How tenants can end a fixed-term tenancy

You can't end a fixed-term tenancy early unless your landlord agrees or you have a break clause that allows you to end your agreement.

Fixed-term tenancies

If you're a private tenant your tenancy agreement or contract is usually for a fixed term of 6 or 12 months.

If your fixed term has ended and you haven't signed a new agreement you probably have a 'periodic' tenancy and can usually give notice to leave.

Ending a tenancy before the fixed term ends

You can't end a tenancy agreement before the fixed term ends unless either of the following apply:

  • you have a break clause in your tenancy agreement that lets you give notice to end the agreement early, or
  • your landlord agrees to you leaving the tenancy (known as 'surrendering')

If you surrender the tenancy, get your landlord's agreement in writing if possible to avoid disputes later.

Giving notice if you have a break clause

If your tenancy agreement has a break clause you can give notice to end the agreement before the fixed term ends.

Your tenancy agreement will tell you:

  • when the break clause applies (this could be 6 months after the start of the tenancy)
  • how much notice you have to give

You must give notice in writing – don't use email unless your agreement says you can. You should to deliver it by hand (ask for a receipt) or post it using recorded delivery.

Leaving without giving notice

You must get your landlord’s agreement to end your tenancy early. Just leaving your home does not end your tenancy.

Leaving before the fixed term ends without giving notice and without the landlord agreeing is known as 'abandonment'. 

Abandonment includes:

  • posting the keys through the letterbox
  • leaving and not going back
  • just telling the landlord that you're leaving

You will still owe rent until your tenancy is properly ended. Your landlord can apply for a court order to make you pay what you owe.

If you've abandoned a tenancy or have rent arrears it can be harder to find a new home.

Leaving early if you have a joint tenancy

You're a joint tenant if there's more than one name on the agreement.

If you want to leave you must all agree to end the tenancy and can end it if you do both of the following:

  • agree with the landlord to surrender it
  • give the required notice if there's a break clause

Leaving at the end of your fixed term

You can normally leave on the last day of your fixed-term agreement without giving your landlord notice.

Check to see if your tenancy agreement says you must give notice and how much you must give. You must give notice if it says something like:

  • you must tell your landlord if you plan to leave on the last day
  • when the fixed term expires the tenancy will continue as a periodic tenancy

You should let your landlord know what you plan to do to avoid disputes.

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