How to end a fixed term tenancy early
Negotiate with your landlord
You don't have an automatic right to end the tenancy early even if:
your situation has changed
there are problems with the property or landlord
You'll need to negotiate with the landlord or agent if you can't use a break clause.
If you reach an agreement to end the tenancy early, it's called a surrender.
How to communicate with your landlord
Keep communications polite and friendly.
Put things in writing. Email can be a good way to keep track of things.
Your first email or message should set out:
why you want to leave
any suggestions for a replacement tenant
Contact the agent first if you usually deal with them. The agent acts on behalf of your landlord and can put proposals to them.
If the agent is unhelpful you can contact your landlord directly.
If you want to leave because of coronavirus
Your landlord may be sympathetic if they understand that your situation has changed as a result of the outbreak.
Let your landlord know if, for example, you:
can't afford the rent because you've lost your job or been furloughed
can't return to your tenancy because of lockdown or travel restrictions
have been told to stay at your parents and access your university course online
need to move urgently because you or a family member are sick or need support
If you want to leave for other reasons
Your landlord could consider a surrender for other reasons. For example, if you:
have a relationship breakdown
are at risk of violence or abuse in your home
You could let your landlord know if your living situation is made worse by the lockdown.
Problems with the property or 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, if your:
You're liable for rent even if your landlord breaches their legal obligations. You still need to reach an agreement to surrender the tenancy.
Your landlord's response
Your landlord might ask you to meet certain conditions before they will agree to an early end to your fixed term tenancy.
For example, they might ask you to:
pay a fee
give up your deposit
find a replacement tenant
pay the rent until new tenants move in
Any fee charged can only cover reasonable costs.
If a fee seems high, ask for a breakdown of what it covers.
Finding a replacement tenant
Some landlords will agree to a surrender if they're confident that another tenant can move in and start paying rent when you leave.
You may be able to help find a new tenant if, for example:
you can put photos, videos or adverts online
a friend or family member who has already seen the property is interested
Make sure new tenants sign a new agreement with the landlord and pay any deposit directly to them, not to you.
Reaching an agreement with your landlord
You should carefully consider any response from your landlord even if they attach conditions to the surrender of the tenancy.
If the conditions seem reasonable or would at least allow you to leave without any further liability for rent, this may be your best option.
You can reach an agreement to end the tenancy early without a formal 'deed of surrender' although some landlords might insist on this legal document.
Make sure you get any conditions attached to the surrender in writing, including the date your rental liability ends.
Last updated: 12 January 2021