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End of Tenancy

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How Do You Know When A Tenancy Has Ended?

This may sound like a strange question – surely it’s when the tenant leaves? But this isn’t necessarily the case. And as a landlord, you need to know exactly what the law regards as the end of a tenancy so here’s a brief guide to help you.

hand over of house keysThere are four legal definitions that mean a tenancy has ended:
By agreement
By ‘effluxion of time’ – (the expiration of a limited time agreement or contract)
By a court order for possession
By ‘frustration’

Agreement

The landlord and the tenant can agree whatever length of tenancy they like. And if the tenant wants to leave early and the landlord agrees, the tenancy can end. It’s usual (and sensible) to have a tenancy agreement to provide proof of this and protect each other’s position. But as long as both parties agree to the tenancy ending, the tenant will not be liable to pay further rent.

If the landlord does not agree to the ending of the tenancy, he should confirm this in writing and the tenant will continue to be liable for the rent.

Effluxion of Time

This is an early 17th century word that also means to flow out – basically the tenancy comes to an end naturally at the end of its allotted time. So if a tenancy is due to last for six months from January 1st, on June 30th it will end by ‘effluxion of time’.

If the tenant stays, the tenancy will usually continue. In the case of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement, Section 5 of the Housing Act 1988 says that it will continue. But in the case of a common law tenancy, it continues because the tenant by remaining in the property, and the landlord by accepting rent, are considered to have agreed to the continuation of the tenancy.

But if the tenant moves out a day or two before the end of the fixed term, the tenancy will still end on the last date of the agreement (June 30th in our example).

On the other hand, if the tenant stays even one day after the end of the term, they then move into a Periodic Tenancy and must give notice, usually one month.

Court Orders

A court order ends a tenancy but the tenant is usually allowed time to leave the property. The tenancy only ends when the tenant has left.

However, court orders are best avoided and usually a last resort as they are expensive and time-consuming to obtain, especially if the landlord is applying for possession because the tenant has not paid the rent.

To minimise costly delays, it is therefore best to seek a court order only if you apply promptly for possession and strictly follow court procedures, only apply if you have mandatory grounds for possession and make sure all your paperwork is accurate and up-to-date.

Before going to the lengths of seeking a court order, always try and keep lines of communication open with the tenant and see if you can reach a mutual agreement.

Frustration

This is only used in cases where a contract cannot be fulfilled and is therefore ended by ‘frustration’. In reality, the only time this applies is when a property is destroyed, this could be by being burnt down, so is rarely used. If the property is simply in a poor state of repair, frustration does not apply – instead the tenant can bring a claim against the landlord for an order to carry out the repair work.

The law can be perplexing and you really do need to know your facts. Alternatively, make sure you use an experienced letting agent that can advise you if any of these situations arise.

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About the Author

Marc has been a board director since 2001 and oversees the company’s rental operations as well as developing new business. He is instrumental in the company’s expansion and works closely with Managing Director Anita Mehra to develop its core services. Read more about Marc von Grundherr here - Read full profile

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