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.

What is a fixed-term tenancy?

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 the 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.

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.

If you stay 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 periodic tenancy rolls from week to week or month to month, depending on what your contract says.

You need to give notice to end a periodic tenancy.

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 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

After the fixed term expires, any one of the joint tenants can give notice to end the joint tenancy. This ends the tenancy for all the joint tenants.

If your relationship has broken down

Get advice about your housing rights when a relationship ends.

Find out more from Citizens Advice about ending a tenancy when you separate

Still need help?

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone.

Last updated 08 Feb 2017 | © Shelter

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