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Notice to quit

Notice to quit


Evicting a residential tenant with a notice to quit in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland if you wish to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent or for the persistent breach of any of the conditions of the tenancy, you must serve a 'notice to quit' on the tenant.

How to serve a notice to quit

A notice to quit must be in writing and under the Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 a minimum of 28 days' notice to quit the property must be given to the tenant. The notice to quit can either be served personally on the tenant or posted to the tenant at the address of the tenancy.

A notice to quit does not have a set format and will generally be an informal letter to the tenant advising them of the reason for serving the notice to quit and informing the tenant of the date when they will have to vacate the property.

Forcibly removing the tenant

At no point must you attempt to forcibly remove or evict the tenant from the property or harass the tenant (i.e. shutting of services or changing the locks whilst the tenant is out) until they leave the property as this is a criminal offence in Northern Ireland.

If the tenants fail to vacate

If the tenant fails to vacate the property at the end of the notice period, a reminder should be sent to them advising that if they do not vacate the property within a certain period (i.e. seven days) then you will commence possession proceedings in the High Court.

Order for possession

The courts will usually grant an order for possession to a landlord where the notice to quit has been served and the notice period has expired.

Once you have obtained your order for possession, you must then have this enforced in the Enforcement of Judgements Office who will enforce the order for possession and ultimately evict the tenant from the property.

Again, it should be remembered that you must go through the correct channels and at no point should you take matters into your own hands. However, if the tenant does hand over the keys and vacate the premises during this process, then you should contact your solicitor to advise them in order that the court proceedings or enforcement in the Enforcement of Judgments Office can be stopped.

Where there are rent arrears

If your tenant is in arrears of rent, it is important to deal with the matter promptly. Taking immediate action will hopefully stop the situation escalating any further.

Sending an initial letter to the tenant

The first step you should take is to send your tenant a letter pointing out that he or she is currently in arrears of rent and requesting that these arrears be paid. We recommend that all communication you have with your tenants, including demands for payment, should be in writing. This is for your own protection in the event you have to take the tenant to court.

In many cases, the tenant will pay the rent following your requests for payment. However, it is important that you start keeping detailed records in case the tenant does not pay.

Keeping records

Delivery of the initial letter

You should record the date when the letter was sent to the tenant, who the letter was given to and how it was sent (e.g. by hand, first class post). You should make a note of what is called the 'deemed date of delivery'. This term refers to the date by which the court will determine that the letter has been served on the tenant, which is not the necessarily the same day that you wrote/sent the letter.

Below you will find a table outlining the different dates of service based on how you deliver the letter. We recommend that, whenever possible, you give the letter to your tenant by hand.

Method of serviceDate of deemed delivery

Personally serving the document by handing it to the tenant

The day of personal service

Leaving the document at the property (assuming it is the last known place of abode of the tenant)

The day after it was delivered to or left at the permitted address

Registered delivery - first class (assuming it is posted to the last known place of abode of the tenant)

The second day after it was posted (so long as it is not returned)

Special delivery - guaranteed next day (assuming it is posted to the last known place of abode of the tenant)

The next day after it was posted or date of delivery advised by the Post Office (so long as it is not returned)

First class post or an alternative service which provides for delivery on the next working day

The second day after it was posted

Second class post

The third working day after it was posted

Conversations with the tenants

Although you should inform your tenant of the rent arrears in writing, you may also have spoken to the tenant about the arrears. If you have, then as soon as possible after having the conversation you should make a record of it and any other conversations you have had with the tenant as well as the outcome. Your record should include the time, date and location, as well as the name of anyone involved in the conversation and a summary of what was said and/or agreed. This information may prove valuable in case you have to take your tenant to court.

Rent arrears and financial hardship

You should start to keep a record of the rent payments due and received from the tenants, including a running balance of any arrears.

If the arrears are causing you any financial hardship then you should also retain any records or documents that you have to prove this, such as letters from your mortgage provider regarding arrears of mortgage payments, threats to repossess etc.

Giving assistance in paying rent

In your letter to the tenant informing him or her of the rent arrears, you may want to offer assistance in making their payments by allowing him or her to repay the arrears in weekly or monthly instalments. If your tenant has fallen into hard times, e.g. made redundant or recently divorced, making such an arrangement may help them pay the rent and avoid the problem escalating. If you do have to take the matter to court, showing that you have offered assistance in such a way may also help your case in court.

If the tenant does not pay

If the tenant still does not pay after following the steps above, you should serve a notice to quit giving the tenant at least 28 days' notice to quit the property (see notes above). This notice must be served on your tenants before you can apply to the court for an order for possession in Northern Ireland.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to evict the tenants yourself without a court order, for example, by changing the locks. Doing so is a criminal offence and you may be fined and/or sent to prison.