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Ending a tenancy

Almost all tenancies are ended by the tenant. But in about 10 percent of tenancies, the landlord wants to end the tenancy, usually for non-payment of rent. As a landlord, if you want your tenants to leave, depending on their type of tenancy, you need to give them notice in a particular way. You cannot end a tenancy without good reason before the expiry of a fixed term and you must give at least two months' notice. In England and Wales, a section 21 notice informs the tenant that you, the landlord, want possession of the property when the fixed term is up. There are strict guidelines for the process, in case you need to have it enforced in court. The NLA offers a one-day possession course, providing detailed information on how to end a difficult tenancy and get your property back.

Everyone wants the departure to be hassle-free. The tenants want their deposit back in full and the landlord wants to get a new tenant in place. The NLA can give expert advice and information about the end of any tenancy.

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What you need to know:

Reasons to end a tenancy agreement early

Rent arrears

If the tenant hasn't paid rent for at least eight weeks or two months (depending whether rent is paid weekly or monthly), the landlord is entitled to serve a section 8 notice if there is an assured or assured shorthold tenancy in place. This is a 'mandatory' ground, which means the court must grant possession if the tenant is still in two months' arrears on the date of the court hearing. There are two other grounds which can also be used - for some arrears and persistent late payment of rent - but these are discretionary and it's up to the court to decide whether to give the landlord possession. We generally don't recommend landlords rely on the discretionary grounds alone.

You will need to prove that the tenant has accrued the rent arrears - or that there have been arrears or that the tenant has been persistently late. Professional NLA advice is highly recommended when a landlord wishes to end a tenancy for any reason.

Damage to your property

If the tenant has damaged the property extensively or is causing a nuisance, you are entitled to terminate the tenancy during the fixed term, providing their behaviour means they have broken the tenancy agreement. You will need to serve a Section 8 eviction notice and ensure you have evidence of the damage to present in court. Professional advice from the NLA is recommended.

Ways to end a tenancy

Amicably is always the best way

Whether your tenant wants to leave at the end of a fixed term tenancy, or you want to repossess your property, the best way is to communicate clearly and in a professional, friendly way to agree the date your tenant is going to leave. They are completely within their rights to leave at the end of the agreed term, and provided you've given them two months' notice using section 21, you are completely within your rights to end the tenancy. The tenant will be keen to receive their deposit back in full and to get a good reference from you for their next rental, so hopefully all will go smoothly with their check-out.

A difficult end of tenancy

Going to court to repossess your property is always the last resort. If the tenant has damaged the property extensively, has been a nuisance to neighbours or, most often, has fallen at least two months behind with their rent payments, you are entitled to serve them notice to leave. In case you do end up in court, you will need to gather evidence, and because this is a difficult area, it is highly recommended that you commission professional help. The NLA Property Repossession team can reduce the stress and pressure and avoid the elevated costs of such a course of action.

FAQs around ending tenancy agreements

How much notice do you have to give?

If the fixed term is coming to an end, you should check the notice period in your tenancy agreement. It is a good idea to remind your tenant that the end of the fixed term is approaching and ask them to confirm if they wish to remain or give notice.

You can also give notice that you wish to end the tenancy at the end of the fixed term and you must give at least two months' notice of your intention. This is a Section 21 notice of possession. You must use the correct form to give notice - and there are different versions in England and in Wales.

If the tenant hasn't paid rent for at least two months, you are entitled to serve a Section 8 notice to recover rent arrears and regain possession of the property. Court proceedings can commence 14 days following the notice for rent arrears.

The tenant needs to sign an acknowledgement that they have received this notice which should be delivered by hand, in the presence of a witness.

Professional advice from the NLA is always recommended in cases of rent arrears and property repossession.

What happens if they refuse?

If your tenant refuses to leave, having been served the correct notice, you may need go to court where you will have to provide evidence for the reason for a Section 8 eviction.

Can I do viewings before a tenancy ends?

The current tenant has the right to say no to a request for viewings, while the property is still their home, but usually they agree if you've maintained a good relationship. You must give 24 hours' notice for any viewing. If you use a letting agent they will arrange the viewings.

Check-out

At the end of the tenancy, allow for normal wear and tear when the tenant is leaving. Refer to the inventory, note any damage and agree repair costs or the amount you will hold back from the deposit. If the tenant is responsible for utilities, take meter readings and get a statement from the utility suppliers showing a final zero balance.

Deposits

When your tenant has left the property and you're happy that all outstanding payments have been made, return the deposit to the tenant as soon as possible. If they write to you requesting the deposit you need to reply within 10 days. If you're keeping any money back, you must explain why and provide evidence. The tenant has the right to challenge any deposit claims, and if you can't come to an agreement, it will be up to the deposit scheme's alternative dispute resolution service to decide how much should be deducted or returned.

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