Repossessing property-section 21 notices

This information only applies in England.

A landlord has the right to repossess their property at the end of the tenancy. Serving a valid section 21 notice is the first step in the eviction process. You must follow the correct procedure if you're a landlord and want to lawfully evict your tenants and repossess your property let under an assured shorthold tenancy (AST).

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What is a section 21 notice?

A section 21 notice (also known as Form 6A) is a formal document served by the landlord, or the landlord's agents, to a tenant in order to notify them of the landlord's intention to repossess the property.

A section 21 notice is commonly known as a 'no fault possession notice' as landlords don't have to give a reason for wanting to take possession of the property. It may also be referred to as an 'eviction notice', a 'notice to quit' or a 'notice seeking possession'.

If the tenant has broken any terms of a tenancy agreement (eg rent arrears, property damage, anti-social behaviour), you can also use a Section 8 notice.

This section 21 notice can only be used for properties located in England. If you need to evict a tenant in Wales, use a Section 21 notice for Wales. Visit Shelter Scotland if the property is located in Scotland and Shelter Northern Ireland if the property is located in Northern Ireland. 

When to serve a section 21 notice

Landlords cannot serve a section 21 notice within the first four months of a fixed-term from the start of the original tenancy. For example, if a tenancy commenced on the 15 April, you would not be able to serve notice until after four months have passed (ie after 15 August).

The tenant must be given two months' notice to vacate the property. This means that the expiry date of the notice cannot be the same as the last day of a six month tenancy.

For example, if a six month AST started on the 1 January with an end date of 1 July, the eviction notice cannot be served until after 1 May and the tenant must be given two months' notice to leave the property. Therefore, the expiry date will always be a few days after the last day of the fixed-term even though the fixed-term ends on the 1 July. The notice period will always expire a few days after the end of a six month fixed-term.

A tenant may be entitled to a repayment of some of the rent paid. If the tenant pays rent in advance on the first day of the month (eg rent is paid on the 1 April) and the section 21 notice states that the tenant needs to leave in the middle of the month (eg by the 5 April), then the tenant is entitled to have the rent proportionally paid back to them. This is because the tenant has paid rent for the full month, but has been told to leave part way through the month. For further information read Tenants entitlement to rent repayments.

Read the accompanying notes for Form 6A to make sure that you've followed to correct procedure. 

How to serve a section 21 notice

The notice is deemed to be served when the tenant actually receives it. This means that you may need to allow extra time depending on the way you choose to deliver the notice. It's best to keep any evidence or proof of this.

By post: Make sure you allow three working days for delivery when you use Royal Mail to post your notice. You can also use their next day delivery service which gives you proof of postage. Posting the notice into the postbox yourself gives you the security of knowing when the notice gets to the tenant and removes uncertainty about the method of posting.

By email: You can only serve the notice and other documents (eg gas certificate and Energy Performance Certificate) by email if the tenancy agreement allows it and the tenant has voluntarily provided their email address to receive notices and correspondence from the landlord, or landlord's agents.

In person: Serving the notice in person is a good way to ensure that the tenant gets it and also means that you know exactly when it has been served. You can also have someone with you to witness the handover.

A managing agent can serve the notice if you work with one but it must be signed by the landlord or on behalf of the landlord.

It's important to ensure that:

  1. All tenants names and addresses are shown and match those shown in the tenancy agreement.
  2. You have complied with the tenants deposit scheme legislation. You cannot serve a section 21 notice if you have not.

Restrictions on serving a section 21 notice

This section 21 notice cannot be served:

  • if the tenancy is less than 4 months
  • if the property is located outside of England (ie if the property is located in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland)
  • if the tenancy isn't an assured shorthold tenancy (AST)
  • if the fixed-term hasn't ended
  • if the tenant's deposit isn't in one of the approved government tenant deposit schemes and haven't been given the prescribed information relating to their deposit
  • if the tenant hasn't received a copy of the gas safety certificate, an Energy Performance Certificate and the government's 'How to Rent' guide
  • if the property is categorised as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and doesn't have an HMO licence from the council, or needs a selective licence but doesn't have one
  • if the local authority has served an improvement notice on the property in the last 6 months
  • if any tenant has complained about conditions of the premises or the common parts of the building and the landlord failed to respond or provide an adequate response (ie the problem wasn’t solved), also known as a retaliatory eviction
  • if the property isn't adequately equipped with smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms on each storey

Retaliatory evictions

Retaliatory evictions are prohibited for tenancies granted after 1 October 2015.

If the landlord fails to respond, or provide an adequate response to a genuine complaint by the tenant about the condition of the premises, the tenant may make a complaint to the local authority.

When the local authority serves a notice on the landlord, the landlord won’t be able to serve a section 21 notice on the tenant for 6 months. This prevents what is called 'retaliatory evictions' - the landlord giving a tenant notice to leave in response to a request from the tenant to do something to the property, such as maintenance or repairs.

The local authority must issue the landlord with an improvement notice relating to a:

  • category 1 hazard (dangerous hazards, such as a faulty electricity supply); or
  • category 2 hazard (less dangerous hazards, such as mould growth).

You can serve a section 21 if:

  • the tenant is not using the premises according to what was agreed in the tenancy agreement (eg the tenant is not taking proper care of the property)
  • the property is on the market for sale
  • the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing
  • the property is mortgaged and the mortgagee wishes to sell the property and requires the tenant to leave

What happens next?

If you have issued a section 21 notice on the tenant and the tenant does not leave the property, you must wait until the notice has expired before you can apply for an Accelerated Possession Procedure. For further information read Accelerated Possession Procedure Order.

When serving a section 21 notice, it's essential that the landlord or landlord's agent keep records and all evidence that they have complied with the requirements to serve to a section 21 notice. It's recommended to use a checklist to ensure that all the requirements have been met and ensure that there is a way to confirm receipt of all the relevant documents and prescribed information on the tenant.

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