Fresource Friday: Notice to Quit by tenant

04.08.2017

This week's free resource is for tenants. Or for anyone wanting to help a tenant give valid notice to quit to end a periodic tenancy.

A few weeks ago my post about surrender mentioned the ways in which residential tenancies end. One of those methods is by the tenant giving notice to the landlord.

Download

You can download the template notice to quit here. It's for use when the tenancy is periodic (rather than a fixed term tenancy).

Notice requirements

One thing that's often not appreciated about notice to quit by tenants is that there are certain legal requirements that must be satisfied in order for the notice to be valid.

A notice to quit by a tenant must*:

  • be in writing
  • state the date on which the tenancy is to end, and
  • provide at least four weeks notice (Protection from Eviction Act 1977, s.5).

The landlord and tenant are free to agree a longer notice period when they enter into the tenancy. The tenancy agreement should therefore be checked.

In addition the notice period must be at least as long as a period of the tenancy.

So if the period of the tenancy is longer than four weeks a longer notice period is required. One month's notice is required if the period is monthly, a quarter year's notice is required if the period is a quarter year, and so on (unless it is an annual tenancy in which case six months' notice suffices).

The notice period can include the day on which the notice is served or the day of expiry. So, for example, a four-week notice that must expire on a Friday can be served on the Friday four weeks beforehand (Schnabel v Allard [1967] 1 QB 627).

Also, the expiry date must be the first or the last day of a period of the tenancy.

If there's any uncertainty about when the period of the tenancy starts and ends a 'saving clause' can be included.

What if the notice is invalid?

What happens if a notice to quit given by a tenant doesn't meet these requirements?

Well, the truth of the matter is that defects in notices to quit often go unnoticed - by both landlord and tenant. And if the landlord 'accepts' the notice the fact that it is defective will most often be of no consequence.

This is because a landlord and tenant are free to treat a tenant's defective notice as valid (Hackney LBC v Snowden (2001) 33 HLR. 49).

The situation may however be different if the tenant changes their mind about wishing to end the tenancy. In this situation they may seek to rely on the fact that the notice they gave was ineffective. Since a landlord would usually have to obtain a court order if possession isn't relinquished any subsequent possession claim may be defended on the basis that the tenancy has not ended.

Consequently it's often in the landlord's interest to insist that the tenant gives valid notice. Insisting on valid notice also typically provides the landlord with more time to find another tenant and a longer period in which the tenant continues to be liable for paying rent.

There is another situation where an invalid notice may be highly significant. This is where:

  • the tenancy is a joint tenancy, and
  • the notice to quit is only given by one tenant.

Notices from one joint tenant

Where there is a joint tenancy, one joint tenant may end the tenancy by serving notice to quit on the landlord. This was confirmed in Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v Monk [1992] 1 AC 478. In Monk the House of Lords held that in the absence of an express term in the tenancy to the contrary, one joint tenant may end a tenancy by giving notice.

The other joint tenant need not be consulted before the notice is given. They might therefore not even be aware that their tenancy is ending. Indeed they may strongly object to the notice to quit being given.

However, for the 'rule in Monk' to apply, the joint tenant's notice to quit must be valid. A landlord cannot treat an invalid notice issued by just one joint tenant as valid (Hounslow v Pilling [1993] 1 WLR 1242).

In conclusion

Landlords and those advising tenants need to be aware of the rules governing notices to quit by tenants.

Landlords usually have a choice whether to 'accept' invalid notices. However it will often be in the landlord's interest to insist on proper notice.


*Except where the tenancy is an 'excluded' tenancy (e.g. where the tenant shares accommodation with a resident landlord) that began on or after 15 January 1989.

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