A Section 21 notice allows landlords to regain vacant possession of their property at the end of the fixed term of the tenancy. Section 21 proceedings are often referred to as 'no fault' evictions, as they enable landlords to repossess a property under an AST without any requirement to establish wrongdoing by the tenants.
Changes to the Section 21 notice procedure were introduced in in 2015 by the Deregulation Act, most of which offer greater protections to tenants. For example, landlords must now ensure they comply with certain prescribed legal requirements (such as registering the tenancy deposit in a government-backed scheme) for notices to be valid. However, the legislation also made the process of regaining possession under Section 21 far more straightforward by introducing a single standardised form to use when applying to evict.
To learn more about Section 21, see our FAQ below.
What is a Section 21 notice?
A Section 21 notice is a formal eviction notice for assured shorthold tenancies that can be issued to regain possession at the end of a fixed term tenancy, or during a periodic tenancy with no fixed end date. They can also be served to enforce the terms of a break clause provided that contract is at least 6 months into the fixed term (with 2 months' notice not served prior to 4 months into the tenancy). The notice provides tenants with the exact date by which to leave the property.
Section 21 notices can be served regardless of whether the tenants are at fault. If the fixed term has ended the the court must grant the eviction. The Housing Act (1988) grants landlords the right to repossess their property outside of a fixed term without needing to give a reason. The paper-based process is relatively quick and straightforward, and court hearings can be avoided using an accelerated possession order.
If a landlord needs to evict tenants during the fixed term of the tenancy because they are in breach of the contract, they must serve a Section 8 notice to seek 'grounds-based possession'.
How much notice do landlords need to provide under Section 21?
A minimum of two months’ notice for Section 21 evictions is required in England. However, contractual periodic tenancies may require more notice, as the amount of notice must be a minimum of a full rental period of the tenancy. For example, if tenants pay rent every three months, the notice period, at minimum, must be three months.
How is Section 21 notice served?
A Section 21 notice is either directly given to the tenants by the landlord, put through the door of the tenant’s property, delivered via first-class mail, or by email. The specific methods of delivery will be written into the tenancy agreement. Email notice delivery is only allowed if directly stated in the agreement and the tenant has voluntarily provided an email address.
It is best practice to use a form of recorded delivery so that there is proof of the date and time when the notice was received. For example, if you have noticed delivered via first-class mail then choose a service that allows you to track the letter and collect a signature upon delivery.
A Form 6A Notice for assured shorthold tenancies must be used to serve notice.
When can I use a Section 21 notice?
Section 21 notices can be used at the end of a tenancy in order for the landlord to repossess the property. Section 21 notices cannot expire before the end of the fixed term of the tenancy and can also only be used for assured shorthold tenancies. Specifics of the Section 21 notice procedure differ for properties located in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland as well.
You cannot claim for rent arrears through the courts via the Section 21 eviction process, so if you are owed money by tenants then this will need to be pursued separately.
How do I ensure my notice is valid?
In England, a Section 21 is only valid if the landlord has met all of the following obligations:
- The proper minimum notice period has been provided - The typical minimum time for a Section 21 notice is two months, however, the specific minimum notice period for a property depends on the tenancy type and notice date. As of October 1, 2021, the minimum notice period is two months, with requirements returning to pre-pandemic rules after notice periods were temporarily extended.
- The deposit is protected with an approved scheme - Landlords must register their tenancy deposits into a government approved deposit protection scheme. In the event the deposit is not protected or was protected late, and a Section 21 notice was issued, the notice will be deemed invalid, unless the deposit was already returned. For the notice to be valid, landlords must also have provided tenants with details regarding the protection scheme and their deposit in the form of the prescribed information and scheme leaflet.
- No illegal tenant fees have been charged - The Section 21 notice will be invalid if the landlord charged fees or deposits deemed unlawful by the Tenant Fees Act (2019). If the deposit requested was over five weeks’ worth of rent, the notice will also be deemed invalid.
- Gas Safety Certificates - A Gas Safety Record documentation must have been provided to tenants upon move-in.
- Energy Performance Certificate - An Energy Performance Certificate, containing information pertaining to property's energy efficiency, must have been provided for tenants before the start of the tenancy.
- How to Rent Guide - An official up-to-date How to Rent guide, from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, must have been provided for tenants for a Section 21 notice to be valid.
- Property Licensing - If a Section 21 notice is served for a property that does not have its required licensing, the notice will be invalid.
- Correct Form - For tenancies that started after October 1, 2015, landlords must use Form 6A for the Section 21 notice to be valid.
- Council Repair Compliance - A property that received an emergency works repair notice from its local council in the last six months cannot issue a valid Section 21 notice.
If any of the above have obligations have been neglected, then it won't be possible to issue notice under Section 21 until remedial actions have been taken.
What happens if tenants stay after the end of the notice period?
If a tenant does not leave at the end of the notice period, the landlord can then apply to the court for a possession order. A tenant can then submit their defence to the court to reason against the possession order. For Section 21 claims, an in-person hearing does not have to take place. Instead, the judge will utilise the claim and defence documents in order to determine whether a possession order should be used.
If a possession order is granted and the tenant still does not leave the property, a county court bailiff will enforce the warrant, carrying out the eviction with at least 14 days' notice.
How is Section 21 enforced?
A county court bailiff or high court enforcement officer will enforce the eviction if a tenant stays past the final date of the possession order.
While the Section 21 notice allows for no-fault evictions, landlords must abide by the legal process and an extensive list of prerequisites for the notice to be valid. Invalid eviction claims can be challenged by tenants, leading to dismissal by the court. Specific Section 21 requirements also differ between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, so make sure to check you’re following the appropriate checklist for your property.
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