Serving notice by email

We have rented our own home to lovely, compliant tenants for the past few years. They’ve always known we wanted to move back eventually and we have always kept an open discussion with them via email.

In October last year, we emailed them to say we’d like to move back to the property after the fixed term ended in April (so that was a Covid-compliant 6 months notice, but I’d never heard of a Section 21 notice at this point). Then we offered them an extension, but told them we were unsure of our plans and couldn’t give them a fixed date until now. We have just emailed them saying we’d like to move back in July, which is 4 months from now… Of course it’s too late to serve an official Section 21 notice now because it is less than 6 months away.

So my question is:

Is it ok to just do all of this by email rather than serving an official notice in the formal form of a letter, considering we trust these people and have a good relationship with them? They have responded to our email in agreement. I’m guessing that as long as they move out at the proposed date, then all these details (including the fact that it’s now sort of less than 6 months notice) don’t really matter, right?

Thanks community!

Sarah, first-time landlady

I would advise you to serve a notice and formalise the process.
Better safe than sorry. If they don’t leave you will then have to serve notice and will lose a lot more time.
Read your contract. It will tell you how to serve notices.
If you have a clause where it says it can be served via email and an email has been documented then fine.
If not serve it via post.
NOT registered ( they can allege it was never served if they don’t sign for it).
Serve notice first class on 2 consecutive days. When you post ask the post office for proof of postage each time and keep that for your records.
Make sure names and address match that on the contract and there are no spelling errors.
Pre-pandemic my solicitor would advise two months and a week notice so they don’t say they didn’t get a full two months notice.
I would check if you should give them six months and a week.
As this was your home and you are returning you can also serve a Section 8 I think.
Someone else maybe be able to clarify that
I would advise you to take legal council.
There was a Landlord Law webinar the other week advising such. You need to serve a document regarding your aware of the effect of the pandemic on the tenants.
This is not the time to get it wrong as the time loss will be significant if you go back to the drawing board.

Did you notify them in writing (either in the tenancy agreement or elsewhere) before the tenancy began that you may need the property back to live in at some point and may use Section 8 Ground 1 of the Housing Act 1988 to recover possession? Many tenancy agreements have this as standard, but you need to check. If you have, then I would recommend you use this ground. You would still have to give 6 months notice, however, it doesn’t have all the trip-hazards of a s21 notice, which many inexperienced landlords get caught out by. You should also be aware that neither notice can expire within the fixed term of a tenancy. You should also be aware that if your tenants don’t comply with the notice it will likely take around 18 months to recover possession using the courts, so you should probably have a conversation with the tenants to try to gauge their willingness to comply, because if they’re unwilling, you will need to make alternative arrangements for your own accommodation.

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Thank you for your helpful replies!