Ending a tenancy or licence
If you want to leave your rented home, it is important that you end your agreement correctly.
If you don’t you may still be liable to pay rent, even after you’ve moved out.
You usually have to give written notice to the landlord.
The rules on how you can end the agreement depend on whether your agreement is fixed term or periodic, and whether it is a joint agreement or not.
Is my agreement fixed term or periodic?
A fixed term agreement is for a fixed period (such as six months or one year), which has not ended.
A periodic agreement rolls from week to week, or month to month, depending on when your rent is due.
If a fixed term agreement expires but the landlord does not issue a new fixed term or end the agreement, it will automatically become a periodic agreement.
Ending a fixed term tenancy
Ending the agreement before the end of the fixed term
You can only end your agreement before the end of the fixed term if:
- your agreement contains a ‘break clause’, allowing you to end the agreement early, or
- your landlord agrees to you ending the agreement.You will need to check your agreement to see what it says. If it has a break clause it should also say how much notice you have to give and whether there are any special procedures you have to follow,
If you leave anyway you may have to pay the rent to the end of the period.
Ending the agreement at the end of the fixed term
You can leave on the last day of a fixed term agreement without giving notice, however, to stop any problems in the future it is usually a good idea to give your landlord notice. Good communication with your landlord helps things to go smoothly.
If you stay in your home after the fixed term has ended (even for just one day) your tenancy or licence will automatically become periodic, unless your landlord issues you with a new fixed term agreement or ends the tenancy or licence.
Ending a periodic tenancy
If your agreement is periodic (for example, it rolls from week to week or month to month), you normally have to give at least four weeks’ notice to end it, or a calendar month if you have a monthly tenancy.
The only exceptions to this are:
- if your landlord agrees to accept a shorter notice period
- if you are an excluded occupier, in which case the amount of notice you have to give will depend on whether you have a tenancy or licence agreement
- if you pay rent less frequently than monthly (every three months, for example). If this is the case, you have to give notice equivalent to a rental period.
It is always best to give notice in writing and make sure that the notice ends on the first or last day of the period of a tenancy. For example, if your tenancy is monthly and started on the 5th of the month, the notice you give the landlord should end on the 4th or the 5th.
Check with an adviser if you are not sure how much notice you should give.
What if I have a joint tenancy or licence?
You have a joint tenancy or licence if yours and another person’s name are on the agreement.
The actions of each individual person will affect all of your rights.
- if one of you gives notice to the landlord, the agreement will normally automatically be ended for all of you. None of you will have the right to continue living there
- if one of you leaves without giving notice, the whole rent will still be due and the other(s) will have to pay the missing person’s share.
If you’re thinking about leaving, be sure to talk about it with the other joint tenant(s) before you take any action. It may be possible for someone else to take your place, and/or for the landlord to give a new agreement to those who are staying.
What if my landlord agrees that I can leave?
It is possible to get out of the agreement at any time if you can come to a mutual agreement with your landlord. This is called ‘surrender’. To be valid, both sides must agree and it’s always best to put what’s been agreed in writing so everyone knows where they stand. If you have a joint tenancy all the joint tenants and the landlord must agree to the surrender.
If your landlord has already served you with a notice to leave your property and you find somewhere else to live before the end of that notice, your landlord will probably be happy for you to leave early. It is however always best to speak to your landlord and, if they do not agree, you will still need to end your tenancy using one of the methods above. Otherwise, you might find that you continue to be charged rent after you have left.
If you are not sure whether you need to serve a notice, or whether you have surrendered your agreement, get advice urgently.
Can I get someone else to move in?
This may be possible if you have no choice but to leave early and want to avoid paying rent on more than one home.
You must get the landlord’s agreement for the person you suggest to move into the property.
The landlord should give the new person their own tenancy or licence agreement – otherwise, you will still be legally responsible for the tenancy.
What if I just walk away?
Walking away or posting the keys through the letterbox will not end your legal agreement with your landlord.
Your can still be charged rent and your landlord can apply for a court order to make you pay what you owe.
It may also make it harder for you to find a new home because :
What other options are there?
If the landlord won’t allow you to leave early and won’t allow a new tenant suggested by you to move in, you may be able to negotiate to only pay part of the rent you owe.
For example, if there are four months left on a fixed term agreement, the landlord might agree to only two months’ rent instead while they look for a new tenant.