My options when tenants won't sign new AST after previous one expires

The 12 month AST on my flat is about to expire.
I issued a section 21 notice 2 months in advance of this as my tenants were unsure if they wanted to stay.
They subsequently agreed to the new AST and rent increase but have still not signed the contract.
The closer the expiry of the existing AST becomes, the more nervous I get about them simply not signing the new agreement but also not leaving the property.
The section 21 is still in place and the new AST could be withdrawn but I’d really like to know what my rights and obligations are in this situation.

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This is tricky. In theory, them agreeing to the new AST verbally could be enough to make it a binding agreement, so from a legal point if view, you might be able to argue that it’s in place, with or without their signature. I wouldn’t recommend this route though. It’s hard to prove and will only create trouble for you.

So, you should probably assume for now that the new AST is non exists. If they don’t sign it, it’s as if they were just served an S21. It’s always possible that tenants don’t honour that and don’t move out. They will be liable to pay the rent as given by their old AST, not the increased one. If you want them out, you’ll have to go through the courts.

Best solution is talking with them to learn about their plans.

Provided they didnt raise any objections about the new agreement which were not resolved and provided it wasnt issued subject to contract, then the new agreement should be in force if they remained and continue to pay rent. Was there a rent increase? If so, their payment of it would be pretty conclusive evidence.

I have to ask. Why are you bothering with tenancy renewal? Its better for you and them to let the tenancy go periodic as soon as possible.