If you have a fixed term tenancy with a private landlord and you want to leave before it ends, your landlord can insist that you keep paying rent for the full length of the tenancy. You can't simply end it by giving notice.
There are some exceptions, for example if your tenancy agreement contains a break clause that allows you to end the agreement before the end of the fixed term.
Ending a tenancy early
Even if your tenancy agreement doesn't say you can end it early, it's worth asking if your landlord is willing to negotiate. The landlord is under no obligation to do this, but it may be convenient for both of you, for example, if the landlord is planning to repair and redecorate the property.
They may be prepared to let you get out of the agreement. This is called 'surrendering' the tenancy. For a surrender to be valid, both sides must agree to it. Ask for any agreement to be put in writing, in case of a dispute later on in the tenancy.
The landlord and all the joint tenants must agree to the surrender if you have a joint tenancy.
Leaving on the last day of a fixed term contract
Normally, you can leave on the last day of your fixed term agreement without giving any notice to your landlord.
But check your tenancy agreement first. You will have to give notice to your landlord if it says something like:
- you must tell your landlord if you intend to leave on the last day
- when the fixed term expires the tenancy will continue as a contractual periodic tenancy
How much notice you have to give when this is your situation depends on what your agreement says.
It is always best to let the landlord know what you intend to do regardless of what is in your tenancy agreement. This can help avoid any disputes, for example about the return of your tenancy deposit.
Staying beyond the end of the fixed term
If you stay beyond the end of the fixed term, even for just one day, you automatically become a periodic tenant. Your tenancy will run from month to month or week to week, and you will normally be able to give either one months' notice or four weeks' notice to end it. Check your tenancy agreement you may have to give more.
Your landlord can usually end a periodic assured shorthold tenancy by giving you two months' notice.
It's common for landlords to ask you to sign a new fixed-term tenancy agreement at this point. But some will just let the tenancy keep going on a periodic basis.
Giving the landlord notice during a fixed term
You cannot end the tenancy during the fixed term without your landlord's agreement unless your tenancy agreement contains a 'break clause'. This is a term in the agreement that lets you end the agreement before the end of the fixed-term.
If there is a break clause, it will tell you when you can serve notice, how much notice you have to give and whether there are any special procedures you have to follow.
Finding someone else to take over the tenancy
It may be possible to find someone to take over the rest of your tenancy if you have to leave your tenancy early and want to try to avoid paying rent on two homes.
You must get the landlord's agreement for another person to move into the property. The landlord may want to check references for them. Check that the landlord will give the new person their own tenancy or licence agreement, otherwise, you are still legally responsible for the tenancy.
Leaving before the end of the fixed term
Leaving your tenancy without giving notice, by moving all your things out and then posting the keys through the letterbox, is called 'abandonment'. It won't end your agreement, even though you've left the property. Your landlord can carry on charging you rent until the fixed term of your agreement comes to an end.
The landlord can apply for a court order to make you pay what you owe. The court decides whether you should have to pay your landlord the money or not. If the landlord has managed to let out the property, they can't claim any rent from you after the new tenant has moved in.
Leaving this way may also make it harder for you to find a new home. Most private landlords ask new tenants for references from previous landlords, and might not rent to anyone who has abandoned a tenancy or licence in the past or has a history of rent arrears.
Try to make sure that you have somewhere to go when you leave. If you need to apply as homeless in the future, the council may decide that you are intentionally homeless because you left a home that you could have stayed in. This means you might get less help from the council.
Joint tenancy or licence
You have a joint tenancy or licence if you share your home with a spouse, partner, family member or friend, and both or all of your names are on the agreement.
Talk to the other joint tenants first if you want to leave. It may be possible for someone else to take your place, or for the landlord to draw up a new agreement to those who are staying.
You can only end a fixed term joint tenancy if your landlord and all the other joint tenants agree to it, or if there's a break clause in your agreement, and all the other tenants agree to use it.
The actions of each individual person affects everyone's rights. For example if one of you:
- leaves without ending the tenancy properly, the whole rent is still owed and the other tenants have to pay the missing person's share
- has caused damage, the landlord may have the right to take money out of your shared deposit
Put your agreement in writing, so that you have some proof if there are any disagreements later.