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Is written notice to quit valid if served by email or text?

To end a tenancy either the landlord or the tenant must serve a Notice to Quit.  But, can that notice be served electronically?  We’ve asked our Legal Team to investigate.  Carmel Ferguson reports.

8 August 2013
  • Tenancy
  • Notice to quit

The law regarding Notice to Quit

Article 14 Of the Private Tenancies Order 2006 states that—

  1. A notice by a landlord or tenant to quit a dwelling-house let under a private tenancy shall not be valid unless it is given in writing not less than 4 weeks before the date on which it is to take effect.
  2. Paragraph (1) applies whether the private tenancy was granted before or after the commencement of this Order.

This was subsequently amended by the Housing Amendment Act Northern Ireland 2011 which requires that Notice periods are a minimum of

  • 28 days if the tenancy has been in existence for less than 5 years
  • 8 weeks if the tenancy has existed for between 5 and 10 years
  • 12 weeks if the tenancy has existed for more than 10 years.

Serving a notice electronically

The legislation as drafted does not specifically mention what “in writing” constitutes and whether an email or text would suffice.  It is obvious however that electronic communication is now used more and more in everyday life. Courts now not only allow but actively encourage service of documents by electronic means but there does not appear to be any reported case law dealing with the issue of whether electronic service of a Notice to Quit is valid.

In cases where documents have been served electronically this method of service does not appear to have been questioned by the courts. Referring to service of notice in writing at a tribunal case, His Honour Judge Hand QC said:

“I include within the concept of written notice modern methods of communication such as the SMS text message, internet based so-called instant messaging and email. Here the email was used as a medium to convey an electronic version of the letter of dismissal, which was attached but, no doubt, any of these methods could be used to convey the notice itself.” Wang v University of Keele… UKEAT/0223/10/CEA 

Proof of receipt

When serving Notice to Quit some people choose to use a recorded delivery service or ask an independent person to witness delivery to prove that the Notice has been received. 

If you decide to serve a Notice by email you need to make sure that you have proof that the recipient has received and read the document.  You could ask the person to confirm receipt or set up your email account so that you receive notification once it has been read.

Summary and other resources

A Notice to Quit served by email or text should be valid providing the Notice contains all the required information and has been received by the intended recipient.  Many tenancy agreements specify how a Notice to Quit should be served so if in doubt, check your agreement.

  • Members of Housing Rights who have a niggling legal question can ask Carmel and her legal colleauges to investigate at our regular Housing Advice Practitioners Forum
  • Members can also carry out legal research in our on-site library, filled with text books, case reports and journals.  
  • Housing Rights  publishes a range of Professional Resources dealing with issues in the Private Rented Sector
  • Our advice website contains loads of information and advice for both private tenants and their landlords

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