What is a Section 21 Notice?

A Section 21 Notice is used by landlords in England & Wales when they want to evict tenants and gain possession of a property at the end of a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy (AST).

See our Simple guide to Section 8.

When can I serve a Section 21 Notice?

Serving a Section 21 Notice can happen at any time after the start of the tenancy, but notice cannot end earlier than the end of the fixed term - and landlords must give a tenant a minimum of 2 months' notice, in writing.

The notice can also be served on the last day of the tenancy, in which case the tenant wouldn’t have to vacate the property for a further 2 months. If the tenant is in the initial 6 months of the tenancy, then the notice cannot expire before the end of those 6 months.

Are there any restrictions on serving a Section 21 Notice?

A Section 21 Notice cannot be served:

  • If the tenancy is less than 4 months.
  • If the property is located outside of England (ie. if the property is located in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland).
  • If the tenancy isn't an assured shorthold tenancy (AST).
  • If the fixed-term hasn't ended.
  • If the tenant's deposit isn't in one of the approved government tenant deposit schemes and haven't been given the necessary information relating to their deposit.
  • If the tenant hasn't received a copy of the gas safety certificate, an Energy Performance Certificate and the Government's ‘How to Rent' guide.
  • If the property is categorised as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and doesn't have an HMO licence from the council, or needs a selective licence but doesn't have one.
  • If the local authority has served an improvement notice on the property in the last 6 months.
  • If any tenant has complained about conditions of the premises or the common parts of the building and the landlord failed to respond or provide an adequate response (i.e. the problem wasn’t solved).
  • If the property isn't adequately equipped with smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms on each storey.

How do I work out the notice period?

A general minimum notice period of 2 clear calendar months must be given to the tenant so, for example, if a notice is served on 20 March, it cannot expire any earlier than 20 May.

Serving a Section 21 Notice after the fixed term has ended

If a Section 21 Notice is served after the fixed term has ended, the landlord must give at least 2 months notice and the notice must end on the last day of the ‘period of the tenancy’.

The last day of a period of the tenancy will be the day before the day the rent was supposed to be paid in the fixed-term contract. For example, if the rent is due on the 1st of each month, then the end of a period will be the last day of the preceding month. So, if the notice is then given on 2nd January, the expiry date given in the notice must be 31st March which is the day before the rent is supposed to be paid. This means, in effect, that the notice will usually give the tenant between two and three months.

However, for weekly tenancies, it‘s the day in the week that the rent is paid, rather than the date in the month. For example, if a weekly tenancy existed where the rent was paid first on a Wednesday, then the period of tenancy would run from Wednesday to Tuesday.

Can a tenant sign the Section 21 Notice at the same time as the tenancy agreement?

No. you shouldn’t serve a Section 21 Notice at the same time as the tenant signs the tenancy agreement, as this can invalidate the notice. But this isn’t a problem if the notice is served one day after the tenancy agreement has been signed, provided that any deposit has been registered and all the necessary information has been given to the tenant before you serve the notice.

What happens if the date in the Section 21 Notice is incorrect?

This won’t invalidate the notice, provided you use a legally approved document. This should state how the notice period is calculated if the landlord puts the wrong termination date in the notice by mistake.

Who should the notice be addressed to?

All the tenants must be named and the address should match those in the tenancy agreement. Even if some tenants have moved out, they should still be named on the notice if they were named on the most recent tenancy agreement.

As a precautionary measure, each individual tenant must be served with a notice. If the tenant is renting a room in a shared house, the landlord must specify the room (e.g. ‘room 1’) rented by the tenant, as well as the property address.

How do I serve the Section 21 Notice?

The notice should be served on the tenant by the means specified in the tenancy agreement. If an assured tenancy agreement is used, the Section 21 Notice must be given to the tenant directly, or put through the door of the property, or mailed by first-class post.

The tenants must sign and return a copy to the landlord who should always keep a copy of the notice served and of any covering letter.

How long will the eviction process take?

There is a special court procedure landlords can use if they are reclaiming possession of a property after the service of a section 21 Notice, and there is generally no need for a court hearing. This is called the ‘accelerated procedure’ - which will normally take about eight to ten weeks.