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Termination of a lease by a tenant in Scotland

This information only applies in Scotland.

If a tenant wishes to end the tenancy, they're required to follow a strict set of rules. If you're a tenant or a landlord, read our guide below to make sure you're aware of your obligations.

The amount of notice the tenant must give depends on the type of tenancy agreement they have with their landlord.

On 1 December 2017, the law covering residential tenancies in Scotland changed. A new type of tenancy called a private residential tenancy was introduced, replacing assured and short assured tenancies. Any tenancy starting on or after 1 December 2017 is a private residential tenancy.

An assured or short assured tenancy that began before 1 December 2017 will not be covered by the new rules. Tenant’s must give the appropriate amount of notice for assured or short assured tenancies.

The tenant must give their landlord 28 days’ notice that they intend to move out. The notice must be in writing and include the date on which the tenancy will end, which will normally be the day after the notice period ends.

If it is more suitable for both parties, a different length of notice period can be agreed. This must be done in writing.

These types of tenancies can be for a fixed period, often for six months or a year. Sometimes these will automatically be renewed at the end of the fixed period if neither the landlord or tenant takes steps to end the tenancy. Once the fixed period ends, it will start again and last for the same period even though a new tenancy agreement has not been signed. This process is called tacit relocation.

If the tenancy is coming to an end and the tenant wants to leave, they must let the landlord know. The amount of notice will usually be written into the tenancy agreement. Where this is not the case, the minimum amount of notice is 28 days when the initial tenancy is for less than four months, and 40 days for longer tenancies.

Can a tenant end the tenancy before the fixed period is up?

Usually this will depend on what the tenancy agreement says about ending the tenancy. If the tenancy agreement allows for this it should detail how much notice the tenant must provide before they can end their tenancy early.

If the tenancy agreement doesn’t allow for the tenant to terminate early, it is up to the landlord to decide whether they can do so. If the landlord doesn’t want to bring the tenancy to an end but the tenant insists on leaving, the landlord can continue to charge them rent until the end of the fixed term.

Permission

If the tenant is married or in a civil partnership, the landlord should get consent from the spouse or civil partner before ending the tenancy.

Where the tenancy is a joint tenancy and one tenant wishes to bring the tenancy to an end, they will first need to get permission from the other joint tenants. This is because one tenant ending the joint tenancy will end the tenancy for everyone. 

The landlord should ensure that every joint tenant has given their permission before agreeing to end the tenancy.

The tenants may be able to arrange a new tenancy with the landlord, under which:

  • another person takes on the tenancy of the person who wants to leave 

  • the remaining joint tenants stay on and pay the extra rent themselves

Where a tenant leaves a property before the tenancy has ended without letting their landlord know, this is known as tenant abandonment.

Tenant abandonment can result in a variety of issues for the tenant, including the accumulation of rent arrears. Where a tenant abandons the property, the landlord can take steps to recover and re-let the property and recover any rent arrears.

For more information, read Tenant abandonment in Scotland.

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