Tenant ends an assured or assured shorthold tenancy

How a tenant can end an assured or assured shorthold tenancy by surrender, using a break clause or giving notice to quit.

This content applies to England

How a tenant can end fixed term tenancy early

A tenant can end a tenancy during a fixed term contract by either:

  • surrendering the tenancy

  • giving notice in line with a break clause

Surrender

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

Surrender can be express or implied. Implied surrender involves an unequivocal act or acts by both the tenant and landlord that are inconsistent with the continuation of the tenancy.[1] For example, the tenant hands the keys over to the landlord with an intention to end the tenancy and the landlord accepts the keys and agrees to the tenancy ending.

If the tenant simply put the keys through the landlord's letterbox, this is only an offer of surrender not a surrender itself.[2]

A joint tenancy can only be surrendered if all the joint tenants agree.[3]

Break clause

The tenant can only give notice to end a fixed term tenancy if there is a break clause. A break clause is a term in the contract that allows the tenant to end the agreement early.

A break clause usually specifies the form and length of the notice required to end the tenancy. The tenant normally needs to give written notice.

Tenant leaves by the last day of the fixed term

The common law rule is that a tenant can leave on the last day of a fixed term tenancy without giving notice and this ends the tenancy. [4]

If the tenant remains even a day longer than the last day of a fixed-term tenancy a statutory periodic assured tenancy arises automatically. The tenant can end a statutory periodic tenancy by serving a valid notice to quit.

Tenancy states it continues as a periodic tenancy

A tenant cannot end a fixed term tenancy by leaving on the last day of the fixed term if the agreement provides that it continues as a contractual periodic tenancy. For example, if the agreement states that the landlord agrees to let for a term of 6 months and thereafter continuing on a monthly basis. The Court of Appeal has held that this type of clause would create a single contractual tenancy which is initially for a fixed term and then continues as a periodic tenancy.[5]

The tenant can end the tenancy by giving notice once it becomes periodic. The contract might specify the amount of notice they need to give.

Clause requiring that landlord is informed of intention to leave

The tenancy agreement might require the tenant to inform the landlord if they intend to leave on the last day of a fixed term. If the tenant does not inform the landlord then the tenancy still ends, as long as the agreement does not provide that it continues as a contractual periodic tenancy.

If the tenant fails to inform the landlord in accordance with the agreement, the landlord may be able to argue that they have suffered a loss or incurred extra costs as a consequence. The landlord could try to bring a claim against the tenant for damages.

The archived Guidance on Unfair terms in tenancy agreements 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 unenforceable.

How a tenant can end a periodic tenancy

A tenant can end a periodic tenancy by giving valid notice to quit.

A notice to quit must be in writing. The notice period must be at least four weeks, or equivalent to the period of the tenancy if this is longer.

The tenant might need to give a longer period of notice if they have a contractual periodic tenancy and this is specified in the contract. The tenancy is contractual periodic if:

  • it was periodic from the beginning, without a fixed term

  • the contract provides that it continues as a periodic tenancy at the end of the fixed term

If the tenancy is statutory periodic then any clause in the initial fixed term about ending the tenancy has no effect. This includes a clause requiring the tenant to give a longer notice to quit.

The tenant can also end a periodic tenancy by agreeing a surrender with the landlord.

Tenancy ceases to be assured or assured shorthold

An assured or assured shorthold tenancy ceases to be assured if the tenant no longer occupies the property as their only or principal home. 

The tenancy stops being assured if the rent is increased to a very low or high rent.[6] The tenant usually becomes a tenant with basic protection.

For social housing tenancies, subletting in breach of an express or implied term of the tenancy results in assured status being permanently lost. There are criminal and civil penalties for social housing fraud.[7]

Last updated: 24 December 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    Artworld Financial Corporation v Safaryan [2009] EWCA Civ 303.

  • [2]

    Laine v Cadwallader [2001] L&TR 8, CA.

  • [3]

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

  • [4]

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

  • [5]

    Leeds City Council v Broadley (Rev 1) [2016] EWCA Civ 1213.

  • [6]

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

  • [7]

    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.