If you are a tenant who has been served with an eviction notice, it’s important to know the process that landlords must complete if they want you to move out of the property. Section 21 notices are governed by Trespass to Property Act and can be given on two conditions: if the tenancy is periodic and a notice was given in the correct form at some point during the tenancy; or if your landlord has grounds for possession as specified by s.21 of TPA (i.e. you have not paid rent).
A Section 21 notice is just that, a notice. It does not immediately mean you will be evicted, nor does it mean that your landlord is entitled to possession of the property. It is merely a notice about the consequences of not leaving the property when the time comes to move out.
Section 21 notices are normally served after a tenant refuses to pay the rent, or breaks other terms of the tenancy agreement. For instance if they leave unpaid rent at the end of their tenancy, they will be in breach of their tenancy agreement. If they break any of the other terms then they may have to leave and apply for a new tenancy with a fresh landlord. The section 21 notice is designed to give tenants more time to pay up, or clean up the property.
Section 21 notices do not have to be served until the end of a tenancy, and your landlord may use one if they find you in breach before the end date too. Section 21 notices must also be given at least 2 months before the start of the next period. In practice that means it is best not to serve a section 21 notice until your tenancy ends, unless you have already received another valid section 21 notice or believe there is an immediate need for possession.
Once a notice has been given, it is for the tenant to leave the property, or otherwise vacate at the end of their period. Failure to do so may result in a fine or court action (although not when the tenant is in financial hardship).
Here are some tips for landlords who want to give their tenants a section 21 notice.
- Make sure the tenant owes rent
To give a valid section 21 notice you must be in breach of the contract, and this must be rent payments. If you have broken another term of the tenancy agreement then your landlord will need to give you another notice in accordance with their terms of tenancy.
- Make sure you have a section 21 ground
To give a valid section 21 notice on the grounds of not paying rent, or breaking other terms of the tenancy agreement, your landlord must have a ground for possession. They can only do this on two occasions: if you owed rent at the start of your tenancy, or a validly served section 21 notice was given and you did not move out of the property by the date specified in that notice.
- The section 21 notice must be served in the correct form
The form of a section 21 notice is set out in Schedule 2 of the Trespass to Property Act 1977. If you are unsure about whether it has been served properly, you can contact the Civil Law Project at www.civillawproject.org to see if they can help you interpret it. They will also be able to advise you on your eviction rights during this process and what actions you can take if your landlord breaks the correct procedures.
- Make sure you give at least two months’ notice
The notice must be given at least 2 months before the end of your tenancy, or you will not be able to register as a landlord on a new property. If you do not have enough time, your landlord may seek an extension from the court.