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Ending a fixed term tenancy

A fixed term tenancy is one that is set to last for a specified period of time. A fixed term assured shorthold tenancy (or ‘AST’, the main type of residential tenancy in England) or a fixed term standard occupation contract (the main type of residential tenancy in Wales) can be ended before the end of its fixed term by:

  • the landlord or tenant using a break clause, if there is one in the tenancy agreement (ie a clause that lets a party give notice to end the tenancy early)

  • surrender of the tenancy (ie the landlord and tenant agreeing that the tenant can leave), or

  • the landlord evicting the tenant using a viable eviction notice and process (eg a section 8 notice)

A tenant may also abandon a property (ie leave without the landlord’s agreement). This does not formally end the tenancy.

Break clauses

A break clause is a clause of a tenancy agreement (or occupation contract) that gives the landlord or tenant (or either) the right to end the tenancy early, as long as the rules set out in the break clause are followed. 

A break clause in a tenancy agreement should tell you:

  • when the break clause can be used (eg from 6 months after the tenancy starts)

  • how much notice each party has to give

  • whether notice must be given in writing and whether any other formalities must be followed

Break clauses are mostly relevant to fixed term tenancies, although in theory they can also be used to end a periodic tenancy. 

How is a break clause used?

A break clause can usually be activated using a break clause notice (ie a formal notice in which one party informs the other that they wish to use the break clause to end the tenancy).

To ensure that any break clause notice you send is valid, it should generally either be hand-delivered or sent by recorded (ie tracked) post. You may also want to provide a copy of a notice you send via email if your tenancy agreement states that delivery by email is acceptable.

Break clauses in England

In England, there is no specific limit on how much notice a break clause can require a landlord or tenant to give to end an AST. However, a break clause must be fair to be used. For example, if a landlord can use a break clause to end a tenancy by giving one month’s notice but the tenant has no similar right, this may be considered unfair. 

Moreover, using a break clause does not automatically enable a landlord to regain possession of their property. Using a break clause does end a contractual tenancy (ie the specific terms of the tenancy agreement), but it does not end the tenant’s right to occupy the property, which continues under an automatically arising statutory periodic AST (ie a tenancy that runs month-to-month on a recurring basis). To repossess the property, the landlord must use a regular repossession (ie eviction) method, for example, a Section 21 notice. This imposes practical limits on how early in a tenancy a break clause can be used to actually regain possession of a property. For more information, read our Tenant eviction FAQs

If a tenant relies on a break clause to end their tenancy, they only need to serve notice in accordance with the rules set by the break clause. No repossession proceedings are necessary. 

Break clauses in Wales

In Wales, a fixed-term standard occupation contract may have a break clause. 

If it has a contract holder’s (ie tenant’s) break clause, the minimum amount of notice that the contract holder must give to end the contract using the break clause will be 4 weeks’ notice). The exception to this is where the landlord and tenant both agree to a different minimum notice period and this change improves the tenant’s position. 

For most fixed term standard occupation contracts, a landlord’s break clause can only be included if the contract has a fixed term of 2 years or more. Further, landlords may not use a break clause within the first 18 months of a tenant’s occupation and they must give at least 6 months’ notice to end the tenancy using the break clause. 

For example, for a 3-year contract beginning on 1 January 2024, the landlord cannot rely on a landlord break clause until 1 July 2025 at the earliest. If the landlord then gives notice under the break clause on 2 July 2025, they cannot ask the contract holder to leave the property until 3 January 2026 at the earliest. For more information on landlord break clauses in Wales, read Repossessing property in Wales.

Surrendering a tenancy

An alternative way of ending a tenancy during the fixed term is by both the landlord and tenant voluntarily agreeing to end the tenancy. This is called surrendering the tenancy (or ‘mutual surrender’). Once surrender has taken place, all obligations and rights under a tenancy agreement generally come to an end.

There are two types of surrender: 

  • express surrender - where the landlord and tenant explicitly agree to end the tenancy and record this in a deed, or

  • implied surrender (or ‘surrender by operation of law’) - where the landlord’s and tenant’s actions constitute surrender of the tenancy

A landlord may impose requirements that a tenant must meet before they will agree to surrender of a tenancy. For example, they may require that the tenant finds a replacement tenant that the landlord approves of. 

For more information, read Surrendering a tenancy.


A fixed term tenancy may be ended following eviction procedures if the requirements for one of the legal eviction methods is met. For example, a Section 8 notice may be used to start the eviction process in England when a tenant has done certain unpermitted things (eg if they’ve damaged the property or have not paid their rent for a certain period of time).

For more information on eviction in England, read Repossessing property - section 21 notices, Repossessing property - section 8 notices, and our Tenant eviction FAQs

For more information on eviction in Wales, read Repossessing property in Wales and our Evictions in Wales FAQs.


If a tenant leaves a property and their tenancy without giving notice (eg if they move out and then put the keys through the letterbox), this can constitute tenant abandonment.

Abandoning the tenancy does not end the tenancy. The tenant’s tenancy agreement with the landlord continues even though the tenant has left and so the parties' obligations under the tenancy agreement continue. For example, the landlord can continue to charge rent until the tenant ends the tenancy properly or the property is re-let. The landlord can apply for a court order to make the tenant pay what they owe. 

For more information, read Tenant abandonment

When do tenants have to pay rent after a fixed term tenancy ends?

A tenant is generally only responsible for paying rent until their tenancy ends

A landlord is usually entitled to make deductions from a tenant’s security deposit for any unpaid rent. They may also take the tenant to court if they withhold rent.

If a tenant surrenders their tenancy and a new tenant replaces them, the tenant's obligation to pay the rent will stop once the new tenant moves in. If a tenant pays rent in advance and they surrender their tenancy, they will not generally be entitled to a refund of the remaining rent that was paid for the period they were not resident at the property. 

For more information, read Tenants' entitlement to rent repayments.

Ending a periodic tenancy

A periodic tenancy rolls from payment period to payment period (eg month to month) and has no set end date. Periodic tenancies can generally be ended by either party simply by that party providing a certain amount of notice in writing of their intention to end the tenancy. 

For more information, read Ending a periodic tenancy (for England) and Repossessing property in Wales.

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