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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.

Fixed-term tenancies

Your tenancy agreement or contract is usually set for a fixed term such as 12 or 18 months if you are a private tenant.

You'll continue to be a fixed term tenant if you sign another tenancy agreement for a further fixed term.

Ending the tenancy before the fixed term expires

You can end a tenancy agreement before the fixed term expires if:

  • there's a break clause that lets you give notice early
  • your landlord agrees you can leave ('surrendering the tenancy')

Using a break clause to end your tenancy early

Check your tenancy agreement to see if it has a break clause. A break clause allows you to end the tenancy before the end of the fixed term.

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

Your tenancy agreement will tell you:

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

You must give notice in writing.

Deliver your letter by hand (ask for a receipt) or post it using recorded delivery.

Don't use email to give notice unless your agreement says you can.

Surrendering your tenancy

You can only surrender your tenancy if your landlord agrees.

Get your landlord to confirm this in writing. It will help avoid misunderstandings and problems later.

For example, your landlord can deduct money for unpaid rent from your tenancy deposit. It's important you can prove when your tenancy ended.

Ending the tenancy after the fixed term expires

If your fixed term has ended and you haven't signed a new tenancy agreement, you will have a periodic tenancy.

A period tenancy rolls from week to week or month to month, depending on what your contract says.

You will need to give notice to end a periodic tenancy.

Leaving on the last day of the fixed term

Check your tenancy agreement to see what it says about giving your landlord notice before you leave.

You must give notice if your agreement says:

  • 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

It should also say how much notice you must give.

You don't need to give your landlord notice that you will leave on the last day of your fixed-term agreement unless your contract says you have to.

Leaving 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

You will still 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.

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

Ending a joint tenancy

You're a joint tenant if there's more than one tenant named in the tenancy agreement.

You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if all the joint tenants:

  • decide to use a break clause and give the required notice
  • get the landlord's agreement to surrender the tenancy

Once the fixed term has expired, any one of the joint tenants can give notice to end the joint tenancy. This will end the tenancy for all the joint tenants.

Find out more about joint tenancies.

If your relationship has broken down

See the Citizens Advice online guide to housing rights in rented homes when a relationship ends.

Still need help?

Call Shelter’s free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444


Last updated 08 Feb 2017 | © Shelter

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