When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Issuing a 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 call Landlord Advice on 028 9024 5640 and choosing option 5. Lines open Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 2.30pm.

You should always serve a Notice to Quit if you wish to end a tenancy. This gives your tenants sufficient time to find alternative accommodation and is an essential step if you wish to recover possession of the property.

Time periods

The amount of notice which you are required to give your tenants when asking that they quit a property depends on how long the tenants have lived as tenants in the property.

  • If the tenants have been living in the property for less than 5 years, you must give them at least 28 days' notice.
  • If the tenants have been living in the property for between 5 and 10 years, you must give them at least 8 weeks' notice to quit.
  • If the tenants have been living in the property for over 10 years, you must give them a minimum of 12 weeks' notice.

Writing the notice

It's important that the information in your Notice to Quit is easy for tenants to understand. You should clearly state at the beginning of the letter that it is a Notice to Quit and specify the date by which the tenants should have left. 

Your notice to quit should explain when the tenants should expect to receive their deposit back and what procedures you will follow to determine if any money will be kept back from the deposit money.  If the deposit was not protected you should return it according to the guidelines in your tenancy agreement.  If your tenancy agreement didn't contain a timeframe, you should return the money within 28 days of the tenancy ending. Our sample notice may help you prepare.

If you are issuing a Notice to Quit because you feel the tenants have breached the terms of the agreement, e.g. they are in rent arrears or have failed to comply with a material term of the agreement, you need to cite the breach in your notice.  If your tenants are periodic tenants and are no longer protected by a tenancy agreements you do not need a reason to end the tenancy. 

Recent case law shows that if the tenant has not received the correct amount of notice of the termination date the Notice to Quit may not be deemed valid by a court, so be very careful about setting dates accurately. Remember to allow a number of days for delivery if you're sending the notice by post.

You want to be able to prove that the tenants received the notice to quit. You can do this by sending it recorded delivery, asking an independent person to witness service or sending it via email and ensuring you get a response or a read receipt from the tenant.  The tenant may claim that he or she didn't receive the notice and the court may want you to prove that it was properly served.

To make the process smoother, you may want to consider enclosing instructions with your notice to quit which explain what you would like the tenants to do with the keys of the property and when you intend to carry out a property inspection. Add that you will return the deposit, minus any costs for damages, to the tenants within 28 days of their leaving the property.

What happens if you serve the wrong amount of notice?

It may happen that you served a tenant with a 28 day notice to quit, without realising that the tenant is entitled to a longer notice period.  If this happens, you should start from the beginning and serve a fresh notice to quit giving the tenant the correct amount of advance notice.  The law says that the tenant must have the notice in writing a set amount of time before it expires.  At court, you will need to produce your notice letter in order to get a possession order. If the notice has been improperly served, it is likely that the judge will dismiss your case. 

Serving the notice

You can serve the notice by post, electronically or in person.  Many tenancy agreements will include a term about the service of legal notices, stating that the tenant and landlord agree that the rental property address can be used for the service of legal documents on the tenant.  It may be worth calling your tenants to check that they have received the notice and are happy to comply.

If you choose to serve your notice by email, make sure you get a response or a read receipt that will prove that the tenant received the notice.