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How to end an assured shorthold tenancy

This content applies to England

This page looks at how to end an assured shorthold tenancy.

Tenant giving up a fixed term tenancy

A tenant can end a fixed term tenancy by:

  • surrendering the tenancy
  • giving notice (where there is a break clause)
  • leaving on the last day.

Surrender

A surrender is a voluntary agreement between the landlord and tenant that the tenancy has come to an end. A surrender will terminate a fixed-term tenancy.

The surrender of a joint tenancy will only be effective where all the joint tenants are party to it.[1]

See Surrender for more information.

Giving notice

A notice to quit by the tenant will not bring the fixed term to an end. Unless there is a clause in the tenancy agreement that allows for the tenant to give notice, known as a break clause, the tenant will be bound by the terms of the agreement until it expires.

See Notice to quit: Tenants for more information.

Leaving on the last day

The general rule is that the tenant can leave on the last day of a fixed-term tenancy without giving notice, and this will end the tenancy.[2] If the tenant remains even a day longer than the last day of a fixed-term tenancy, a statutory periodic assured shorthold tenancy will arise, which the tenant can end by serving a valid notice to quit.

Contractual periodic tenancy arising at the end of fixed term

Where the tenancy agreement contains a clause providing that a periodic tenancy will arise immediately on expiry of the fixed term, a contractual periodic tenancy that arises will be a continuation of the original tenancy. In this circumstance, the tenant cannot end the tenancy by leaving on the last day of the fixed-term agreement. To end the tenancy, the tenant must serve a valid notice to quit after the date on which the fixed term ends.

Clause requiring that landlord is informed of intention to leave

A clause in the tenancy agreement may require the tenant to inform the landlord if s/he intends to leave on the last day of a fixed term. If the tenant fails to inform the landlord in accordance with the agreement, the landlord may be able to argue that s/he has suffered a loss and/or incurred extra costs as a consequence. 

The now archived Guidance on Unfair terms in tenancy agreements had suggested that any contractual term requiring the tenant to give notice to terminate the tenancy at the end of the fixed term would be unfair and thus unenforceable.[3] This position has not been tested in the courts.

Tenant giving up a periodic tenancy

If the tenancy is periodic, either contractual or statutory periodic, the following will apply:

  • surrender by the tenant will bring the tenancy to an end if the landlord agrees (see Surrender for more information)
  • a valid notice to quit by the tenant will end the tenancy (see Notice to quit: Tenants for more information).

Tenancy ceases to be assured

An assured shorthold tenancy may cease to be assured in the following circumstances:

  • varying the tenancy terms - the landlord and tenant agree to vary the terms of the assured shorthold tenancy in such a way that it no longer has assured status. For example where the rent is changed so that it falls into the category of 'low rent' or 'high rent', this would exclude the tenancy from being assured.[4] Such a change in the rent may result in the tenant becoming a tenant with basic protection or an excluded occupier (see Basic protection/excluded occupiers for more information)
  • tenant ceases to occupy as only or principal home - the tenant ceases to occupy the accommodation as her/his 'only or principal home' (see What is an assured tenancy? for more about the 'only and principal home' rule and its application)
  • subletting - the tenant of a registered social landlord sublets, or parts with possession of, her/his social accommodation in breach of an express or implied term of the tenancy agreement (see Social housing fraud for more information about criminal and civil consequences relating to the unauthorised subletting of social housing)[5]
  • Home Office 'no right to rent' notice - where the Home Office serves a disqualification from renting notice under section 33D(2) of the Immigration Act 2014 on the landlord naming all of the occupiers in premises held on an assured tenancy, the assured tenancy is converted into an excluded tenancy[6] and the landlord may serve no less that 28 days' notice to evict (on a prescribed form). See the page Right to rent immigration checks for details.

Landlord regains possession

In order to regain possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy, a landlord must obtain a court order. To begin the process the landlord must serve the required notice on the tenant.

Notice of seeking possession

As with other assured tenancies the landlord can serve a notice of seeking possession (NSP), specifying the ground(s) on which possession is being sought (see the pages Notices: Assured tenancies and Grounds for possession: Assured tenancies for further information).

Section 21 notice

With assured shorthold tenancies, the landlord can also obtain possession under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, without having to prove any grounds for possession. For more information about the requirements when using the section 21 notice procedure see Notices: Assured shorthold tenancies.

Social landlords with assured shorthold tenants should follow the Pre-action Protocol for Possession Cases by Social Landlords before pursuing possession proceedings.

Rent repayment after expiry of section 21 notice - only applicable to tenancies started on or after 1 October 2015

An assured shorthold tenant is entitled to a rent repayment from the landlord where:[7]

  • the tenancy was brought to an end following the service of a section 21 notice
  • s/he paid rent in advance, and;
  • the period of the tenancy for which rent was paid had not expired.

The formula for calculating the repayment is R × D ÷ P, where:

  • R is the rent paid for the final period
  • D is the number of whole days of the final period for which the tenant was not in occupation of the dwelling-house
  • P is the number of whole days in that period.

Unlawful discrimination

It is unlawful for a person managing any premises to discriminate against a person with a 'relevant protected characteristic' (ie disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or belief) by evicting them. The Equality Act 2010 has incorporated all previous anti-discrimination provisions into a single Act and simplified the law to make it easier to tackle discrimination and inequality. Transitional arrangements prescribe the situations in which the pre-existing legislation repealed or revoked by the Act still applies.

For further information see the Equality law section. For more about transitional arrangements see the Equality Act 2010: implementation dates.

The Disability discrimination page has information relevant to disabled tenants.

[1] Leek and Moorlands Building Society [1952] 2 All ER 492, CA.

[2] Right d. Flower v. Darby (1786) 1 T.R. 159; Cobb v Stokes (1807) 8 East 358.

[3] Guidance on Unfair terms in tenancy agreements, Competition and Markets Authority (formerly Office of Fair Trading), 2005, para 3.78 (archived).

[4] paras 2, 2A, 3, 3A and 3B, Sch.1 Housing Act 1988.

[5] s.15A Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.6 Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013; in England, in force with effect from 15 October 2013 under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 (Commencement) (England) Order 2013 SI 2013/2622.

[6] s.3A(7D) Protection from Eviction Act 1977 inserted by s.40(5) Immigration Act 2016.

[7] s.21C Housing Act 1988 as inserted by s.40 Deregulation Act 2015; Deregulation Act 2015 (Commencement No. 1 and Transitional and Saving Provisions) Order 2015; with effect from 1 October 2018, see also s.41(3) Deregulation Act 2015.

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