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Ending your tenancy early

This information only applies in England and Wales.

As a tenant (known as a ‘contract holder’ in Wales), there may be situations where you want to end your tenancy early. In these cases, it is important to follow the correct procedures to make sure you bring the tenancy to an end properly and you don’t remain liable for the rent or breach your tenancy agreement. If and how you can end your tenancy early depends on where you are in the tenancy term. 

For the avoidance of doubt, references to ‘tenants’ also apply to ‘contract holders’ unless otherwise specified.

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’)

Break clauses

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.

Mutual agreement

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.

A periodic tenancy is one that rolls from payment period to payment period (eg month to month) and has no set end date. The parties can only end a periodic tenancy if they provide adequate notice. Tenants should provide the notice in writing.

England

The tenant must give the landlord notice in writing to end a periodic tenancy. This is called a 'notice to quit', which should set out:

  • the tenant's name and address

  • the landlord's name and address

  • the date the notice period ends

  • a forwarding address for the landlord to return the tenancy deposit

The tenant must give the correct date for when the notice period ends. The notice letter won't be valid otherwise. Further, the end date of the tenancy must be either the first or last day of the rental period. For more information on notice periods for periodic tenancies, read Ending a periodic tenancy.

Wales

The contract holder must give the landlord notice that they will be moving out. The date on which they give up possession should be specified in the notice. Contract holders must give at least 4 weeks’ notice. For example, if a contract holder gives notice that they are moving out on 1 November, their move-out date cannot be before 30 November.

England and Wales - paying the final month's rent

The tenant is responsible for paying the rent until the tenancy comes to an end. The landlord is entitled to make deductions from the deposit for any unpaid rent, and they could also take the tenant to court if they withhold rent.

If the tenant leaves without giving notice, for example, if they move and then put the keys through the letterbox, this is called abandonment.

Abandoning the tenancy doesn't end it. The agreement with the landlord continues even though the tenant has left. The landlord can continue to charge rent if the tenant hasn't ended the tenancy correctly.

The landlord can hold the tenant responsible for paying the 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

If the tenant surrenders the tenancy and a new tenant replaces them, then the tenant's liability for rent will stop once the new tenant moves in. Where a tenant pays rent in advance, then they would 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.