How to end a fixed term tenancy early

Your options if you want to end a fixed term tenancy agreement early.

When you can end a fixed term early

Many private tenancies start with a fixed term, often 6 or 12 months. 

Your fixed term tenancy will usually end if you leave on the last day of a fixed term contract.

You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if:

  • your contract has a break clause
  • you negotiate an end to your contract

If you can't do either of these things, your tenancy won't end and you'll still be liable for rent

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.

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.

This includes:

  • 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

Even if your circumstances have changed or there are problems in the property, you still won't have an automatic right to leave early. You will need to try and reach an agreement to surrender.

If staying in your home puts you at risk of abuse or violence, you may be able to get help with housing from the council

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 let the property to someone else

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.

You could:

  • 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.

For example:

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 23 Aug 2019 | © Shelter

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