When you want to move out of a property you are renting you need to end your tenancy agreement correctly. This usually means giving your landlord written notice that you want to end the tenancy agreement.
If you don’t end the agreement correctly you could be liable to pay rent even after you move out.
The rules on how you can end your tenancy agreement depends on whether the agreement is fixed term or periodic. If you have a joint tenancy this will also affect how the agreement can be ended.
Ending a fixed term tenancy
If your agreement is for a fixed term (for example six months), you can leave on the last day of the fixed term without giving notice.
You are not legally required to give your landlord any notice if you intend to leave on the last day of a fixed term. However, it's usually a good idea to give notice anyway so you can avoid any dispute about when you actually left.
If you stay longer than the last day of the fixed term you will automatically become a periodic tenant (if you have not agreed to a new fixed term with your landlord). Periodic tenancies have to be ended in a different way to fixed term tenancies.
Ending a fixed term tenancy early
Many fixed term agreements (including some assured shorthold tenancies) 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 still decide to leave you could be liable to pay the rent to the end of the period.
Ending a periodic tenancy
If you stay beyond the fixed term, and your landlord doesn't give you a new fixed term agreement, your tenancy automatically becomes periodic. This means that it rolls from week to week, or month to month.
You normally have to give at least four weeks' notice to end a periodic tenancy, 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 (surrender), or agrees that someone else can take your place
- 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
- you can't agree a date that both you and your landlord are happy with
- 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 your notice in writing and make sure that the notice ends on the first or last day of the period of a tenancy.
Ending a joint tenancy
You have a joint tenancy if your name and another person’s name are on the agreement.
The actions of each individual person will affect the rights of both tenants, for example if one of you:
- gives notice to the landlord, the agreement will normally automatically be ended for both tenants (neither of you will have the right to continue living there)
- leaves without giving notice, the whole rent will still be due and the other tenant will have to pay the missing person’s share
If you’re thinking about leaving make sure you talk to your joint tenant before you take any action. It may be possible for someone else to take your place, or for the landlord to give a new agreement to those who are staying. Make sure the landlord gives the new person their own tenancy or licence agreement – otherwise, you will still be legally responsible for the tenancy.
Leaving with the landlords agreement
It is possible to get out of a tenancy at any time if you can come to a mutual agreement with your landlord. This is called 'surrendering' a tenancy.
To be valid, both sides must agree, and it's always best to put what's been agreed in writing. 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.
Getting someone else to move in instead
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 should give the new person their own tenancy or licence agreement – or you will still be legally responsible for the tenancy.
Walking away or posting the keys through the letterbox is called 'abandonment' and this does not end your agreement. If you do this your agreement with the landlord will continue even though you have left. This means your landlord can continue to charge you rent, so you're likely to build up rent arrears.
Your landlord could apply for a court order to make you pay what you owe. If this happens the court decides whether you should have to pay your landlord the money or not. If the landlord manages to let out the property they cannot claim rent from you after the new tenant moves in.
Abandonment may also make it harder for you to find a new home – most private landlords ask new tenants for references from previous landlords. Landlords will not be keen to rent to anyone who has previously abandoned a tenancy.
It is also important to make sure that you have somewhere to go when you leave. If you need to make a homelessness application after leaving, it could be decided that you are intentionally homeless because you left a home that you could have stayed in.