Ending an occupation contract
- You should end your agreement properly to avoid problems in the future
- You usually have to give at least 28 days’ notice in writing if you want to leave
- If you are a joint contract-holder on a periodic standard contract you can leave the contract
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.
If you are under 25, take a look at our ending your agreement advice page, specifically put together for young people.
The rules on how you can end the agreement depend on what type of renting agreement you have, whether it 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 you have a secure occupation contract, your agreement is periodic.
If you have a standard occupation contract, your contract must state whether it is periodic or fixed term. If it is a fixed term standard contract it must also state the length of the fixed term.
If a fixed term standard contract expires but the landlord does not issue a new fixed term or end the agreement, it will automatically become a periodic standard contract.
How do I end my renting agreement?
You should always read your contract to see what it says about how you should end your agreement.
It is best to think carefully before giving notice to end your occupation contract. If you do not leave when your notice runs out your landlord can apply to court to evict you easily, even if you are not otherwise in breach of our contract.
Ending secure and periodic standard contracts
If you want to end your periodic secure or standard contract (including introductory standard, prohibited conduct standard and supported standard contracts) you should give the landlord the correct notice in writing. The minimum length of notice you should give your landlord is 4 weeks. This a fundamental term, so your landlord can’t change this notice period unless you agree and the change improves your position. However, it is best to ensure your notice covers up to the end of your rental period. For example, if your rent is due on the 1st day of the month then notice should be given at least 4 weeks before the day rent is due.
Ending fixed term standard contracts
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 ‘contract-holder’s break clause’, allowing you to end the agreement early, or
- your landlord agrees to you ending the agreement, called ‘surrender’.
You will need to check your agreement to see what it says. If it has a contract-holders’ break clause the minimum notice you have to give is 4 weeks. The notice period is a fundamental term, so your landlord can’t change this notice period unless you agree and the change improves your position. However, it is best to ensure your notice covers up to the end of your rental period. For example, if your rental period begins on the 5th of the month then notice should be given at least 4 weeks before so the end of your notice falls on the 4th or 5th of the month.
You should check the clause to see if there are conditions when using the break clause.
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 contract will automatically become a periodic standard contract, unless your landlord issues you with a new fixed term standard contract.
I have a different kind of renting agreement. How much notice should I give?
If you do not have a secure, periodic standard or fixed term standard occupation contract (including introductory standard, prohibited conduct standard and supported standard contracts) and have a different kind of tenancy or licence, you still normally have to give at least four weeks’ notice to end your agreement. If you have a monthly tenancy or licence, then it is best to give a calendar months’ notice.
The only exceptions to this are:
- if your landlord agrees to accept a shorter notice period
- if you are an excluded occupier or an occupier with basic protection, in which case you should check your written agreement and get help if you are unsure
- 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 your tenancy or licence. For example, if your agreement 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.
I am a joint contract-holder. Can I give notice to leave?
Joint contract-holders with secure or periodic standard contracts
Some joint contract-holders can give notice to ‘withdraw’ from the contract without ending the agreement for other joint contract-holders.
If you have a secure or a periodic standard contract (including introductory standard, prohibited conduct standard and supported standard contracts) you can leave the contract by giving your landlord a withdrawal notice.
The minimum length of withdrawal notice you should give your landlord is 1 month. This is a supplementary term of most occupation contracts. However, your contract may specify a different notice period so you should check your contract carefully. It is best to ensure your notice covers up to the end of your rental period. For example, if your rental period begins on the 5th of the month then notice should be given at least 1 month before so the end of your notice falls on the 4th or 5th of the month.
Informing the other joint contract-holders
You should also notify the other joint contract-holders in writing and give them a copy of the withdrawal notice. You should do this at the same time you give the withdrawal notice to your landlord.
Informing the other joint contract-holders will allow them time to search for other people who they could add as a joint contract-holder in your place.
If you wish to withdraw from the contract, it is important to follow the correct procedure. If you leave without doing so, you will remain responsible for the contract and will still be liable to pay rent.
Joint contract-holders with fixed term standard contracts
If you are joint contract-holder with a fixed term standard contract, you probably will not be able to withdraw from the contract during the fixed term. Once the fixed term ends your contract will become a periodic standard and you can withdraw from the contract following the procedure above.
I have a different kind of joint agreement; how do I give notice to leave?
If you have a joint agreement that is not a secure or standard occupation contract then you probably won’t be able to withdraw from your part of the contract. To find out what renting agreements are not occupation contracts see here.
If you have a joint tenancy or licence and one of you gives notice to the landlord, the agreement will normally be ended for all of you. None of you will have the right to continue living there.
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 any type of renting agreement at any time if you can come to a mutual agreement with your landlord. This is called ‘surrender’. To be valid, all parties to the agreement 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 agreement all the joint contract-holders/tenants must agree to the surrender with the landlord.
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 agreement 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 help 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 agreement – otherwise, you could 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.
You 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 contract-holder or 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.