Landlord guide to ending a Tenancy Agreement in the UK
All things come to an end – including tenancy agreements, no matter how excellent your tenants might be. In fact, the Residential Landlords Association found in 2019 that 84% of private renters are more than satisfied with their rented home. And it often follows that a happy tenant equals a happy landlord.
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Can a landlord end a tenancy agreement early?
The short answer is yes, in some circumstances.
A situation may arise where either landlords or tenants want to end a tenancy agreement earlier than planned.
- For landlords, this might be due to selling their rental property, or wanting to move back in.
- For tenants, this might be because their work location is changing, or because they want to purchase their own property.
Ending a tenancy early can only be done if your agreement has a break clause, or if both landlord and tenant agree to terminate.
If both parties are open to ending the tenancy, landlords and tenants are required to negotiate the details – including a moving out date and, if the tenants have initiated, whether there will be an early termination fee imposed to cover ‘reasonable costs’, which can include the cost for an agent to relet the property on behalf of the landlord and the landlord’s financial losses as a result of the tenant leaving early.
However, both landlords and tenants are legally entitled to refuse to end a tenancy early and can enforce the terms of the contract until the original end date of the tenancy.
If you are a landlord refusing to end the tenancy, this means tenants must continue paying rent – as well as some bills, such as council tax – until the agreed tenancy ends, even if they leave the property.
What is a break clause?
What happens if no agreement can be reached?
There are circumstances in which landlords wish to remove tenants and an agreement can’t be reached.
For example, in the event that communication has broken down, or care isn’t being taken of your property and tenants are breaching the terms of the tenancy agreement.
If you have decided to forcibly bring a tenancy to an end, you must follow a specific process to ensure fairness and avoid disputes. This includes serving a Section 21 or a Section 8 notice.
What are the differences between Section 21 and Section 8 notices?
Section 21 is a ‘notice of possession’, which means you are notifying your tenants that you intend to take back possession of your property at the end of a fixed-term tenancy agreement, or refer to a break clause.
As a landlord, you don’t have to provide any reason for reclaiming possession of your property when you serve a Section 21 notice.
Section 8 is served when there are grounds for eviction. These might include the tenants’ failure to pay rent, damage done to your property, or disruptive or illegal behaviour. In this case, you can end a tenancy during its fixed term, as your tenants have breached the agreement.
If your tenants dispute this, however, you may have to provide evidence in court.
How to serve a section 21 notice
What to do if tenants refuse to vacate the property
While this is a frustrating situation to find yourself in, there are legal avenues to pursue to have your tenants evicted.
First, you can apply to the county court for a Possession Order.
You can use the standard possession claim if you served either a section 8 or 21 notice, or want to get your property back and at the same time claim rent arrears from the tenant.
You are entitled to use an accelerated possession order if you have served a Section 21 notice, you have a written tenancy agreement and you are not claiming any unpaid rent.
If your tenant still fails to vacate after your possession order has expired, you can instruct the county court bailiff to evict. This may take up to 6 weeks or more. This is the worst case scenario and isn’t widely common – only 0.5% of landlords make an eviction claim on average each year.
And so it comes to an end. Whether on good terms or not, landlords do have options when it comes to terminating a tenancy before the end of the fixed date.
This process just goes to show that a robust tenancy agreement is the best way to cover all eventualities and avoid tricky disputes during and at the end of a tenancy. For a helping hand through creating a contract that suits both parties, read our landlord’s guide to UK tenancy agreements and make your landlord life a lot easier.
What should I include in a tenancy agreement?
A robust tenancy agreement that leaves little room for dispute should include:
- the names of both landlord and all tenants involved
- the rent and how it’s paid
- details on rent reviews
- the deposit amount and how you will protect it
- whether and in what circumstances the deposit can be fully or partly withheld
- the address
- the start and end date of the tenancy
- any tenant or landlord obligations
- which bills your tenants will take responsibility for
- who is responsible for repairs other than those that the landlord is legally responsible for
- whether the property can be sublet or have lodgers
- whether the tenancy can be ended early and how this can be done (called a break clause)
What should I do with my tenants’ deposit?
Landlords are required by law to place tenants’ deposits in a government-approved deposit protection scheme. In England and Wales your deposit can be registered with:
The money is held there until the end of the tenancy and may be used in order to resolve any disputes. You must register your tenants’ deposit in a scheme within 30 days of receiving it and return it within 10 days of them vacating your property.
What if my tenants damage my property?
There are two options:
- Either the tenant pays to fix the damage, or
- The cost for repairs or replacement is taken from their deposit at the end of the tenancy.
General wear and tear should be allowed for.