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What is a Section 21 Notice?

What is a section 21 notice and what does it mean if you get one? Let’s get straight into it.

A section 21 notice gives a landlord the legal right to possession of the property once the fixed term has expired, without having to provide any justification.

If you have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) as a renter, a section 21 notice is the most common way for your landlord to take back possession of the property. If you’ve received this notice, don’t worry; it’s not the end of the world.

As a tenant, you’re entitled by law to at least 2 month’s written notice before having to leave. And the repossession date must be after the end of any fixed term agreement.

How your landlord can serve notice

For assured shorthold tenancy agreements signed before 1 October 2015, your landlord can serve notice to end your tenancy at any time during the fixed term of agreement. In fact, it was typical for renters to be given a section 21 notice when they first signed their contract!

If your assured shorthold tenancy agreement was signed on or after 1 October 2015, by law your landlord must wait 4 months from the date of the contract before serving you a section 21 notice.

The most important factor for tenants is that a section 21 notice can only be served if the date the landlord plans to take back possession of the property is after the end of your tenancy agreement. So you can’t get kicked out early.

What the notice looks like

For those with an assured shorthold tenancy agreement signed before 1 October 2015, the notice does not have to be in a specific form, but the tenant must receive it in writing.

If you have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement that was signed on or after 1 October 2015, your landlord must give you written notice using a special section 21 form.

Regardless of when you signed your contract, it must provide you at least two months’ notice between the date it is delivered and the intended possession date.

Alternatives to section 21 notices

If your landlord wants you to leave sooner than the end of your lease, he or she should give you a section 8 notice instead.

Breaking it down

A landlord cannot use a section 21 notice:

  • To access the property during the fixed term of your tenancy agreement
  • If contracts were signed on or after 1 Oct 2015 and it’s within the first 4 months of your tenancy
  • When you, the tenant, paid a deposit that wasn’t protected in line with the tenancy deposit schemes
  • If they didn’t provide you with an EPC, the government’s How to Rent guide, and a Gas Safety Certificate (if the property uses gas)

A Section 21 notice must follow these specifications:

  • Given in writing
  • On a form that is special for contracts signed on 1 Oct 2015 or after this date
  • With a minimum of 2 months notice to the tenant of the landlord’s intent to retake possession of the property
  • An intended date of possession that occurs after the end date specified in the fixed term contract.

Let’s look at three hypothetical situations in which the fixed term of the tenancy agreement is set to end on May 15th.

Scenario 1:

On March 1st, you received notice from your landlord that they want the property back on May 5th. In this case, a section 21 cannot be used because the date of possession is during your fixed term.

Scenario 2:

It’s March 20th, and you’ve just been served with a letter from your landlord telling you they intend to retake possession of your home on May 16th. In this case, because the intended date of possession is less than two months away from the notice date, a section 21 cannot be utilised: there isn’t enough time left until the day after the deadline.

Scenario 3:

It’s the 20th of March. You received a letter from your landlord informing you that they want to retake possession of the property on May 30th. In this case, a section 21 can be used. The intended date of possession is more than two months following the notice and extends beyond the end of the fixed term.

What to do if you receive a section 21

Check the dates

Firstly, check that they dates are accurate:

  • Is the repossession date after the end of your fixed term?
  • Have they given you at least 2 month’s notice?

If the dates on the notice are inaccurate, it may invalidate the notice. You will need to speak with whoever issued the notice as soon as possible if this is the case.

Check you deposit

In order for a section 21 notice to be valid, your deposit must have been placed in on of the three government approved tenancy deposit protection schemes. If it hasn’t, you can still speak up and fight the eviction. By doing so early on, you’ll avoid any future complications that might arise.

If you are unclear about what to do, we strongly advise that you obtain legal counsel or contact Shelter. If you don’t vacate the home after your two-month notice expires, the landlord may go to court for a “possession order.” Assuming the section 21 notice was delivered correctly, it is quite probable that it will be granted and you may appear in court. So it’s important to take this seriously.

Mark Flint

Mark regularly contributes to the Right Rent blog; sharing all the latest news, crafting informative articles and sourcing the very best rental content for our readers.

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