How to end a tenancy before you move in

You’ll usually need your landlord to agree if you want to end a tenancy before you move in.

Tenancies agreed in advance

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 will usually be liable for rent from the day the tenancy starts, even if you aren’t living in the property.

What to do if you can’t 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 won’t 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 doesn't 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 can show you only agreed to it because the landlord or agent did something to mislead you.

For example if a property was advertised as having a parking space but you found out this was not true after signing the agreement. 

This is called ‘unwinding’ the contract. It can only be done within the first 90 days of an assured shorthold tenancy.

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. If they don't agree and you leave anyway they may try to take you to court for unpaid rent. The court will decide whether you can unwind the contract. 

No written agreement

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

For example, if you have paid a holding deposit, but you haven’t 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 24 May 2019 | © Shelter

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