How can you terminate a Residential Tenancy Agreement?
In this three part blog series for ‘BCR Law Explains…’, we explore the key aspects of a residential tenancy agreement (‘RTA’), the statutory protections they provide, how they can come to an end, how they can be breached and what can be done to remedy those breaches.
In the last instalment we looked at what an RTA is, how they can be created and some of its key features. In this instalment we look at terminating a residential tenancy agreement or how they can come to an end.
Just as an RTA can be created by agreement, the Residential Tenancy (Jersey) Law 2011 (the “2011 Law”) provides that they can also be terminated by agreement, on whatever terms the parties consider necessary, provided of course, that the terms of termination are not inconsistent with the provisions of the 2011 Law. A tenancy may be terminated by agreement at any time and for any reason.
Expiration of a Fixed Term
Where an RTA is granted on a fixed term basis (in other words for a set period of time, for example one year) the RTA will automatically come to an end upon the expiration of that fixed term. Strictly, there is no requirement for a landlord to give notice to the tenant to vacate the property – the tenant must return the property to the possession of the landlord at the end of the term. If the tenant has obligations in respect of the state of repair, or redecoration, any such works must also be completed by the date the fixed term expires. The condition of the property at the end of the RTA will be checked by reference to the condition report agreed by the landlord and tenant at the start of the RTA.
It would, however, be sensible for a landlord to be proactive. If the landlord requires their property back at the end of that fixed term, they should ensure that they make their tenant aware of that fact as early as possible and ensure that they take early steps to secure vacant possession of their property from the tenant at the end of that fixed term.
If at the end of the fixed term, the tenant remains in occupation of the property and the landlord continues to accept rent for any appreciable period (which can be as short as one month) the parties will be deemed to have created a further tenancy by operation of the doctrine of tacite réconduction (tacit renewal). Where a new tenancy is created in that way, the tenancy will continue on the same terms as the previous RTA (apart from the length of the term and any guarantees that might have been given under the terms of the previous RTA). An RTA created by tacite réconduction is, in effect, a periodic tenancy which can either be terminated by agreement (see above) or by the giving of notice in accordance with the provisions of the 2011 Law (see below).
By Giving Notice
A periodic tenancy can be terminated by the giving of notice, provided that the notice given complies with the requirements of the 2011 Law. Notice can be given regardless of whether the parties have breached the terms of their RTA. An RTA will automatically terminate upon the expiration of the period provided in the notice and the tenant is required to provide vacant possession to the landlord on, or before that date.
The notice periods provided by the 2011 Law are absolute minimums and they will apply regardless of whether the parties agree that shorter periods should apply. That said, there is nothing to prevent the parties agreeing that longer notice periods will apply, although in practice that rarely occurs. Where notice is given by a landlord it must be in writing and signed by or on behalf of the landlord and must be served on the tenant not less than three months prior to the date on which is to take effect. Where notice is given by a tenant it must also be in writing and signed by, or on behalf of the tenant and served at least one month before the date on which it is to take effect. The notice must also make clear that the tenant is terminating the RTA by giving that notice.
By Court Order
Finally, an RTA can be terminated by Court Order in the context of an application brought by either the landlord or the tenant.
Generally speaking, it will be a landlord who makes such an application in circumstances where a tenant is said to have breached the terms of their RTA. That said it is open to a tenant to bring an application to terminate their RTA. Such an application might be made where, for example, the property has been rendered uninhabitable or in circumstances where the landlord has breached the terms of the RTA.
We shall explore the issue of the orders which the Court can make in relation to residential tenancy agreements in greater detail in the next instalment of this series.