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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Tenant issues Notice to Quit

This page is for landlords operating in Northern Ireland.  You can find advice for tenants elsewhere on our website. Private landlords in Northern Ireland can get advice by calling 028 9024 5640 and choosing option 5. 

A tenant should serve you with a notice to quit if he or she wishes to stop renting the property. Such a notice is not necessary at the end of a fixed term agreement, so you should never assume that the tenants are planning to stay in the property. If in doubt, check with your tenants.

Receiving a notice to quit

When you receive a notice to quit from your tenants, you should give them a quick call to let them know you've received the notice.

The notice should contain the date on which the tenants intend to leave the property and they must give you the correct amount of notice required by law. If they've lived as tenants in the property for less than 5 years, the notice period must be at least 4 weeks. This increases to 8 weeks once they've lived in the property for 5 years or longer and 12 weeks if they've been living in the property for over 10 years.

If your tenants move out without serving the correct notice period you can pursue them through the Small Claims Court for unpaid rent. If your tenants are periodic and are not currently bound to a fixed term, they do not have to give any reasons for moving out.

Term hasn't yet expired

Tenants who are subject to a fixed term agreement can be held to the contract if they move out early. A tenant can normally only terminate a tenancy before the fixed term expires

  • with your consent,
  • by proving you have breached the agreement therefore rendering it void or
  • if there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement.

If you receive a Notice to Quit from tenants who have signed a tenancy agreement committing to stay in the property on a longer basis, the tenants can be held liable for rent until either

  • the fixed term expires or
  • another tenant moves into the property.

Talk to your tenants to see why they need to leave. You can take action through the courts to get this unpaid rent from the tenants, so remember to keep copies of any letters you have sent them. It may be more suitable for both parties if the tenant agrees to pay the costs of re-advertising the property but any agreement should be made in writing and copies kept by you and the tenant.

You are not under any pressure to find a tenant. However, there may be increased insurance costs and greater risk of squatting if a property is left vacant for a long period of time.

Marketing the property

To minimise the risk of rental voids you should make arrangements to market your property as soon as you know the current tenants are moving out.

Remember to check your tenancy agreement to see how much notice you are required to give the sitting tenants before arranging a property viewing. While they remain in the property it is legally viewed as their home and you cannot enter or allow others to enter without their permission.

You may wish to reassess the property condition and the rent you have set for the property. Carrying out minor redecoration or repairs could make the property more attractive and allow you to charge a higher rent.

Property inspections and handing back the deposit

Arrange to inspect the property on either the day the current tenants move out or as soon after that date as is possible. You should invite the tenants to attend the inspection. You should return the deposit to the tenants within 28 days of their vacating the premises.

When carrying out the inspection you should refer to the inventory and photographs taken when the tenants moved in. Remember that you must allow for reasonable wear and tear in the property and can only use the deposit to replace like for like.

Think about the lifespan of particular items. If something need to be replaced, it may be more reasonable to charge the tenants a percentage of the cost of a new item, particularly if the item being replaced was not brand new when they moved in.

If you do need to use the tenants' deposit to cover any repairs or replacements, make sure you get receipts for all the work and charge the tenants fairly. Enclose copies of the receipts when you return the rest of the deposit and explain the charges that you have made.

Your tenants are entitled to raise a deposit using the tenancy deposit scheme administrator's dispute process or challenge you in the Small Claims Court if they do not agree with your deductions. If you failed to take a proper inventory and photographs when they moved in, you may find it difficult to prove your case to the court.