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That is the question I am often asked. Over the years, I have had many a landlord approach me about the tricky issue of ‘notice’. No-one will be surprised at that – evicting a tenant is complex, there are a myriad of ways to go wrong, to say nothing of the probability of unpleasantness or distress.
Generally, most of the practical problems can be overcome by keeping clear paperwork, knowing the rules about what must be issued at the start of a tenancy and having an accurate tenancy agreement and rent account. The unpleasantness and distress of notice are unfortunately just hazards of the situation and cannot really be guarded against.
However, there can be equal confusion about when the tenant gives notice to the landlord – or, as so often happens, doesn’t. There will be times when a tenant absconding without notice is a deliberate act of spite. Sometimes, it will be embarrassment and the tenant leaves to avoid the possibility of eviction.
You know and I know that the tenant who will discuss the situation and advise the intention to vacate without going through the period of not knowing, notice period and Court proceedings, will save the landlord money and annoyance; better to know the property is empty and can be re-let than to be in a quandary, but tenants may not appreciate this and leave to avoid (what they will see) as an uncomfortable interview with the landlord.
However, we need to be sure when notice from the tenant is appropriate. In an ideal World, tenants will always stay until the end of the tenancy period. There will be regular contacts between landlord and tenant and there will be no misunderstandings about whether the tenancy is continuing or not.
Sadly, we cannot be confident of amiable telephone calls arranging sign-out inspections; this may cause some landlords annoyance, because a tenant who leaves a tenancy on the date of expiry of the fixed term is not required to give notice – they have abided by the terms of the agreement. Where courtesy is king, the landlord would be ready on the doorstep to wave his tenants goodbye, but there will be tenants who move out without a second thought for the landlord. At one time, this may have been because they did not want an argument about the state the property was left in, but as deposits now are protected, there would hardly be any point in avoiding a meeting with the landlord!
I was once approached by a landlord who had served a s.21, 2 month notice, on his tenant. The tenant was bad news and had been threatening the other tenants, so the landlord did what was expected of him and served 2 months notice. Six weeks into the notice period, the tenant left, without advising the landlord. The landlord was very aggrieved and felt he should have had notice. Could he take him to Court to recover the final 2 weeks of the notice? He could try, but the most likely reaction would be – ‘You wanted him out, he’s gone – what are you complaining about?’. The tenant faced homelessness – if a place became available to him, he could not risk losing that by delaying.
Where tenants give notice, the landlord is advised to try and keep communication channels open but also, be flexible – the tenant who gives any indication he is going is a better bet than the one who refuses to talk to the landlord.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon