proper start and end date of the notice period
- The name and contacts of the landlord and letting agent, if used
This information might seem trivial, but it’s vital that the section 21 is written properly.
Do note, that the start date is when the notice is served to you, not when the landlord has drafted it.
If the notice is issued during a contractual periodic AST it must meet all the above and also:
- Expire at the end of a period of your tenancy or contain a valid ‘saving clause’
- State that possession is required under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988
In addition, the correct version of the section 21 form must be used for the right situation. There is one for the service of a fixed term tenancy 21(1)(b), and one for a periodic tenancy 21(4)(a) and a contractual periodic tenancy.
Section 21 for tenancies started or renewed after October the 1st 2015
If you’ve entered a tenancy before the 1st of October 2015, the section 21 notice can be written in a free form and served freely.
Tenancies who were signed or renewed since that date introduce a bit more regulation. No fault eviction has been a serious point of abuse by ill-minded landlords. For the security for renters, the government introduced new requirements for legal, no fault eviction.
The tenancy has started in the last four months of serving the notice
The section 21 notice CANNOT be served earlier than 4 months after the tenancy has started. If the tenancy was transferred to another tenant, renewed, or the tenant has subleased the property, this period is counted from the original date on which the original tenant signed the lease.
The tenant pays rent on a different schedule like quarterly.
The notice period must increase from two months, to whatever your rent payment period is. For example, if you pay rent four times, the section 21 must give you at least three months of time. The end date must fall just before the next rental period is due.
The tenant has a right to receive additional information regarding the property:
- Energy performance certificate
- Current gas safety record
- Government guide “How to rent” (Usually, a paper copy is require, or an email substitute with your agreement.)
The tenant has complaints about repairs
If the landlord serves you with a section 21, after you complained about repairs, they might be breaking the law. Revenge evictions or “retaliatory eviction” are the bad landlord’s way of dealing with tenants. Whenever there might be friction or complaints from the tenant’s side, these landlords use eviction as a tool to keep them silent. This is a serious abuse and harassment and the landlord can’t at all use a section 21. This is true if you have been served with a notice to quit and:
- The tenant has reported issues and repairs in writing to the landlord
- The landlord didn’t deal with the issues
- The landlord refuses to do repairs and maintenance
- The tenant has reported to the council for lack of repairs
- The council has served your landlord with an improvement notice
- The council has served a notice that they would do emergency works
What happens after the section 21’s two months are due
Provided the notice was served legally and provided two months to the tenant, they will be expected to leave by the end date. If the time has expired, but the renter has not vacated the property, landlords can seek assistance from the court.
Particularly, landlords will issue a section 8 – notice to seek possession. At the same time, they will apply to the court and seek a possession order. The possession order requires the tenant to leave by the specified date. The date will be drawn, based on the eviction grounds which the landlord provides. For legal reasons, like rent arrears, the period can go as low as two weeks. For serious anti-social behaviour it can even take an effect immediately.
When the landlord has the possession order, they can apply for the court bailiffs to execute it. Owners don’t have rights to physically evict you from the property, but the bailiffs do. When landlords schedule the date with them, you will receive a letter with all relevant information. On the day, the bailiffs will enter the house and escort you out, as well as remove your belongings. That will conclude the tenancy and the eviction will be complete.
This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.
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