Ending a tenancy without a court order - abandonment
Where residential accommodation is let on an assured shorthold tenancy (or a non-shorthold assured tenancy), legally the landlord can only end the tenancy by obtaining a court order for possession. Typically, this is done for assured shorthold tenancy by serving a Section 21 notice and then seeking a court order once this notice runs out. Alternatively, the landlord may serve a Section 8 notice and apply for a court order based on a specific ground.
In reality however, the majority of tenancies end without a court order. Most tenancies are ended through the tenant's choice to end the tenancy agreement. In these cases, the landlord needs to be sure that the tenancy has come to an end to ensure that the tenant has no further rights to occupy the property. The landlord is then free to relet the property or sell it, if that is what is proposed.
In this guidance we explain the different ways in which the tenant can bring the tenancy to an end because usually the landlord has to rely on the tenant to end the tenancy, if the landlord wishes to avoid having to go to court to bring the tenancy to end. All of this is linked with abandonment where a tenant moves out leaving the property vacant.
Ending a tenancy during coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has created a number of restrictions preventing landlords from seeking possession.
At the time of writing the following amendments to normal possession rules are in place:
- Notice periods in most cases are extended to three months until 30 September 2020. This notice period may be extended to six months in the future
- Possession proceedings are stayed until 20 September 2020 for new and ongoing applications to court
- Landlords will be expected to abide by the pre-action protocols for social landlords in the future
It has also made it significantly more difficult to establish if the tenant has abandoned the property at a time where the property is vacant. Tenants may be living with partners temporarily in line with the Government guidance or caring for loved ones temporarily, or they may be encountering difficulties in paying the rent.
Given these circumstances, landlords are advised to continue trying to contact their tenants rather than trying to establish the property has been abandoned. Unless your tenant has confirmed they have ended the tenancy you should not seek to repossess the property without a court order.
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The rest of this guide covers how a tenant can end a tenancy, unlawful eviction, available options when a tenant has abandoned the property, the legal status of abandonment notices, implied surrender and the landlord's obligations around surrender in the fixed term.