If a landlord needs to evict a tenant, in the vast majority of cases they need to serve a notice first. These are known as possession or eviction notices, and some people refer to them as ‘Notices to Quit’.
However, this is not correct. A Notice to Quit is a special form of notice (in the same way as section 21 or section 8 notices are special forms of notice) so it is wrong to call all eviction notices ‘Notices to Quit.
Even the government is guilty of this sometimes – for example on this page there is a reference to Notice to Quit in the paragraph headed ‘How much notice your landlord must give’.
Which is inexcusable for a government advice page and highly confusing for readers.
So what is a Notice to Quit?
A Notice to Quit is a form of notice which has the effect of ending a periodic tenancy (or license) at the end of the notice period.
They used to be used for all tenancies, but when the Housing Act 1988 set up the assured and assured shorthold tenancy types, it specifically ruled out Notices to Quit for those tenancy types:
the service by the landlord of a notice to quit is of no effect in relation to a periodic assured tenancy. Housing Act 1988 s5(1)
Ending tenancies under the Housing Act 1988
Instead of Notices to Quit, the act set up section 8 and section 21 notices which are the only notices which can be used by landlords if they want to recover possession of their property from an assured or an assured shorthold tenant.
One of the big differences between the old-style Notice to Quit and the new section 21 and section 8 notices is that a Notice to Quit will actually end a tenancy. A section 21 or section 8 notice will not.
Section 21 and section 8 notices are an essential part of the eviction process but the tenancy does not actually end until the Court Order for Possession has been made.
This is why landlords are safe to accept rent after service of a section 21 or section 8 notice, but need to be careful about doing this after service of a Notice to Quit as it could resurrect the tenancy (and destroy the landlord’s ground for possession).
How to draft a Notice to Quit
There is no prescribed form for a Notice to Quit but there is prescribed information that must go in it. This is required under section 5 of the Protection from Eviction Act although the wording is set out in the The Notices to Quit etc. (Prescribed Information) Regulations 1988.
The Protection from Eviction Act also requires Notices to Quit
- To be in writing, and
- To be given to the tenant or licensee not less than four weeks before it is due to take effect
A Notice to Quit cannot end a fixed term so is used to end a periodic tenancy. Here the notice period needs to be at least one ‘period’ of the tenancy. Most periodic tenancies are monthly. But if the period is weekly, then the Protection From Eviction Act will kick in so the landlord will need to give not less than four weeks.
When can you use a Notice to Quit?
They are used to end ‘common law’ or unregulated tenancies, for example, company lets or lets by resident landlords.
Where appropriate they can also be used for tenancies protected under the Rent Act 1977 – but as these situations are quite rare, you should take legal advice be for doing anything.
Notices to Quit are also used by tenants to end a periodic tenancy. And although the Housing Act 1988 prohibits Notices to Quit for landlords, they are not prohibited for tenants.
So if a tenant wants to end a periodic tenancy, a Notice to Quit is the way to do it. There is an odd quirk in the law which says that a Notice to Quit served by just one of joint tenants is sufficient to end the tenancy for all tenants – even if they did not know about it.
For example when social landlords rehouse victims of domestic violence, they often ask them to serve a Notice to Quit (assuming the tenancy is periodic) so they can evict the violent partner.
I hope this post clears up the misunderstanding about Notices to Quit!
It is important to be clear about legal terminology as if (for example) you tell your solicitor that your landlord has served a Notice to Quit on you, the solicitor will probably say that the notice is wrong.
Whereas if the notice is actually a section 8 notice which has been served, it will probably be correct. So you may waste a lot of time following the incorrect advice.
So please try to be clear about the notice that has been given to you! You can normally find its name at the top of the form