We are often asked by tenants how they can end a tenancy agreement and in particular whether, due to a change in circumstances, they can end a tenancy earlier than the date stipulated in the contract.
If you are thinking about ending your tenancy, it’s very important that you do it in the right way. You should remember that you have entered into a legally binding agreement and you should always act in accordance with that agreement and other relevant laws.
Determine the type of tenancy you have
Firstly, you need to determine exactly what kind of tenancy you currently have. In the significant majority of cases you will have either a ‘fixed term tenancy’ (which is an agreement for a specified or ‘fixed period’ of time) or a ‘periodic tenancy’ (which continues on a periodic basis, normally weekly or monthly).
Ending a fixed term tenancy early
Where you have a fixed term tenancy you are legally obligated to pay the rent for the entire period of the contractual period. Most rental agreements are initially set up as fixed term contracts (called assured shorthold tenancies) for a period of 6 or 12 months. With this agreement, it might be possible to end the tenancy early if:
- The tenancy agreement includes what is called a ‘break clause’, which allows you to advise the landlord that you want to terminate the tenancy before the fixed term date.
- You and the landlord come to an agreement that you can end the tenancy ahead of the fixed term date.
If you do want to end a fixed term tenancy early, you should check the agreement to see if it includes a break clause and if it does, give notice to the landlord in accordance with that clause and any other relevant provisions of the contract. If there is no break clause, you should talk to the landlord to explain the situation and why you want to terminate the contract early. Where there are genuine reasons and a change of circumstances, many landlords are sympathetic to tenant requests. However, you should not expect your landlord to necessarily agree to allowing you to leave the property early just because you have had a change of mind.
Ending a periodic tenancy
At the end of a fixed term tenancy agreement, if you do not vacate the property or enter into a new fixed term agreement, then the tenancy becomes what is known as a ‘periodic tenancy’. You might have heard this referred to as a ‘rolling tenancy’. A periodic tenancy does not have an end date and just continues to roll forward. To confuse matters more, there are two different kinds of periodic tenancy: a statutory periodic tenancy and a contractual periodic tenancy.
If your original fixed term contract did not say that they tenancy would revert to a contractual periodic tenancy at the end of the fixed term and you stayed at the property beyond the fixed term, then it will have become a statutory periodic tenancy (known as a ‘statutory’ periodic tenancy – because it was created by statute, i.e. section 5 of the Housing Act 1988).
A statutory periodic tenancy has the same terms and conditions as your fixed term agreement, however it continues on a periodic basis with the ‘period’ determined by how often you paid the rent under your fixed term agreement. For example, if you paid the rent monthly, then a periodic tenancy runs from month to month. If you paid the rent weekly, the periodic tenancy will run from week to week etc.
To end a statutory periodic tenancy, you still have to advise the landlord in the right way and at the right time. For a monthly tenancy you will need to give one months’ notice. If your tenancy runs week to week you will need to give at least 4 weeks’ notice. If rent is paid less frequently than monthly, then you will have to give at least one ‘rental period’ of notice. For example, if rent is paid every two months, then two months’ notice would be required. If the rent is paid every six months, then you will need to give six month notice (however If the rent is paid annually, then six months' notice suffices).
To end a contractual periodic tenancy, you will need to follow the terms and conditions that were stipulated in the contract for the amount of notice that needs to be given.
It is very important that you give notice that you are terminating a periodic tenancy in writing and that the notice includes the date on which the tenancy will end. You can give the notice at any time but the tenancy needs to end on the first or last day of a tenancy period (essentially the day of the month that the tenancy changed from being fixed term to periodic). You should note that this won’t always be the same as the date you pay rent.
Want to know more?
Please see further information in our blog about your overall responsibilities and obligations as a tenant.