Can I Tell My Tenant To Leave / Move Out?

Bye Bye Tenant

Well, technically speaking, you can easily tell your tenant to pack up his or her crap and do-one, even if that entails jotting down the message on a snotty piece of scrap paper and getting your mum to hand it over!

But I’m guessing what you really want to know is the following:

Am I right?

If so, then cool. Allow me to share my opinion(s) (which is sourced from my futile, non legally qualified mind) on each question…

There’s not a law against simply “asking” your tenant to leave. Go figure.

However, your tenant may have legal grounds to refuse your request and remain in the premises, so the sensible first-step to take is to determine your position.

So, let’s cover the two typical scenarios that permit landlords to “serve notice”:

  • If you are still in the middle of the tenancy’s fixed term and you want your tenant to move out before the fixed end date, then you typically have two options:
    • Mutual termination / surrender tenancy: asking your tenant to move out doesn’t always need to be a bloodshed affair, although it often is! It’s perfectly normal to end tenancies before the expiration date in an amicable manner when a considerate and fair approach is applied. Many tenancies are terminated by mutual agreement, which is where both parties agree to simply ‘surrender’ the tenancy.

      For example, if the landlord has a genuine reason for requiring the tenant to vacate, it only requires an open and honest conversation to agree to a mutual termination. Surprisingly, people can be understanding!

      A mutual termination, from what I understand, is the only option available if you’re in the middle of a fixed tenancy and you want your tenant to vacate ASAP! Essentially, your tenant will need to agree to vacating, otherwise you’ll need to wait until the end of the tenancy (or until you have grounds for eviction).

    • Eviction: if your tenant has breached the terms of the tenancy and therefore given you grounds for eviction (e.g. if your tenant has fallen into arrears), then you can serve a Section 8 eviction notice. However, even in these desperate circumstances, I would shoot for a mutual termination if possible, because it’s almost always less messy.
  • If you are still with in the fixed term tenancy which is soon-to-be ending, you can ask your tenant to leave by serving them with a section 21 notice on the basis that you provide them with a minimum of two months notice. If your tenancy is periodic (a tenancy becomes ‘periodic’ after the fixed term if a new contract is not signed) and you receive rent on a monthly basis, then you only need to give one months’ notice.

You should always want to bear in mind the current health status of your relationship with your tenant before executing your plan of action. By that I mean, are you on good or bad terms; have they been good or bad tenants? Depending on the circumstances, you may want to choose your approach accordingly.

How do you tell your tenant to leave?

If you’re on good terms with your tenant…

The best approach is to either arrange a chat in person or over the phone to have a honest and frank discussion, regardless of whether you’re in the middle of a fixed tenancy or not:

  • Tactfully explain why you want them to leave;
  • Be considerate and sympathetic;
  • Give them as much notice as possible;
  • Try to be as accommodating as possible;
  • Provide assurance that they have done nothing wrong, it’s purely circumstantial

Once the discussion has been had, your tenant will either understand and play ball, or drag their feet and potentially give you hell.

If you have agreed to mutually terminate the tenancy (because you want your tenant to leave before the end date of the tenancy), then you should either email them or send them a letter by recorded delivery, defining what has been agreed to, including the date of termination (i.e. when the tenant has agreed to vacate).

If you’re on bad terms with your tenant…

Even if you’re on bad terms, I would at least try to have the ‘frank discussion’, following the guidelines above. However, failing that (which is likely given that you’re on bad terms), I would serve a Section 21 or 8 notice, depending on what is more suitable.

As a rule of thumb, it’s always easier and cleaner to serve a Section 21, because it’s informing the tenant that you don’t wish to continue the tenancy after the contracted end date, so the landlord will always have ‘mandatory grounds for possession’, unlike with a Section 8 eviction notice, which is an eviction notice that can be challenged by the tenant, and that can result in a long and drawn out legal battle. So, for example, if you have three months left until the end of the tenancy with a tenant that has breached the T&C’s of the tenancy, it might be worth serving a Section 21 instead of a Section 8, even though the latter is designed to evict tenants in breach. The reality is, it take much longer than 3 months to remove your tenant if he/she puts up a fight in order to reject your grounds for eviction!

Or better yet, serve both notices (which is perfectly fine)!

For more details, I recommend reading my Section 8 Vs Section 21 blog post.

Either way, both notices ultimately provide tenants with a date which you require them to move out by.

What happens if your tenant refuses to leave?

Ahh, this can be annoying, gut-wrenching, and quite honestly, a bloody nightmare.

I’m not going to lie, this isn’t an uncommon scenario, especially with the current economic climate.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver-bullet solution, and the most appropriate steps you should take usually dependent on the individual circumstances. The only solid piece of advice I can offer you is not to act out of emotion, and refraining from taking matters into your own grubby little hands, because that’s a pretty good way of weakening your position and handing over power to your tenants. Whatever you decide to do, ensure it’s with in the guidelines of the law. One of the biggest mistakes landlords make in these situations is that they unknowingly start ‘harassing’ their tenants with a barrage of text messages and phone calls, which gives the tenant a counter-claim. Please, avoid!

If you’re not sure what the legal guidelines are, or if you simply want some assistance, I recommend contacting Legal4Landlords (a professional tenant eviction company), for some FREE landlord legal advice.

Finding replacement tenants

Need I remind you that vacant properties are cancerous to landlords; they’re extremely expensive and vulnerable to vandalism! So if you’re going to need a new tenant after ejecting you’re current one, I would like to invite you to read my in-depth guide on how to super awesome tenants fast, to help minimise void periods!

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