Can I End My Tenancy Agreement Early?
Although you may have committed to renting a property circumstances change and you may need to leave before the end of the tenancy agreement. This can be for a whole host of reasons, for example, a new job in another part of the UK or you are no longer in a relationship and able to afford the rent. Whatever your reason for wanting to end your tenancy agreement early it is important to take legal advice so you know your options. In this blog we look at how you can end a UK tenancy agreement early and answer frequently asked questions.
Landlord and tenant solicitors
If you need legal advice about your tenancy or on how to end your tenancy agreement early then the landlord and tenant team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
What type of tenancy agreement do I have?
A landlord and tenant solicitor needs to know what type of tenancy agreement you have before being able to advise on whether and how you can end your tenancy agreement early. That’s because the answer lies in the type of tenancy agreement you have.
There are various types of tenancy agreement, such as:
• Assured shorthold tenancy agreement (ASTA) – nowadays this is the most common type of tenancy. Your tenancy may be an ASTA tenancy if the property is rented from a private landlord who doesn’t live in part of the property, the property is rented as your main accommodation and the tenancy started after the 15 January 1989. However, your tenancy will be excluded from being classed as an AST if it began before 15 January 1989 and the rent is more than £100,000 a year or less than £250 a year (less than £1,000 a year in London) or it is a business tenancy or the tenancy of licensed premises or a holiday let or your landlord isn’t a private landlord, but, for example, is a local authority or housing association. An AST can either be a fixed term tenancy or a periodic tenancy or a statutory periodic tenancy
• A licence to occupy – a licence is normally granted if you are renting a room in your landlord ‘s house rather than separate accommodation
• Assured tenancy- If you entered into your tenancy agreement between the 15 January 1989 and the 27 February 1997 then your tenancy may be an assured tenancy. If it is, then you have more protection than an AST or a licence
• Regulated tenancy- if your tenancy agreement began before the 15 January 1989 then it may be a regulated tenancy. This type of tenancy again gives more protection to a tenant than an assured shorthold tenancy.
What type of assured shorthold tenancy do I have?
There are three types of assured tenancy, namely:
• Fixed term tenancy – your tenancy agreement will end on a specified date. Some fixed term tenancy agreements say that at the end of the fixed term the tenancy agreement will become a periodic tenancy agreement unless you agree to another fixed term or notice is given. If the fixed term tenancy agreement does not convert into a periodic tenancy agreement then it could become a statutory tenancy
• Periodic tenancy – your tenancy agreement continues indefinitely and your rent is paid on a periodic basis, normally monthly or four weekly
• Statutory periodic tenancy – your fixed term tenancy agreement ended but you continue to live at the property without agreeing a date when the tenancy will end.
Can I end my tenancy agreement early?
If you want to end your tenancy agreement early then your first step should be to get legal advice on the nature of your tenancy and the contents of your tenancy agreement.
Your tenancy agreement should not only cover the basics of how much rent is payable, when it is due, the amount of the deposit and whether you are responsible for repairs but should also cover matters such as:
• The start and end date of the tenancy agreement
• Whether the tenancy can be ended early and, if so, in what circumstances and how much notice must be given
• Whether, if you want to leave the property early but your landlord won't end the tenancy, you are entitled under the terms of the tenancy agreement, to sub-let the property or take in a lodger to help meet the bills whilst you are not living at the property.
The best thing to do is to take legal advice on your tenancy agreement before you sign the document so you understand your options should you have to try to end the tenancy agreement early.
How do I end a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy agreement?
Whether you can end your tenancy early depends on your tenancy agreement. Your tenancy agreement should say how much notice you need to give your landlord before you leave the property.
If you are renting a property on a fixed term AST then you are liable to pay your rent for the duration of the tenancy agreement. You can normally only stop paying the rent and end your tenancy agreement early if:
• The tenancy agreement contains a break clause that says you can end the fixed term tenancy early (normally only long tenancies have a break clause or if you negotiate with your landlord to put one in your tenancy agreement) or
• Your landlord voluntarily agrees to end your tenancy agreement early. You should ask your landlord to confirm their agreement in writing.
If you want to leave your rented property and you are on a fixed term AST then you may think that you that it is best to continue to pay the rent to the end of the tenancy agreement because the agreement does not have long left to run and that you can then leave without giving any notice. However, some fixed term assured shorthold tenancies don’t end on the expiry of the fixed term but instead will continue as a periodic tenancy after the fixed term expires unless you give your landlord notice to say you're leaving the property.
That is why it is best to check the terms of your tenancy agreement even if you think that you have a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy. Tenants can easily be caught out by a fixed term tenancy becoming a periodic tenancy unless you check your paperwork. If your tenancy agreement says your tenancy will convert to a periodic tenancy if you do nothing about it then you will need to serve notice on your landlord.
Can I convert my fixed term AST tenancy agreement to a periodic tenancy?
If you think that you want to leave your property, because you are anticipating a move to a different employer in a new location or planning to buy your own home but you are not certain about when you will be able to complete your purchase, then converting your fixed term AST to a periodic tenancy may be a good option. You may not need to do anything to make this happen as your fixed term tenancy can automatically convert to a periodic assured shorthold tenancy if:
• You stay in your rental property when the fixed term expires
• You do not agree a new tenancy with your landlord
A periodic tenancy will be a periodic monthly or weekly tenancy depending on how frequently you pay your rent to your landlord. Your landlord can only increase the rent when your fixed term tenancy is converted to a periodic tenancy if:
• Your landlord reaches an agreement with you over the rent increase
• Your landlord serves notice of the rent increase on a prescribed form
You should be aware that if you decide that you don’t want to leave your rental property after you have converted your fixed term AST to a periodic AST that it is easier for your landlord to force you to leave the property if you are renting it on a periodic tenancy. That is why it is best to look at your plans before the expiry of your fixed term tenancy agreement.
Tips on ending your fixed term assured shorthold tenancy early
If you want to end your fixed term tenancy agreement early it is best to be prepared and organised and to try to maintain a good relationship with your landlord during your tenancy. That is because ending the tenancy early with involve negotiation with your landlord or their letting agent.
You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if you have a break clause or you can reach an agreement with your landlord. If you can't reach an agreement, your landlord is entitled to ask you to pay rent until the end of the tenancy.
The technical term for leaving a fixed term AST early is ‘surrendering the lease’ but you can only do this by agreement with your landlord. If you can't get their agreement you remain responsible for the rent and any other bills you agreed to pay in the tenancy agreement.
If you do need to leave your tenancy early, then it is best to explain why to your landlord. Sometimes explaining that you have been made redundant, separated from your partner, or can no longer physically climb the stairs to the flat, will result in your landlord being sympathetic to your situation. They are more likely to be understanding if they think that they can easily rent the property out, potentially at a higher rent.
Many landlords will want to find a new tenant before they will agree to end your fixed term AST early. You can help your landlord and yourself by:
• Suggesting an alternative tenant if a friend is interested in renting the property
• Facilitating new tenants viewing the property
• Offering to pay the costs of advertising the property for rent and covering the credit check costs of the new tenant. That is because these costs are likely to be cheaper than continuing to pay rent until the end of your fixed term AST.
Any surrender agreement should be recorded in writing so your landlord can’t then pursue you for the rent.
If your landlord hasn’t done things correctly (such as not carried out repairs to the property when you requested) you should not assume that you can just surrender the lease before the end of your fixed term tenancy agreement. You should take legal advice from a landlord and tenant solicitor as you will still need to reach a written agreement on the surrender of your tenancy.
How do I end a periodic assured shorthold tenancy?
It is far easier to end a periodic AST than a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy. However, you must give the right notice to your landlord to end your periodic tenancy.
A periodic tenancy is a tenancy agreement that continues, without fixed time limit, on a weekly or monthly basis with no end date. Your tenancy agreement could have started out as a fixed term tenancy but become a periodic tenancy at the end of the fixed term.
Giving correct notice to end a periodic tenancy can be quite complicated as the notice has to be in writing and must:
• Give the right amount of notice to end the tenancy
• Ensure that your tenancy agreement ends on the right day
If you do not serve notice properly then your landlord can insist that you pay rent until notice is served correctly. Your notice period will depend on whether your tenancy is a statutory periodic tenancy or a contractual periodic tenancy. A statutory tenancy occurs if you continue to rent a property after the end of your fixed term AST and the tenancy agreement didn’t say that your tenancy would become a periodic tenancy automatically at the end of the fixed term. A contractual periodic tenancy occurs if you signed a periodic AST tenancy agreement.
What is the notice period for statutory periodic tenancies?
If you are renting a property as a statutory periodic tenant, then you must give at least:
• One month notice for a monthly tenancy
• Four weeks notice for a weekly tenancy
The notice period must not only be the correct length but it must also end on the correct date.
What is the notice period for contractual periodic tenancies?
To give notice to end a contractual periodic tenancy agreement you will need to check the terms of the agreement. Notice to end the tenancy can be given on any date but it must end on the right day, namely the first or last day of a tenancy period. This won't necessarily be the same date as you pay your rent to your landlord.
Any notice to end your periodic contractual AST must be given in writing to your landlord or their letting agent and should include:
• Your name and address and your landlord name and address
• The date your notice period ends
You should not assume that you can give valid notice by text or email. Your tenancy agreement may specify how notice must be sent to constitute valid notice.
Ending a tenancy agreement can be necessary if you have a change in personal or financial circumstances. If you are not sure what type of tenancy agreement you have and how you should go about ending your tenancy agreement early, then it is best to get legal advice from a landlord and tenant solicitor.
Landlord and tenant solicitors
If you need legal advice about your tenancy or ending your tenancy agreement early then the landlord and tenant team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.