Landlord and Tenant Law – Procedure For Ending A Tenancy

There are a variety of situations in which a tenancy can be ended early by either the tenant or the landlord usually where there has been a breakdown in the relationship, although these situations are not covered by this article. This article explores the situations where a tenancy is terminated by mutual consent or when a fixed term has expired.

Ending a Tenancy In Accordance With A Written Tenancy Agreement
A tenancy can be ended at any time if the landlord and tenant both agree on this. A mutual ending of a tenancy agreement is referred to as a “surrender” of the tenancy by the tenant. There are two ways that effect a surrender of tenancy:

1) Surrender by Operation of Law
This is when a tenant gives up the occupation of a property to the landlord, in which the landlord accepts this as the tenant would have surrendered their tenancy. This can be evidenced by actions that demonstrate a clear intent to surrender, such as removing all their possession from the property or the handing over of keys over to the landlord.

2) Surrender by Declaration
This is when a tenant signs a written document stating that he has surrendered his tenancy to the landlord.

Under section 5 of the Housing Act 1988, where a tenant surrenders the property, the landlord has the right to retake possession. But, the landlord must ensure that the tenancy has been properly terminated before he re-lets the property to another tenant, otherwise he may be guilty of an unlawful eviction.

Ending a Tenancy In Accordance With A Written Tenancy Agreement
This is where a written tenancy agreement exists and it will often contain provisions about ending a tenancy early. Either the landlord or the tenant may have a right to terminate tenancy by following the procedure set out in the written agreement.

Certain types of tenancy, such as Assured and Assured Shorthold tenancies provide the tenant with security of tenure for an initial period, in which the tenancy cannot end without the tenants agreement. This would be the case regardless of what rights to end the tenancy the landlord is granted by the written tenancy agreement.

Ending a Tenancy at the End of a Fixed Period
A tenant has the right to end a tenancy at the end of the fixed period by vacating the property on the last day of the fixed period and it is not necessary to give a notice. This would include when the tenant has an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and the initial fixed period ended. However, if the tenant stays in the property beyond the end of the fixed term, then a periodic rolling tenancy will be created and he will need to give appropriate notice in order to terminate this.

Under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 a landlord who wishes to end a fixed tenancy at the end of the fixed period must serve a section 21 notice to the tenant. This must be done at least two months before the end of the tenancy. If the landlord fails to give the appropriate notice, when the fixed period ends a periodic rolling tenancy will be created and it will be necessary to give the tenant appropriate notice in order to terminate this as well.

Ending a Periodic Tenancy
When a fixed term tenancy ends and the landlord has not given a notice to quit to the tenant or if the tenant remains in the property, a periodic tenancy will be created. This will roll on from month to month until it is terminated by either party. If the fixed term tenancy was governed by a written tenancy agreement, it may state the length of the period, although in the absence of this it will usually be a periodic monthly tenancy.

A periodic tenancy can be terminated by giving written notice equal to the length of the rental period, although this notice must never be less than 4 weeks. So in the case of a bi-monthly tenancy, two months notice must be given and in the cases of a monthly, fortnightly and weekly periodic tenancy, 4 weeks notice is necessary.

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