When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Notice to Quit and due process

In order to lawfully evict you, your landlord must follow the correct legal procedure. Similarly, you must follow the correct procedure if you wish to leave the property.


New legislation extended notice periods temporarily. If your landlord asks you to leave the property and you receive this request on or after 5 May 2020, the landlord has to give you at least 12 weeks to move out. Speak to our advisers if you've been asked to move out with less than 12 weeks' notice.

Notice to quit

Whether you or the landlord wants to end the tenancy the correct legal procedure must be observed.  Either you or the landlord must serve a Notice to Quit on the other party in writing, including a date on which the notice will expire.

The amount of notice you are entitled to depends on how long you’ve lived in the property

  • If you have been in the property for less than 5 years you must get at least 4 weeks’ notice
  • If you’ve lived in the property for more than 5 years but less than 10 you must get at least 8 weeks’ notice
  • If you’ve lived in the property for over 10 years, you are entitled to 12 weeks’ notice.

The purpose of the Notice to Quit is to inform you of the landlord’s intention to recover possession of the property.  Normally, a tenant will leave at the end of this notice period.  However, if, for any reason, you are unable to move at the end of the notice period, the landlord must apply to the court for a possession order.  The landlord cannot change the locks in the property or force you to vacate.

If the landlord has not served a proper Notice to Quit, the court will not make an order for possession.

Do you have a tenancy agreement?

If your tenancy agreement hasn't ended yet and your landlord gives you notice to quit you can defend this action at court.  You should get advice if you are given a notice to quit.  Your landlord will have to prove that you have seriously broken the agreement and that you have failed to remedy the problem when it was brought to your attention.  The judge at court will decide whether your actions were serious enough to break the contract and whether or not you have to leave your home. 

If you have a tenancy agreement and you want to leave the property you need to get your landlord's permission in writing.  It can be difficult to get out of a tenancy before the end date if the landlord won't agree to release you.  The landlord could choose to sue you for the rent that you owe up until the contract ends.  If this happens, you will only be able to defend yourself at court if you can prove that the landlord had seriously breached the contract, that he had failed to remedy these issues when you made him aware of them and that his actions were serious enough to render the contract void.  This could be quite difficult and there is a real risk that you'll be ordered to pay the rest of the rent to the landlord.  Our adviser Stephen explains the steps you'll need to take if you want to leave your tenancy early in this useful video. 

Applying to court for a possession order

If you do not move at the end of the notice period your landlord will have to apply to court for a possession order.  If you have a fixed term tenancy agreement you may have an opportunity to defend your case in court.  You should speak to one of our advisers to get an idea of what can happen at court and whether your landlord has a strong case against you.  

If your tenancy agreement has ended and you haven't signed a new agreement a judge will always grant a possession order, even if you haven't done anything wrong.  Although your landlord still needs a court order to evict you it might be in your interests to leave when the notice to quit ends.  If your landlord goes to court, the judge won't be allowed to let you stay on in the property and you could end up having to pay the landlord's legal fees. Speak to our advisers if your landlord has applied to court to have you evicted.

Enforcing the order

Only an officer of the Enforcement of Judgements Office can remove you from your rented property.  If you do not leave willingly, the landlord will have to apply to have the possession order enforced.

It is not advisable to stay on in a rented property once a landlord has obtained a possession order.  You could end up with a hefty legal bill to pay and rent arrears.  If you’re concerned about possession action and want to find out what your housing options are, speak to one of our advisers at Housing Rights or a similar organisation.