Tessa’s Ten Top Tips on Ending Tenancies

  1. There is a difference between ending a tenancy and recovering possession.  Note that in most cases, if a tenancy (such as a fixed term tenancy) comes to an end – if the tenant does not move out and remains in occupation, a new ‘periodic’ tenancy will be created automatically.  
  2. A tenancy does not end when the tenant dies.  In most cases it will  be treated in the same way as a freehold or long lease property and will pass to beneficiaries under the tenants will or intestacy.  In some cases (in particular for protected tenants under the Rent Act 1977 or assured tenants under the Housing Act 1988) the tenancy will pass to the tenants spouse or family members as set out in the legislation.  
  3. Tenants cannot end a fixed term tenancy unilaterally.  So if they want to move out say, three months into a twelve month fixed term – this will not end the tenancy and they will remain liable for the rent.  The tenancy will only end (if they have vacated) at the end of the fixed term or earlier by agreement with the landlord.
  4. However if the tenants move out and it is clear that they have vacated permanently, this can be treated as an ‘implied offer to surrender’ which the landlord can ‘accept’ by going in and changing the locks.  it will normally be safe to do this if the tenants have removed all their possessions, stopped paying rent and left the keys behind.
  5. It is common to include a ‘break clause’ in a tenancy agreement for a long fixed term of 12 months or more.  This will allow a landlord or the tenants to end the fixed term early.  Even if the tenants do not move out, this will allow the landlord to use the section 21 procedure to evict them.
  6. Be aware that section 21 and section 8 notices do not actually ‘end’ a tenancy.  What they do is make it possible for the landlord to obtain a court order for possession if the tenants fail to vacate.
  7. In most cases a landlord can only recover possession of a property if a tenant moves out voluntarily or by a Court Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer (formerly known as Sheriffs) under the authority of a Court Order for Possession.  
  8. However under the Right to Rent rules, the Home Office can in certain circumstances issue a notice which will allow a landlord to instruct High Court Enforcement Officers to  physically evict tenants without the need for a Court Order.
  9. Tenants (although not landlords) can end an assured or an assured shorthold periodic tenancy by serving a tenants Notice to Quit.  This will end the tenancy for all parties, even if some of the tenants were unaware that the notice was being served.
  10. Under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 it is a criminal offence (and also a civil wrong entitling tenants to claim financial compensation in the Courts) if landlords evict tenants without getting a court order first, save in a few specific circumstances.  These include lodgers who share living accommodation with their landlords and genuine holiday lets.

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