The Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) was introduced in 1997, and since has become the most common type of tenancy agreement used to let residential properties. Most tenancies started on or after the 28th February 1997 are automatically ASTs.
One of the great benefits of an AST is that it enables landlords to recover their property relatively easily if the correct procedures are followed.
To properly terminate an AST, there are two types of notice. A Section 21 notice is used to end a tenancy at the end of the fixed term. A Section 8 notice is used during the tenancy to end it early based on a specified ground.
Section 21 notice
Under Section 21, a landlord may terminate an AST by giving the tenant a minimum of two months' notice. This notice must not expire before the fixed term of the AST. If the tenancy becomes periodic and is paid monthly, the notice cannot be less than two whole periods so, if the period starts on the 1st of every month and a section 21 notice is served on the 20th March, the earliest termination date would be 31st May.
Under a Section 21 notice, the landlord is not required to provide any reason to end the tenancy. If the AST takes the form of a written agreement, accelerated possession proceedings are possible which may result in lower costs. If the judge is satisfied that both the section 21 notice and possession proceedings are valid, the judge must make an order for possession. Normally a hearing takes place 6 to 8 weeks after proceedings are issued.
Section 8 notice
A Section 8 notice can only be issued if the landlord meets one of the 17 grounds provided by the Housing Act 1988, and often involves the tenant breaching one or more conditions of the tenancy agreement such as rent payment.
The tenant cannot be evicted by the landlord without the landlord first serving on the tenant a Section 8 notice to quit and obtaining a court order for possession. The notice informs the tenant of the landlord's intention to seek possession, as well as the grounds on which they seek to rely. All of the grounds require that the tenant is given 2 weeks' notice, except for ground 2 which requires two months.
A notice under Section 8 does not guarantee the grant of a possession order; that depends on the facts, and the strength of the landlord's argument. Some of the grounds are discretionary meaning the court can make a decision which it deems fair and reasonable.
If the landlord is able to satisfy the court that a possession order should be granted, it will usually take affect within 14 days of judgement. If the tenant may face exceptional hardship, the order can be extended to take effect up to six weeks later.
It is generally cheaper and quicker to regain possession through a Section21 notice. Eviction without any notice to the tenant may lead to criminal penalties, including a fine and up to two years imprisonment, being imposed. Tenants may also decide to bring civil claims against the Landlord.