Bringing a tenancy to an end usually takes two common forms, either through bringing a tenancy to a contractual end or as a result of due legal process being taken to evict a tenant.

This guidance is a summary of how tenancies can be ended in different circumstances, however you should contact a solicitor for legal advice (particularly if you are unsure on the correct procedure to follow). You should seek legal guidance both to draft and end tenancy agreements to make sure that contractual arrangements are properly set out and you can correctly apply the grounds detailed within if needed. 

The correct way to end a tenancy will depend on the type of tenancy agreement. Most tenancies in the private rental sector are assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs). 

Asking a tenant to leave

To end most tenancies, the correct procedure to follow will involve serving adequate and legal notice to quit on the tenant.

If you set out the method and manner by which notices can be served in the tenancy agreement you should follow this procedure (otherwise the court could dismiss your claim for possession).

How to serve notice

Ideally you should serve a written notice to a tenant in person. This should be done with a witness and be backed up by an alternative method (for example by post, with either a certificate of posting or recorded delivery). At the time of making the application to court you will be required to supply the court with evidence about the service of the notice.

If the notice is in the wrong form, or incorrectly served, you could lose the case.

At the end of a fixed-term AST, if you do not ask the tenant to leave and they decide to stay in the property, the tenancy will automatically run on from one rent period to the next (on the same terms as the previous fixed-term AST). This is called a statutory periodic tenancy. The tenancy will continue to run on this basis until a new fixed-term or periodic tenancy is agreed or the tenant leaves or the court awards the landlord possession. 

If you do not want the tenancy to continue as a statutory periodic tenancy you will need to serve a section 21 notice to bring the tenancy to an end. The notice is known as a section 21 notice, as your right to recover possession and the notice procedure is set out in section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. The notice must be served on the tenant at least two months before you want the tenancy to end.

Notices to end an AST, if served during the fixed term, do not need to be on a prescribed form and may be issued by letter providing that they comply with both of the following:

  • the duration of the notice must be at least two months 
  • the notice must not expire earlier than the fixed term of the agreement (it may expire on any given date after the end of the term)

Requirements for possession under section 21

The court cannot grant an order for possession during the first six months of the tenancy using the section 21 procedure. The requirements for a court order for possession under section 21 are that:

  • the tenancy is an AST
  • any fixed term of the tenancy has expired
  • a notice properly drafted in accordance with the provisions of section 21 has been served on the tenant and has expired
  • any deposit paid was duly protected under the appropriate regulations for tenancies created on or after 6 April 2007
  • any licence required under the Housing Act 2004 (for example a mandatory House of Multiple Occupation licence) has been applied for

Restrictions on giving section 21 notices

If you (or your agent) are not registered with Rent Smart Wales when required to be, then a section 21 notice will not be legally valid.

A section 21 notice will also not be legally valid if your tenant paid deposit at the start of the tenancy and you have not done either of the following:

  • protected it through one of the government-approved deposit protection schemes
  • provided the tenant with required information about the scheme used

If your property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) then a section 21 notice will only be valid if it is issued while you hold an appropriate license with us.

Ending a fixed-term tenancy early

There will be cases when a fixed term has been agreed (for example student lettings) but you need to end the tenancy early due to a change in your circumstances, or because things are not working out with the tenant.

If you wish to gain possession of the property during the fixed term of an assured or assured shorthold tenancy, you can only seek possession if one of the grounds for possession in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 (as amended) applies and one of the following also applies:

  • if the tenancy agreement has a clause in it providing for this (this is sometimes known as a re-entry or forfeiture clause, even though forfeiture cannot be used for assured/assured shorthold tenancies) 
  • by activating a properly drafted break clause and then using the section 21 procedure (ASTs only)

Break clauses

For a break clause to be valid it must be available for the tenant to use as well as yourself (meaning not just available for a landlord alone).

Grounds for possession

The grounds for possession are divided into mandatory grounds (Grounds 1-8) and discretionary grounds (Grounds 9-17).  

Mandatory grounds mean that the court must order possession if you prove the allegation. Under discretionary grounds the court may order possession if the allegations are proven and if the court considers it reasonable to make the order. 

The grounds must be specified in the notice, which must be a section 8 notice. The notice is in a prescribed form. Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 also specifies what minimum notice period must be given – and this depends on the ground(s) being used.

Tenant abandonment

Although you can re-take possession if it is obvious that the tenant has abandoned the property, in most cases you will need to obtain an order from the court. Evicting a tenant without a court order is a criminal offence (with very few exceptions).