When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Giving and receiving Notice to Quit

You can’t simply decide to leave a property and move out immediately. By law, you have to give your landlord a fixed period of written notice informing him or her of your intention to leave the property. This is known as a Notice to Quit.  Your landlord also has to provide you with notice if he or she wants you to move out.

Do you have a tenancy agreement?

You can't end a tenancy during the term of the agreement simply by giving notice to quit.  This is because you have signed a legal contract to stay in the property and pay rent for a set period of time.  You can only end the agreement if

  • you have your landlord's written permission to get out of the tenancy early or
  • if you can prove that the landlord has seriously breached the tenancy agreement and has failed to sort out this breach when you have asked or
  • you can show that you have a right to "unwind" your tenancy agreement, because you only signed it after the landlord engaged in aggressive or misleading selling practices.  

Even if you can prove that you are "entitled" to leave early, the landlord could still take you to court for unpaid rent and you will have to convince a judge at court that the landlord's actions were serious enough to break the contract.  Our adviser Stephen explains the steps you'll need to take if you want to leave your tenancy early in this useful video. 

Amount of notice required

If you don't have a tenancy agreement and you've lived in the property for more than 6 months you are a periodic tenant and can leave the tenancy by giving your landlord notice to quit in writing.  The amount of notice that you, or your landlord, is required to give depends on the amount of time that you have been living in the property. If you have been a tenant of the property for

  • less that 5 years, the correct notice period is 28 days
  • more than 5 but less than 10 years, the correct notice period is 8 weeks
  • more than 10 years, the correct notice period is 12 weeks.

In some cases, your landlord may allow you to leave the property without giving at least 28 days’ notice to quit. If your landlord agrees to this, you must have this confirmed in writing. Otherwise, you could be held liable for unpaid rent. The Notice to Quit must be in writing. You should clearly state the date that you intend to leave. It’s also a good idea to invite the landlord to inspect the property on the date that you move out. You should send a copy to your landlord and keep a copy for your own records. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, landlords are required to give tenants 12 weeks' notice to quit, regardless of the length of their tenancy, between 5 May 2020 and 31 March 2021.

Leaving without giving notice to quit

You will continue to owe your landlord rent if you leave your tenancy early when you don't have the right to. Your landlord can take legal action to claim this rent money from you. You could be held liable for rent up to the time when you would have been able to end the tenancy, which could be:

  • until the end of the term for fixed term tenants
  • until you've served a written Notice to Quit and the date on this notice has passed for periodic tenants
  • until six months have passed from the date you moved in for tenants who did not have a tenancy agreement and have been living in the property for less than 6 months, or
  • until the landlord has let the property to new tenants who are now paying rent.

Receiving a notice to quit

If you have a tenancy agreement, your landlord cannot serve you with a Notice to Quit during the fixed term period, unless:

  • there is a clause in the tenancy agreement, allowing the landlord to do so
  • you have not been paying your rent or
  • you have broken a clause in the tenancy agreement.

If you are a periodic tenant and do not have a fixed term tenancy agreement, your landlord can serve Notice to Quit at any stage. Your landlord must give you the correct amount of notice, as required by law. The length of the notice period will be

  • 12 weeks if you received notice on or after 5 May 2020
  • 4 weeks if you received notice before 5 May 2020 and have had this tenancy for less than 5 years
  • 8 weeks if you received notice before 5 May 2020 and have had the tenancy for between 5 and 10 years
  • 12 weeks if you received notice before 5 May 2020 and have had the tenancy for at least 10 years. 

If you receive a Notice to Quit check that your landlord has given you the correct amount of notice.  If your landlord gives you less notice than you are legally entitled to, contact your local Environmental Health Department or an advice agency such as Housing Rights and inform them that your landlord is trying to evict you illegally.

Once the notice period has come to an end, you are expected to leave the property.  However, your landlord cannot forcibly evict you from the property as all tenants have a right to due process.

Right to due process

Due process refers to the steps a landlord must take before evicting a tenant.  The first step is serving a Notice to Quit.  If you do not leave the property by the end of this notice period, the landlord must take action in court to have you evicted.  The landlord does not have to give a reason to serve a Notice to Quit on a periodic tenant.  If you are still bound by a fixed term tenancy agreement, the landlord can serve a Notice to Quit if you are in arrears or have broken the terms of the agreement in some way.  The landlord will be expected to prove to the court that you have breached the agreement.

If the landlord has followed due process and the Notice to Quit is legally binding, it is highly likely that a judge will make an order for possession.  This means that your right to occupy the property has ended and possession reverts back to the landlord.  Once an order is made by the judge, it will be referred to another court office for enforcement.

If you have not left the property after the court order is made, the Enforcement of Judgements Office will carry out an eviction.  You will receive a letter from this office giving an approximate date of when the eviction will happen and asking you to vacate the property by a specific date.  If you do not vacate by this date, the Enforcement of Judgements officers can forcibly remove you from the property.

If you do not leave the property after receiving a Notice to Quit, you can be held liable for rent for the rest of the time you remain in the property.  You may also have to pay the landlord’s court costs which will be very expensive. Speak to an adviser at Housing Rights if you've been give a Notice to Quit and aren't sure what to do. 

End of a fixed term agreement

Technically, you don't need to give notice to end a fixed term agreement. However, you should check your contract carefully.  If your contract says it is for a fixed term and for any periodic tenancy arising out of that term and the contract requires that you give notice to quit if you want to leave at the end of the fixed term, you have to give this notice.  If you know that you're going to leave a rented property when your contract ends it's best to write to your landlord at least 4 weeks before then to let him or her know.

Finding alternative accommodation

When you give or receive Notice to Quit, you should start looking at your housing options so you can organise somewhere else to live. 

Need help solving a problem?

You should always get advice if you are having problems with a tenancy. You can contact Housing Rights for advice on your rights. Housing Rights can also provide a mediation service if you and your landlord are having problems and need an independent person to help resolve these.