The only way to end a tenancy before the fixed term expires is if:
there's a break clause that lets you give notice early
the landlord agrees you can leave (known as ‘surrendering the tenancy’)
the tenant/landlord finds a replacement tenant (known as ‘mutual agreement’)
Check your tenancy agreement (or occupation contract) to see if it has a break clause. A break clause allows the landlord or tenant to end the tenancy before the end of the fixed term.
The tenancy agreement will tell you:
when the break clause applies (for example, 6 months after the tenancy starts)
how much notice each party has to give
whether notice must be given in writing
To ensure that the notice is valid, it should either be hand-delivered or sent by recorded post. You may also want to provide a copy of the notice via email if the tenancy agreement states that delivery by email is acceptable.
In England, there are two types of break clauses - a tenant break clause and a landlord break clause. A tenant break clause allows a tenant to end a tenancy agreement while a landlord break clause allows a landlord to end the tenancy early. Landlords will always need to give at least two months' notice under a break clause.
In Wales, there are contract holder break clauses and landlord break clauses.
A contract holder break clause allows a contract holder to end a fixed-term occupation contract early by giving at least 4 weeks’ notice. For example, if a contract holder gives notice that they are moving out on 1 September, their move-out date cannot be before 30 September.
A landlord break clause allows a landlord to end the fixed-term occupation contract early. However, landlord break clauses can only be included in occupation contracts with a fixed term of more than 2 years. Further, landlords may not use a break clause within the first 18 months of the occupation (ie the contract holder living in the property) and they must give at least 6 months’ notice. For example, for a 3-year contract beginning on 1 January 2023, the landlord cannot rely on a landlord break clause until 1 July 2024 at the earliest. If the landlord then gives notice under the break clause on 2 July 2024, they cannot ask the contract holder to leave the property until 3 February 2025 at the earliest. For more information on landlord break clauses in Wales, read Repossessing property in Wales.
Surrendering your tenancy
If there is no break clause in the agreement, then you can only end the tenancy if both parties agree to it. This is called surrendering the tenancy.
The parties can only surrender the tenancy if the landlord agrees. The landlord should confirm this in writing - this will help prove when the tenancy ended. It will also help avoid misunderstandings and problems later.
Surrender occurs when both parties to a tenancy, the landlord and tenant, voluntarily agree to bring the tenancy to an end. Once surrender has taken place, all obligations and rights under a tenancy also come to an end.
There are two types of surrender - express surrender and implied surrender. For more information, read Surrendering a tenancy.
The process for finding a replacement tenant is similar to surrendering a tenancy, in that the landlord will need to agree to the replacement. The tenant should ask the landlord whether they agree to a replacement tenant before the tenant starts searching.