In general, email is not usually considered a sure way to go unless the recipient has agreed to service by email in advance.
This means that if you want to be able to send notices and prescribed written information to your tenant by email, make this clear at the outset. Put this to them before or at the same time as they sign the lease, procure the appropriate email address, and of course ask them to agree in writing that they will accept service of notices by electronic mail. You will then be set up to send material like the ‘How to rent’ booklet with a few keyboard strokes.
But what if a notice is time-sensitive? Delivery failure messages sometimes take two or three days to reach the sender, and there is no real guarantee of receipt. Even if your tenant is perfectly happy to receive notice by email, this is why you really must make an exception by serving documents on paper, as old-fashioned as it seems. One of the most important exceptions is serving a notice to end the tenancy.
Ending a lease
There are so many technicalities to consider when serving a valid ‘notice to quit’. Ending a tenancy is the easiest formality to get wrong and one of the most exasperating for landlords. If your notice to quit isn’t valid for some reason, it may mean huge delays in securing an eviction order, which is even more painful if your tenant isn’t keeping up with rent payments in the meantime.
Bringing an end to the tenancy will involve serving a valid S21 or S8 notice, but whether or not each party has agreed to service by email, we always advise sending the notices by hand. The safest way is to put the written notice directly into the hands of your tenant or, failing that, posting it through their letterbox yourself.
If you suspect your tenant might deny receiving a notice, take extra precautions by engaging a professional process server, or at least take an independent witness with you. Savvy landlords may even film the handover on a smartphone.
If hand delivery really isn’t an option, send the notice to quit by post. At the very least obtain proof of postage (though this doesn’t prove that anything was received) or pay for recorded delivery (but remember that your tenant may simply refuse to sign).
Given the implications of getting it wrong, serving a notice to quit by email is not worth the risk. If you are a landlord who needs advice on communicating with your tenants, terminating a tenancy, or any other aspect of property rental, get in touch with our specialist landlord and tenant team. They’re happy to help.