What happens if you don't end your tenancy legally
Find out the consequences of leaving a tenancy early without bringing it to a legal end.
When your rental liability ends
You're liable to pay rent if you don't end your tenancy properly - even if you move out.
How to end your liability to pay rent depends on whether you:
have a fixed term tenancy and want to leave early
want to leave your fixed term tenancy at the end of the contract
have a monthly or weekly periodic tenancy
If the landlord finds a new tenant
Your tenancy ends automatically if the landlord lets the property or room to someone else.
Once a new tenancy begins, your contract ends and you're no longer liable for rent.
Your landlord doesn't have to look for a new tenant, but they probably will if you:
return the keys to them
remove your belongings from the property
explain that you've left and are unable to continue to pay rent
You're still liable for rent until the property is let to new tenants unless the landlord releases you from the contract or you can end it by giving written notice. Check if a new tenant has been found after you move out.
Your landlord or agent are unlikely to give you a good reference if you leave the contract early without their agreement.
This could make it harder to find somewhere to rent in the future.
What happens to your deposit
Your landlord will probably refuse to return your deposit if you don't end your tenancy correctly.
They can keep it to cover things like:
cleaning or damage
the costs of finding new tenants if you left early
Your deposit should be protected in a scheme if you had an assured shorthold tenancy.
You can use the scheme's free dispute resolution service if you disagree with the amount that is withheld.
If your deposit isn't protected, you could consider claiming compensation. Your landlord might counterclaim if you owe them money.
Risk of court action by the landlord
Your landlord can take court action if you owe them money.
They have up to 6 years to make a claim.
They will need your name and address. They could find you at a later date even if you don't give a forwarding address.
It's usually best to settle things before they get to court.
When a court orders you to pay a debt to someone, it's known as a county court judgement (CCJ). It could affect your credit rating.
Having a CCJ could make it harder to find somewhere to rent in future. Most letting agents and some landlords carry out credit checks on new tenants
Last updated: 22 August 2019