How to end a tenancy before you move in

Tenancies agreed in advance are usually binding whether you move in or not.

This includes tenancy agreements signed in person, by post or online.

There is no ‘cooling off’ period for tenancies.

You are usually liable for rent from the day the tenancy starts even if you are not living in the property.

What to do if you cannot move in

You can try and negotiate with your landlord to end the tenancy before it begins.

Your landlord may consider agreeing to end the tenancy if you have a good reason. For example:

  • you will not be able to afford the rent

  • you are no longer going to university in the area

You'll be liable for rent until your tenancy ends if your landlord does not agree.

Your tenancy normally ends automatically if your landlord moves a new tenant in to the property.

Unwinding the contract

You may be able to end the contract if you only signed it because the landlord or agent told you something that was not true. This is called a misleading action.

For example, the property was advertised as furnished but you were told to get your own furniture after signing the contract. 

Ending the contract because of a misleading action is called ‘unwinding’.

It’s not enough for the landlord or agent to have failed to mention something. You can only unwind the contract if they deliberately did something to mislead you

Ask your landlord or agent to agree to end the tenancy if you think you were misled. You have to do it within the first 90 days of your tenancy. You can ask for your money back.

If you landlord does not agree, your contract continues even if you move out. Your landlord may take you to court for unpaid rent.

Only the court can end your contract if the landlord refuses your request. Going to court may be expensive and you will need legal advice.

No written agreement

You may not have a binding agreement if you have discussed entering into a tenancy but have not taken any further steps to agree a contract.

For example, if you have paid a holding deposit, but you have not moved in, and you are waiting for the agent to draw up the tenancy agreement.

If you move in without a written agreement

You can have a tenancy even if there is no written agreement.

If you move into a property and start paying rent this will usually create a periodic tenancy.

You will need to give the correct notice or negotiate with the landlord if you want to leave.


Last updated: 8 March 2022

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