You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if your contract has a break clause or by negotiating with your landlord.
When you can end a fixed term early
Most private tenancies are assured shorthold tenancies. Many start with a fixed term, often 6 or 12 months.
You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if:
- your contract has a break clause
- you negotiate an end to your contract
You have a fixed term tenancy if your contract has an end date that has not yet passed.
If your agreement has no end date or it has passed, you probably have a periodic tenancy which must be ended in a different way.
If you don't end your tenancy legally, you may still be liable for rent
Using a break clause
Your agreement may say you can give notice if you need to move out early.
This is called a break clause. It will usually say you must give notice in writing.
When your notice ends:
- the tenancy ends
- your right to live there ends
- you're not liable for ongoing rent
In a joint tenancy, all the tenants must agree to use a break clause unless the agreement says otherwise
Finding a break clause in your agreement
Not all agreements have a break clause. They are more common in longer fixed term tenancies. You can ask for one when you agree a new contract.
There's no standard format for a break clause.
Look for anything about giving notice or terminating the tenancy early.
'Not every tenancy agreement has a break clause'
Our adviser Alun explains how to check your contract for a break clause.
How to use a break clause
Your contract should say how to use the break clause.
It’s important to follow what it says to make sure you end your tenancy legally.
- how much notice to give
- when you can give notice
- where to send your notice
For example, a break clause might say you can give 2 months’ written notice once you are 6 months into the tenancy.
The break clause should be clear and easy to understand. Ask your landlord to explain it in writing if you're unsure when it can be used.
Negotiate with your landlord
You can end your fixed term tenancy early if you reach a mutual agreement with your landlord. This is known as a surrender.
If you have a joint tenancy agreement, all tenants will need to agree to the surrender.
'Tips on negotiating a surrender'
Our adviser Jayne offers some tips on how to negotiate a surrender.
Explain why you want to leave
Your landlord may consider a surrender if, for example, you:
- can't afford the rent
- need to move for work
- have a relationship breakdown
- are at risk of violence or abuse in your home
Make it easy to relet the property
Your landlord may want to find new tenants before they'll agree to a surrender.
You can help your landlord find new tenants by
- being flexible about viewings
- keeping the property clean and tidy before any viewings
Find tenants yourself
You could offer to look for new tenants if your landlord is happy with this.
- ask friends, family or colleagues if they know anyone
- use social media, property websites or forums to advertise
Your landlord may want new tenants to pass reference or credit checks.
Make sure new tenants sign a new agreement with the landlord and pay any deposit directly to them, not to you
Agree conditions for a surrender
Your landlord might ask you to meet certain conditions before they agree to a surrender. For example:
- giving up your deposit
- paying the rent until new tenants move in
Some landlords or agents may agree to a surrender if you pay a fee.
For contracts signed on or after 1 June 2019, fees can only cover reasonable costs.
If a fee seems high, ask for a breakdown of what it covers.
Get any conditions attached to the surrender in writing, including the date your rental liability ends
Problems with your landlord
If your landlord or agent hasn’t followed their legal obligations, you could offer to overlook problems in exchange for an early release from the agreement.
- your deposit wasn't protected correctly
- your landlord won't do repairs
- your home doesn't meet HMO licensing rules
You're liable for rent even if your landlord breaches their legal obligations. You still need to reach an agreement to surrender the tenancy.
Last updated 24 May 2019 | © Shelter
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