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If you get a section 21 notice

This advice applies to Wales

If you get a section 21 notice, it’s the first step your landlord has to take to make you leave your home. You won’t have to leave your home straight away.

If your section 21 notice is valid, your landlord will need to go to court to evict you.

You might be able to challenge your eviction and stay longer in your home.

You might have to pay court costs if you decide to challenge your eviction. You should make sure you have a good case before you decide to go to court.

When you can get a section 21 notice

Your landlord doesn’t need a reason for giving you a section 21 notice - for example, they might just want to move back into the property.

You can only get a section 21 notice if you have an assured shorthold tenancy. If you’re not sure what type of tenancy you have, use Shelter’s tenancy checker to find out.

If your landlord gives you a section 21 notice and you don't have an assured shorthold tenancy, your notice won't be valid. You'll be able to challenge your eviction and stay in your home.

You don’t have to sign a section 21 notice to prove you’ve received it - even if your landlord asks you to.

Your landlord could give you a section 8 notice as well as a section 21 notice. You might get a section 8 notice if you have rent arrears, for example.

If you get a section 8 notice, don’t ignore it. You’ll need to deal with it as well as your section 21 notice - and the steps are different.

Read our advice on what to do if you've got a section 8 notice.

Check your section 21 notice is valid

The first thing you should do is check your section 21 notice is valid. If it isn't, you might be able to challenge it and stay in your home.

Coronavirus - your landlord must give you more notice 

The length of your notice will depend on the type of tenancy you have and the date your landlord asked you to leave.

If you rent from a private landlord or housing association you’re likely to have an assured or assured shorthold tenancy. Your landlord then has to give you:

  • 3 months’ notice between 27 March and 23 July 2020 
  • at least 6 months’ notice between 24 July and 30 September 2020 - unless you’re being asked to leave because of anti-social behaviour

Your landlord has to give you 3 months’ notice if you have a:

  • secure, introductory or flexible tenancy -  you’re likely to have this if you rent from the local council
  • protected tenancy - you’re likely to have this if you started renting from a private landlord before 15 January 1989
  • council demoted tenancy 

You can check your tenancy type if you're not sure.

Your section 21 notice won’t be valid if you haven’t been given at least 2 months’ notice.

If you have a longer tenancy period, for example where you pay your rent every 3 months, your landlord might need to give you more than 2 months’ notice. Check what kind of tenancy you have on Shelter’s website if you’re not sure.

If your landlord hasn’t given you at least 2 months’ notice - or longer if you have a longer tenancy period - you could tell them that your section 21 notice isn’t valid. Your landlord might then give you a new notice if they want you to leave - giving you another 2 months to stay in your home.

You should make sure your new notice is valid.

If your deposit hasn't been protected

If your landlord didn’t protect your deposit or they protected it late, your section 21 notice won’t be valid - unless they’ve already given your deposit back to you.

The date your deposit had to be protected by depends on when it was paid and when your tenancy started. Check if you're not sure whether your landlord protected your deposit.

Your landlord might also have to pay you compensation if they didn't protect your deposit. Read more about taking your landlord to court if your deposit isn't protected.

Not all deposits need to be protected. Your deposit doesn't need to be protected for example if you're a lodger.

If you didn't get information about your deposit

Your section 21 notice won’t be valid if your landlord didn’t give you certain details about your deposit before giving you the notice. These details are known as ‘prescribed information’.

Prescribed information includes:

  • a receipt for your deposit
  • your landlord's contact details
  • how to get your deposit back when you leave

You can find a full list of the information landlords must give tenants on GOV.UK.

Not all deposits need to be protected. Your deposit doesn't need to be protected for example if you're a lodger.

Check when your landlord should have given you the prescribed information.

If your section 21 notice has a mistake on it

Your section 21 notice might not be valid if your landlord has made mistakes on it, for example if they’ve spelt your name wrong or put the wrong date.

Check your section 21 notice to make sure your name and address are correct. You should also check the name and contact details of your landlord or letting agent are correct.

If you live in a house that needs a licence

Your section 21 notice might not be valid if:

  • your landlord hasn't registered their details
  • your landlord or letting agent hasn't got a licence for your home

You can search the public register on Rent Smart Wales to find out if your landlord has registered and got a licence.

If your home is managed by a letting agent, you’ll need to check if they’ve got a licence. All you’ll need is your address or your landlord or letting agent’s details.

Your home might also need another type of licence, for example if you live in a shared house, bedsit or hostel.

Read more about what to do if you have a problem with your shared house.

Your council might have extra laws about what types of properties should be licensed. You can ask your local council if you’re not sure whether your home needs a licence.

You should challenge your eviction if your landlord hasn’t registered or the letting agent managing the property doesn’t have a licence.

If your section 21 notice isn't in writing

Your landlord can’t evict you if they haven’t given you your section 21 notice in writing.

If your landlord doesn't go to court in time

Your landlord can’t evict you before the date your section 21 notice says you should move out. If you haven’t moved out by then, your landlord can go to court to evict you. If your landlord doesn’t go to court straight away, they can still use the section 21 notice to evict you later in your tenancy.

If you start a new tenancy agreement with your landlord, your section 21 notice won’t be valid. This means if your landlord still wants to evict you, they’ll need to give you a new section 21 notice.

If you have a fixed term tenancy

If you have a break clause

Either you or your landlord can end your tenancy early if you have a break clause.

If your landlord uses a break clause and gives you a section 21 notice, you might have to leave your home before the end of the fixed term.

You can find the details of your break clause in your tenancy agreement.

You’ll have a fixed term tenancy if it has a definite start and end date.

You won’t need to leave before your fixed term ends. For example if you get a section 21 notice 4 months into a 6-month fixed term, you won’t have to leave until your fixed term tenancy ends.

If you have a contractual periodic tenancy

You’ll have a contractual periodic tenancy if:

  • your tenancy has been rolling from the beginning, usually from month to month

  • your original tenancy agreement makes it clear it’ll become a rolling tenancy when the fixed term has ended

  • you signed a new rolling tenancy agreement after your original tenancy expired

If you have a contractual periodic tenancy, your notice has to be a minimum of  2 months, or as long as the period of your tenancy, whichever is longer. For example, if your period of tenancy runs for 3 months, your landlord needs to give you 3 months’ notice.

Your notice has to say it’s given under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 - if it doesn’t, your landlord will have to give you a new section 21 notice. Your landlord can’t ask you to leave before the last day of a tenancy period.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you're not sure what type of tenancy you have or how long your tenancy period is

If your landlord charged fees during your contract

You might be able to challenge your eviction if you paid your landlord any fees. If you originally agreed your tenancy on or after 1 September 2019 your landlord can only charge you:

  • rent or utility bills
  • a damage deposit
  • a holding deposit
  • council tax
  • a TV licence
  • for breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement - as long as the fee is described in the tenancy agreement

If your landlord charged you for anything else, contact your nearest Citizens Advice - they could help you challenge your eviction.

If your section 21 is valid

Your landlord can’t make you leave your home unless they’ve gone to court to get a possession order and a warrant for eviction - this means they can use court bailiffs to evict you. If they try to force you to leave before this, it’s an illegal eviction - contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help to challenge it.

Your landlord can only go to court after the date the section 21 notice says you have to leave.

Coronavirus - if your landlord goes to court to evict you

Evictions can take place again. Talk to an adviser as soon as possible if you get letters or paperwork from the court.

If your landlord started court action against you before 3 August 2020, they have to send you a letter before they can continue with their court claim. This letter is called a ‘reactivation notice’ – you can check what to do if you get a reactivation notice

If your landlord started the claim after 3 August 2020, talk to an adviser.

If you’ve got a good relationship with your landlord, it might be worth asking them if you can stay in your home for longer. Send a letter to your landlord explaining your situation and keep a copy of any reply you get.

When your landlord goes to court, you might be able to ask the court to let you stay in your home for longer. You’ll need to get papers from the court before you can ask to stay in your home for longer.

If you decide to leave your home

Don’t leave your home before the date on your section 21 notice if you haven’t found somewhere else to live.

You can ask your local council for help as soon as you get a section 21 notice - they might be able to:

  • help you stay in your home

  • find somewhere else for you to live

You can also find out what other help you can get if you’re being evicted.

Keep paying your rent

It’s important that you keep paying your rent until the day your tenancy ends. If you're leaving and you've paid all your agreed rent, ask your landlord to write to you confirming that your tenancy has ended and you’ve paid everything you owe. Both you and your landlord should sign it.

If you don’t pay your rent, your landlord could take you to court to get back any unpaid rent you owe. They could also refuse to give you a reference or give you a bad one, which could make finding another home difficult.

If your section 21 isn't valid

You’ll be able to stay in your home and challenge your eviction if your landlord hasn’t given you a valid section 21 notice.

Your landlord will have to give you a new, valid notice if they still want you to leave your home.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if your section 21 notice isn’t valid and you’re not sure what to do next.

Challenge your eviction

You might be able to challenge your eviction if your section 21 notice isn't valid or you have a good reason why you shouldn't leave your home. This is called 'defending possession'.

You'll need to wait until you get papers from the court before you can challenge your eviction.

If you get court papers

If you don’t leave your home by the date on your section 21 notice - for example because you want to challenge it - you’ll get papers from the court.

The papers will include a copy of the form your landlord filled in when they started the claim – this is called the ‘claim form’.

The papers will also include a form to tell the court if you disagree with what the landlord has said – this is called a “defence form”.

You’ll get the court papers because your landlord is taking action to make you leave your home. This is known as starting a ‘possession claim’. The court will then decide whether you need to leave your home.

You might have to pay your landlord’s court costs if your landlord starts a possession claim. Court costs can be expensive.

You might be able to get legal aid to help you with your case, for example if you’re on a low income or get benefits.

If you get legal aid, you might get protection from paying your landlord’s costs if you can’t afford them.

Read more about getting help with legal costs.

Write down why you’re challenging the eviction

You can challenge your section 21 notice if for example:

  • you weren’t given enough notice
  • your deposit wasn’t protected

If you can, talk to an adviser before you challenge your eviction.

What you need to do is different if your landlord’s using the accelerated procedure – check if it says ‘accelerated procedure’ at the top of the claim form.

If your landlord is using the accelerated procedure

Use the defence form that came with the court papers to give your reasons for challenging your section 21 notice. You can also find a copy of the defence form on GOV.UK – it’s called form N11B.

If you disagree with something the landlord said in the claim form, you should explain this in your defence form. The court might decide to have a court hearing to decide who is right.

Tell the court if you think you might be able to reach an agreement with your landlord. If your landlord is willing to negotiate, the court might give you more time and help you reach an agreement.

You won't usually have a court date. The court will look at your defence form before deciding if there needs to be a court hearing.

If your landlord isn’t using the accelerated procedure

You can use the defence form that came with the court papers to give your reasons for challenging your eviction. You can also find a copy of the defence form on GOV.UK – it’s called form N11.

If you find it difficult to use the defence form, write what you want to say on a piece of paper instead. Write your case number on the piece of paper – you can find your case number on the claim form.

It's best to give as much detail as possible – the court will look at what you say to decide whether you can stay in your home.

Tell the court if you’ve been struggling because of coronavirus

For example, tell the court if:

  • you or someone you live with had coronavirus
  • you’ve had to self-isolate
  • you’ve lost your job or you’re earning less

If your landlord wins you’ll usually have to pay the costs of your landlord going to court. If the court decides you should pay the costs, you’ll usually have to pay them within 14 days of the court hearing. 

You should say in your defence if you will need to pay the court costs over a longer time - for example by making a smaller payment every month. Answer the questions about your income and spending and explain why you’ll need longer to pay.

If you think your landlord has discriminated against you

If your landlord has treated you unfairly because of who you are, you might be able to defend your eviction. For example, they might be evicting you because you’re gay, or because they don’t want to make changes for your disability.

Check if your problem counts as discrimination to find out whether you can add it to your eviction defence.

If the reason you're being evicted is connected to your disability

You might be able to challenge the eviction. For example if you’re being evicted for rent arrears, but the reason you got into rent arrears was because your learning difficulty made it hard to follow your landlord’s payment policy.

You might be able to defend your eviction using discrimination law..

If you're being evicted because you complained about discrimination before

This could be a type of discrimination called victimisation. You might be able to defend your eviction using discrimination law - check if your housing problem is discrimination.

Delaying the date you’ll need to leave

If the court issues a possession order, the order will usually say you need to leave your home within 14 days.

You should use the form to explain why leaving within 14 days could cause you 'exceptional hardship' - for example if you have a serious illness or disability. You should do this even if your section 21 notice is valid. If your landlord doesn’t agree to this, the court might arrange a hearing to decide if you can stay longer.

If the court agrees that leaving your home would cause you exceptional hardship, they could delay the date you’ll need to leave by up to 6 weeks (42 days).

Send your defence to the court

You should send your defence to the court within 14 days - the address will be on the form. It’s worth keeping a copy for your records.

You should still send your defence if you miss the deadline. The court might still consider it if they haven’t made a decision yet.

If you have a court hearing, you should still go - even if you haven’t sent your defence. It's more likely you'll be able to stay in your home if you do.

Check what happens after you send your defence

The process is different if your landlord’s using the accelerated procedure – check if it says ‘accelerated procedure’ at the top of the claim form.

If your landlord is using the accelerated procedure

The court will look at your defence form. They’ll either:

  • issue a possession order – this means that you’ll have to leave your home
  • give you a date to go to court – this is known as a possession hearing

The court will usually only arrange a hearing if there’s a problem with your landlord’s paperwork or they’ve made a mistake.

If you have a possession hearing, you'll get a letter telling you when and where the hearing is.

If your landlord isn’t using the accelerated procedure

The court will tell you when it will look at the case for the first time - this is called the 'review date'.

You can find the review date in the ‘notice of review’. The court will send you the notice of review either:

  • at the same time as the claim form
  • after it gets your defence

Your landlord should send you a copy of all the documents the court will look at – this is called the ‘bundle’. If you haven’t got the bundle 2 weeks before the review date, tell the court – you can find the contact details of the court on GOV.UK.

You can talk to a free legal adviser on the review date – they’re called the ‘duty adviser’. Before the review date, read the letters from the court and make sure you know how to contact the duty adviser on the review date.

Check what happens on the review date

You don’t need to go to court – but you should make sure you can talk on the phone.

It’s worth talking to the duty adviser even if you’ve already got advice. They can talk to your landlord for you. They might be able to get your landlord to agree to pause or stop the eviction.

If you and your landlord can’t agree, the court will look at all the documents. If there’s a problem with your landlord’s documents, the court might pause or stop the eviction.

If there’s no problem with the documents, the court will decide when to have a court hearing – this is called the ‘possession hearing’. The possession hearing will be at least 4 weeks after the review date.

Preparing for your possession hearing

Read all the documents you've been given by the court and your landlord. Take any evidence you have to the court, for example:

  • a letter or email from the 3 tenancy deposit schemes showing that your deposit wasn’t protected or protected late
  • a letter from your local council saying that the property isn’t licensed if it should be
  • a letter from your GP saying that you would suffer exceptional hardship if you have to leave within 14 days

The evidence you have will depend on your case.

You'll be able to take someone with you for support, for example a friend or family member. They might not be able to speak for you in court.

If you can’t go to the possession hearing, tell the court as soon as possible. Explain why you can’t go – for example because you have to self-isolate. The court might:

  • arrange for the hearing to happen by phone or video call
  • change the date of the hearing

You can check how to prepare if the court decides to arrange a hearing by phone or video call.

You can get a lawyer to represent you in court. If you’ve got no income or a low income, you might be able to get legal aid to help you with the cost. Find out if you can get help with legal costs on GOV.UK.

On the day of the hearing, you’ll be able to talk to a free legal adviser called a ‘duty adviser’ –  it doesn’t matter how much income you have. Before the date of the possession hearing, read the letters from the court and make sure you know how to contact the duty adviser on the day of the hearing.

If you can’t contact the duty adviser on the day of the hearing, tell the usher or the judge before the hearing starts – the judge might agree to delay the hearing.

Talk to an adviser to find out what legal advice you can get.

Getting a decision from court

You'll be told by the court if you can stay in your home or if you'll have to leave.

If you have a court hearing, you'll be told the decision at the hearing. If you don't have a court hearing, the court will send a letter telling you their decision.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you get a possession order.

If you have to leave

You normally won't have to leave your home straight away. You'll get a notice from the court telling you when you’re supposed to leave. This is called an 'outright possession order'.

You'll usually be given 14 days to leave, but it could be longer.

You can appeal against the decision of the possession order, but only if you can prove that mistakes were made in the possession hearing. For example, if the court didn't look at relevant information or used the wrong law.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you think the court should look at your case again.

If the court accepts your defence, they could decide to dismiss your landlord's case. This means you'll stay in your home without any conditions.

If you don’t leave your home

Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice straight away if you've been told bailiffs are coming to your home.

Your landlord will have to get an eviction warrant from the court if you don't leave your home by the date on the possession order. This means they can ask the court to send ‘enforcement officers’ to make you leave.

Enforcement officers are also known as bailiffs. Bailiffs are employed by the court to help landlords get their property back.

You'll usually be told by the bailiffs when they're coming to evict you. Your landlord could ask the high court to send bailiffs - if they do this, you might not be told they’re coming.

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