Do I need to serve notice 21 or can I use a break clause to reclaim possession?

I have tenants in a property I’d like to move back into as soon as possible.
The fixed term is from 1st Oct 2020 to 31st March 2021.
I’m using the standard wording on the openrent AST contract:

Interrupting or Ending this Agreement

12.1 If the tenancy is within the fixed Term, the Landlord may serve on the Tenant the appropriate notice under
Section 21(1)(b) of the Housing Act 1988 (as amended) given during the fixed Term to expire on any day after
the last day of the Term.

Mutual Break Clause. In the contract is says:

12.5 Any time after 4 months from the start of the Tenancy Agreement either party can exercise the break clause by giving two months notice in writing to the other party. This means that the earliest time that the tenancy can be ended by this clause is after the expiry of 6 months from the commencement of the Term

I understand serving a section 21 notice would take at least 6 months with the current covid legislation.

My question is can you serve notice just by stating the above break clause (on 1st Feb) and therefore move back in on the 1st April ?

Because you want to move in to live there it impacts this.

I would suggest you talk to a legal professional about the best way to do this, but my understanding is that even with a break clause you now have to serve 6 months notice.

But your first point of call should be contacting the tenants and having an honest discussion as respected equals. If they knew this was your home and you weren’t planning to renew past March, and your situation has changed, they may be willing to work with you.

The fastest way to get them out is for them to happily agree to move. They could agree to move out tomorrow and everything will be legal and smooth.

Notice is necessary when they aren’t amenable. Starting with notice without any warning is a good way to make them dig in their heels and fight back.

We live in a house while our landlord is abroad. If our landlord called us today and explained what circumstances had changed and why she needs the house back ASAP- honestly I would be happy to work with her.

If I got a section 21 in the mail? Hooooooo she would be in for a massive fight!

Thanks for the reply Ryan.

I did phone one of the legal helplines and they said much the same thing.

Yep I can see your point about how it is communicated. I will probably drop them an email and just be honest about things and see what they say. It’s a good starting point at least.

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Exercising the break clause would end the fixed term, but a periodic tenancy would arise in its place. AST tenants are guaranteed at least 6 months possession, (currently 10 months) as long as they pay their rent and stick to the agreement, so you would still need to serve a s21 notice to end the tenancy and that is currently 6 months. As you say, you will have to try to negotiate to get the property back. If the tenants are ok to leave at the end of the fixed term then that’s fine, otherwise, I think you should assume at least 6 months from the date you can give notice, which as you say is 1 February.

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You have nothing to lose by reaching out honestly.

I would not open with this, but consider being willing to make some financial concessions in exchange for their quick agreement. I would again seek legal advice about how to do this but if timely moving in is important then it may even be worth offering to cover some of the moving expenses. (seriously don’t just make that one up, protect your self) That isn’t legally required but you are asking them to waive a lot of your legal requirements and that way if the expense of moving so soon is a concern, it can help get them out.

Again, I would not open with that but start out with an honest human to human explanation.

If they aren’t willing to leave amicably, as @David122 said you have to give at least 6 months notice. And that’s before you can start eviction processes- right now it could take a very long time to get through this.

If moving back in urgently is important, your best option is diplomacy and negotiating them happily leaving early. Do keep in mind that they are not legally required to and then doing so will save you a tremendous amount of headache, it’s helpful when negotiating a favor to remember that it is a favor.

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Hi All,

I have a similar situation but with a slight variation that the original tenancy started several years ago, so has met the minimum 6 month period. I am the landlord and have an option to break with 2 months notice. Otherwise the tenancy would conclude in August. I have 2 questions:

  1. My understanding is that I am still within my rights to exercise the break clause which is in the contract and hopefully the tenants would honour this contract?

  2. If they don’t honour the contract, do I then fall into needing to service S21 notice (and hence wait 6 months) or can I do anything faster than this?

Many thanks

If the tenancy began several years ago then I don’t think what you’re describing is a break clause, at least not in the traditional sense. You would need to state what the tenancy clause says, but I think you’re probably referring to the standard 2 month notice seeking possession clause, which is actually a notice under s21 of the Housing Act 1988. At present, this has been extended to 6 months and I’m afraid there is little other option for you if the tenant has not breached any of their tenancy agreements. I wouldn’t count on getting the property back in 2021 if the tenant refuses to leave at the end of the notice, so you may need to make alternative plans if you were counting on this.