Ending a tenancy or licence

You must end your agreement properly if you want to leave. If you don’t you may still be liable to pay rent, even after you’ve moved out. To do this, you usually have to give written notice to the landlord. You may not be able to end the agreement early if you have signed for a tenancy for a fixed period of time.

The rules on how you can end the agreement depend on whether your agreement is fixed term or periodic, and whether it’s 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. Your tenancy could be fixed term even if you pay the rent each week/month. If the fixed term ends and you stay on but you don’t get a new fixed term agreement, it will automatically become periodic.

A periodic agreement rolls from week to week, or month to month. This includes tenancies that were originally for a fixed term that has ended and the landlord allowed you to stay on without giving you a new fixed term agreement.

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.

For instance:

  • 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. However, this does not apply if you have a fixed term tenancy that has not come to an end.
  • 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 one of you has caused damage, the landlord may be entitled to take money out of your shared deposit.

If you’re thinking about leaving, be sure to discuss 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.

It’s worth seeing if your landlord is willing to negotiate even if your tenancy agreement says you can’t leave early – it may be convenient for both of you!

What happens when my agreement runs out?

If your agreement is for a fixed term (eg six months), you can leave on the last day of the fixed term without giving notice. But you must ensure that you do not stay even one day over, or you will automatically become a periodic tenant and will have to give proper notice or come to an agreement with your landlord.

If you intend to leave on the last day you are not legally required to give the landlord any notice, but it’s usually a good idea to do so, to avoid any dispute about when you actually left. Good communication helps things to go smoothly. Remember that you may need a reference to get a new home and, if you’ve paid a deposit, you’re more likely to get it back if you keep the landlord informed.

If you stay for beyond the fixed term, and your landlord doesn’t give you a new fixed term agreement, your tenancy or licence will automatically become periodic, which means that it rolls from week to week, or month to month. Most of your other rights will stay the same, but the rules on how you can end the agreement will be different (see below).

Can I give the landlord notice and if so, how much?

The rules on giving notice normally depend on whether your agreement is fixed term or periodic. However, you should also check your agreement to make sure there are no extra rules. Some agreements say that you have to present the notice in a certain way, or include certain information. Get advice

Fixed term tenancies

Many fixed term agreements (including some assured shorthold tenancies with private landlords) contain a ‘break clause’, which allows you to end the agreement before the end of the fixed term. Check your agreement to see if it includes a clause like this.:

  • If it does include 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 it doesn’t include a break clause then you cannot end the tenancy early unless the landlord agrees to it. If you leave anyway you can still be liable for the rent to the end of the period.

Contact a local advice centre if there’s anything you’re not sure of.

Periodic tenancies

If your agreement is periodic (ie rolling 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 (see above), or agrees that someone else can take your place (see below)
  • 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. Working out whether you have a tenancy or licence can be quite complicated, especially if you don’t have a written agreement. Get in touch with an adviser to check your rights
  • if you can’t agree a date that both you and your landlord are happy with
  • 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 ensure 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 have any doubts about the dates.

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. However, you have to get the landlord’s agreement for the person you suggest to move into the property. The landlord may want to take up references for them. 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 is called ‘abandonment’ and will not end your agreement. Your agreement with the landlord will continue even though you’ve left and the landlord can continue to charge you rent, so you’re likely to build up rent arrears:

  • if your agreement is fixed term, you can be charged rent until the term ends
  • if your agreement is periodic, you can be held liable until the agreement could have been ended by giving proper notice (see above).

The landlord can apply for a court order to make you pay what you owe. The court will decide whether you should have to pay your landlord the money or not. If the landlord has managed to let out the property they can’t claim rent from you after the new tenant moved in.

Doing a runner may also make it harder for you to find a new home. Most private landlords ask new tenants for references from previous landlords and are not keen to rent to anyone who has abandoned a tenancy or licence in the past, or has a history of rent arrears.

Similarly, it’s important to make sure that you have somewhere to go when you leave. If you need to make a homelessness application in future, the council may decide that you are intentionally homeless because you left a home that you could have stayed in.

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.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
0345 075 5005

Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.

This page was last updated on: May 29, 2017

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.