How tenants can end a fixed term tenancy

You can't end a fixed term tenancy early unless your landlord agrees or there's a break clause in your agreement.

Ways to end a fixed term tenancy

Most private tenancy agreements are assured shorthold tenancies and many start with a fixed term, for example, a 12-month contract.

If you sign a renewal agreement for a further fixed term at the end of your contract, you'll have another fixed term tenancy.

You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if one of the following applies:

  • the contract contains a break clause
  • your landlord agrees you can leave - this is called a 'surrender' 

If you can't end your fixed term tenancy early and you leave, you can still be liable for rent until the end of the fixed term.

If you leave by the last day of the fixed term, your tenancy usually ends automatically on that day even if you don't give notice. But check your contract because some agreements require notice to stop the tenancy continuing beyond the fixed term.  

If you have an assured shorthold tenancy and stay beyond the fixed term without signing a new agreement, your tenancy continues as a periodic tenancy. This means a rolling tenancy with no fixed end date. You must give notice to end a periodic tenancy.

Joint tenants

You're a joint tenant if there's more than 1 person named as a tenant in the agreement.

You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if all the joint tenants agree to act together.

If you're separating from a partner, you still need to try and reach an agreement. 

The tenancy ends on the last day of the fixed term if all the joint tenants leave on or before this date. But it continues for everyone if any of the joint tenants stay on without agreeing a new contract.

After a fixed term ends, any of the joint tenants can give notice to end the joint tenancy even if the others don't agree. This ends the tenancy for all the joint tenants.

Using a break clause to end your tenancy early

A break clause allows you to end the tenancy before the end of the fixed term.

If your tenancy agreement contains a break clause, it will say:

  • when the break clause applies (such as 6 months after the tenancy starts)
  • how much notice you have to give

You don't need your landlord's permission to use a break clause.

You must give notice in writing. Deliver your letter by hand (ask for a receipt) or post it using recorded delivery.

You can only use email to give notice if your agreement says you can.

Surrendering the tenancy

You can only surrender your tenancy if your landlord agrees you can leave your tenancy early. Your landlord may be more willing to accept a surrender of your tenancy if you can find a replacement tenant to move in.

Ask your landlord to confirm your agreed leaving date in writing. This will help avoid misunderstandings and problems later.

Your landlord can deduct money for unpaid rent from your tenancy deposit, so it's important you can prove when your tenancy ended.

Leaving on the last day of the fixed term

A fixed term tenancy usually ends automatically if you leave by the last day of a fixed term contract. 

It’s a good idea to let your landlord know you intend to leave. It can help avoid problems with references or deductions from your tenancy deposit.

Check if you need to give notice to leave 

Your tenancy agreement may say you must tell your landlord if you intend to leave on the last day and when to say you're leaving. If you don't do this, your landlord might be able to claim money from you for breaking a term of your contract.

With some fixed term tenancy agreements, your tenancy becomes a contractual periodic tenancy when the fixed term ends. 

Your tenancy agreement may say something like: 'this contract is for a fixed term of 12 months and thereafter your tenancy will continue as a contractual periodic tenancy'.

To end a contractual periodic tenancy, you must give your landlord a valid notice to quit after the fixed term expires. Your contract may include a term setting out how much notice you need to give.

If you leave without giving notice

Your tenancy doesn't end just because you leave the property.  

It's called 'abandonment' or 'abandoning your tenancy' if you leave without ending your tenancy properly.

Abandonment could include:

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

It's not abandonment if you get your landlord’s agreement to end your tenancy early.

You will owe rent until you end your tenancy correctly or your landlord re-lets the property.

Your landlord can deduct money from your tenancy deposit or 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.

Still need help?

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone.

Last updated 13 Mar 2019 | © Shelter

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