Tenants must usually give you written notice if they plan on moving out. They don't need to give notice if
- they are leaving at the end of their fixed-term tenancy, and
- the tenancy agreement doesn't say they have to give notice.
How much notice should tenants give if they want to move out?
Article 14 of the Private Tenancies Order (NI) 2006 says how much notice tenants must give. They should give you
- at least 28 days' notice if they've been there for up to 5 years
- 8 weeks' notice if they've been there for between 5 and 10 years
- 12 weeks' notice if they've been there for more than 10 years.
Your tenancy agreement can ask the tenants to give more notice than the law requires.
What should the notice say?
The notice has to be in writing. This can include text messages or emails.
It does not have to say anything specific. But, the tenant should let you know when they plan on moving out.
What do do if your tenants send you a notice to quit?
Contact your tenants to tell them you've received the notice.
- find out exactly when they will be moving out
- send them a copy of the check-in inventory
- remind them that the property, and furniture, should be returned in a similar condition to that on this inventory
- explain when you will inspect the property and when you will return the deposit
- remind them of the deposit scheme protecting their deposit.
Can your tenants move out before your contract ends?
Your tenants may want to move out before the contract ends. Most tenancy agreements are binding until they expire. Tenants can usually only stop paying rent if the landlord agrees.
- agree to end the agreement early with no further liability
- agree to end the agreement early under certain conditions
- try to resolve any dispute with the tenants that has led to them wanting to leave
- try to sue the tenants for unpaid rent.
Find out why the tenants want to move out early. They may have grounds to get out of the tenancy early if
- there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement, or
- the tenancy started less than 90 days ago and you or your agent engaged in misleading or aggressive selling tactics
- you are in breach of your contractual arrangements (e.g. you haven't dealt with repairs).
Get advice if your tenants want to move out before the tenancy term ends.
Can you market your property before the tenants move out?
Check what your tenancy agreement says.
Some agreements say the tenants have to agree to viewings in the property if they are moving out.
Your tenants have a right to peaceful occupation of the property. You could breach this right if
- you carry out regular viewings of their home, or
- viewings happen at a time that does not suit the tenant.
Work with your tenants to find a way to market the property without affecting their rights.
Returning your tenant's deposit
You have to protect your tenant's deposit with a special scheme. How you deal with it at the end of the tenancy depends the scheme you've used.
- You, or the tenant, can ask for the deposit back if the money is in a custodial scheme. If you're asked for some of the money, you'll need to give reasons and evidence for your deductions.
- You have to return the money to the tenant if you used an insurance scheme. The tenant can complain to the scheme if they think you kept some of the deposit unfairly.
Make sure your tenants know
- which deposit scheme protected the deposit,
- when they will get their money back, and
- how they can complain if they do not agree with any charges you make.
- you can only deduct reasonable amounts from the tenant's deposit,
- you can't charge the tenant for wear and tear on the property or furniture,
- the deposit is the tenant's money and you need evidence to prove that you have a right to deduct anything from it.
Setting up for new tenants
It is not a good idea to arrange for new tenants to move in immediately after an old tenancy ends, because
- your old tenants may not move out when they planned
- you need time to inspect the property before new tenants move in
- you may need to decorate or fix things in the property.