Ending a Tenancy:

What are the rules governing the ending of a statutory periodic tenancy (SPT) by the tenant, especially when the periods of the tenancy are not the standard 1 month?

The answer to this question is not easily defined as it is not covered by one rule or a single Act of Parliament, but this article was constructed in response to a question that said:

“What is the notice period for a tenant in an SPT when rent is paid quarterly (three-monthly)”?  

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This article applies primarily to English law. Although tenancy laws are similar in other jurisdictions, there may be significant differences. Always seek professional advice before making or not making important decisions.

What you have to remember is that tenancy laws are based on Common Law, which can be added to or modified by contracts between the parties (tenancy agreements), rules the parties both agree to. However, these two are always trumped by statute law (Acts of Parliament).

A statutory Assured tenancy (An Assured Shorthold Tenancy or AST is one of these) has rules laid down by the 1988 and 1996 Housing Acts, chiefly to do with possession (section 21 of the Act).

The Fixed Term

During the agreed fixed-term neither party can end it, but the landlord can serve a minimum of 2-months’ notice to end it when the term ends (section 21 notice). This is a “Notice Requiring Possession”, not a Notice to Quit, as the landlord needs court permission for a Possession Order before she can evict a residential tenant. Technically, the tenant does not need to serve a notice, he can just walk away at the end of the term.

Once the fixed-term ends however, and the tenant stays put, the tenancy will automatically become a Statutory Periodic Tenancy (SPT), unless the parties have agree to a contractual periodic tenancy (CPT), a slightly different animal.

Statutory Periodic Tenancy & Rent Periods

The SPT will include all the terms of the original contract, except that any provision in the agreement (contract) made by the landlord or tenant about ending that tenancy shall have no effect – for example “the tenant must give 2 months’ notice”, cannot be enforced. (Housing Law Handbook Ed. 3, (3.49)).

The notice period for the STP will be determined by the rent payment periods last payable, so a monthly rent will result in a monthly periodic tenancy, as will a 3-month rent payment result in a 3-month periodic tenancy. See Church Commissioners for England v Gisele Meya – (2006)

The judgement in Church Commissioners v Meya, refers to section 5(3)(d) of the 1988 Housing Act which clearly defines rental periods as the same as those for which ‘rent was last payable under the fixed-term tenancy’. Housing Act 1988 Section 5:

(3) The periodic tenancy referred to in subsection (2) above is one—

(a) taking effect in possession immediately on the coming to an end of the fixed term tenancy;

(b) deemed to have been granted by the person who was the landlord under the fixed term tenancy immediately before it came to an end to the person who was then the tenant under that tenancy;

(c) under which the premises which are let are the same dwelling-house as was let under the fixed term tenancy;

(d) under which the periods of the tenancy are the same as those for which rent was last payable under the fixed term tenancy; and

(e) under which, subject to the following provisions of this Part of this Act, the other terms are the same as those of the fixed term tenancy immediately before it came to an end, except that any term which makes provision for determination by the landlord or the tenant shall not have effect while the tenancy remains an assured tenancy.

Notice-to-Quit

If the landlord wishes to serve notice on a periodic tenant (SPT) she must give a minimum of 2 months’ notice as per section 21, ending on the last day of a period. So with a 3 month tenancy the landlord would be required to give 3 months’ notice.

The 1988 Housing Act is silent on a tenant’s notice during a statutory periodic tenancy (SPT). This is covered by Common Law (Notice-to-Quit) and by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

So, in a periodic tenancy (SPT) it can be ended by the tenant serving a Notice-to-Quit on the landlord.

At Common Law the minimum period for a Notice-to-Quit is a complete period of the tenancy.

However, the Protection from Eviction Act s5 provides that a valid notice must be a minimum of 28 days long – no maximum period is specified. So a monthly SPT needs a one month Notice to Quit, while a 3-month STP needs a 3 months’ Notice-to-Quit, by the tenant.

Relaxation of Date Requirement

A recent amendment to Section 21 – Section 21(4) – is the relaxation of an exact end-date requirement in a section 21 notice by the landlord. This is a change which will please many landlords and agents who have struggled to get these end-dates correct and have paid dearly for that when their cases have been thrown out.  Under the new rules, the need for a landlord to specify the last day of a period of the tenancy as the date on which the tenancy comes to an end is removed. 

However, while this certainly removes an element of precision from the wording of the notice, landlords and letting agents can still specify an end-date if they want, and they should be aware that a date specified in the notice must still be: (a) not earlier than 2 months from the date on which the notice is given and (b) not earlier than the earliest date on which the tenancy could be brought to an end under the traditional common law rules (by means of a notice to quit).

Notice Requirements

Once a Notice-to-Quit is received by the landlord that unilaterally ends the tenancy and needs no agreement from the landlord. Even if the notice is technically deficient (for the wrong period etc) the landlord can still act on it.

A good test case is the Laine v Cadwallader (2001). The notice must be for a full tenancy period and in writing.

Double Rent

If the tenant overstays after the end of his tenancy the 300 year old Acts, Landlord and Tenant Act 1730 and the Distress for Rent Act 1737 still apply.

These mean that the landlord can demand double rent:

If a tenant has the ability to give notice to quit under the terms of its tenancy and has given the landlord a valid notice to quit and thereafter does not give vacant possession of the premises to the landlord on the date of expiry of its notice, the landlord is able to demand double rent from its tenant under section 18 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1737.

Joint Tenancies

In the case of a joint tenancy, one tenant can end the tenancy by serving a valid (for the correct period etc. – in this case the notice must be valid) Notice-to-Quit, even if the other tenant is unaware of this. Joint tenants are considered as one tenant, hence the notice ends it for both or all.

In Summary

So, to answer the question, in the case of a three-month SPT, given that rent is paid quarterly, a periodic tenant needs to give a full 3 months’ Notice-to-Quit in writing to the landlord.

In the case of a weekly, or monthly SPT, given that rent is in this way, a periodic tenant needs to give 28 days, or one month’s notice respectively, a formal Notice-to-Quit in writing to the landlord, and in these cases the landlord needs to give a minimum of two-months’ notice.

Landlords don’t need to do anything when the tenancy does become periodic, as it’s an automatic process, but it might be helpful to spell this out to tenants, once their tenancy has gone into a periodic tenancy, that they must give three months’ notice to quit.

References:

Housing Act 1988 – see section 21 – www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/50/contents

Housing Act 1988 – see section 5(3) – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/50/section/5

Protection from Eviction Act 1977 – see section 5 – www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1977/43/contents

Housing Law Handbook (Ed3) – www.lag.org.uk/bookshop/housing/2015/housing-law-handbook.aspx

New Section 21 Rules: www.landlordzone.co.uk/information/new-section-21-rules

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