You must end your agreement properly if you want to leave. If you do not do this you may still be liable to pay rent, even after you have moved out. The rules on how you can end the agreement depend on whether your agreement is fixed term (for a set period of time, such as six months) or periodic (rolling from week to week or month to month). The rules on how you can end a tenancy or license agreement that is for a set period of time such as six months or one year.
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 is always best to put what has 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 is worth seeing if your landlord is willing to negotiate even if your tenancy agreement says you cannot leave early. It may be convenient for both of you!
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. 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 is 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 have paid a deposit, you are more likely to get it back if you keep the landlord in formed. If you stay beyond the fixed term and your landlord does not 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.
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 does not 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.
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.
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 have left and the landlord can continue to charge you rent, so you are likely to build up rent arrears, If your agreement is fixed term, you can be charged rent until the term ends. 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 cannot claim rent from you after the new tenant moved in. Just leaving your property 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 id important to make sure that you have somewhere to go when you leave. If you need to make a homeless application future, the council may decide that you are intentionally homeless because you left a home that you could have stayed in.
If the landlord will not allow you to leave early and will not 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.
You have a joint tenancy or license if you share with a spouse, partner, family member or friend and both/all of your names are on the agreement. The actions of each individual person will affect all of your rights. For instance:
- If one of you leaves without ending the tenancy correctly, 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.
You can only end a fixed term joint tenancy if your landlord and all the other joint tenants agree or if there’s a break clause and the other tenants agree to use it. It is a good idea to get any permission given in writing so that you have proof of what was agreed. If any of the joint tenants want to stay they would have ensure the landlord would grant them a new tenancy, if the original agreement ends. If you are 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.