What problems do I face if I want to end my tenancy early?

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It is not unknown for tenants to want to move out before the end of the fixed term of their tenancy agreement.  

If this is you – how can you end your tenancy safely?

First – check your tenancy agreement

Many tenancy agreements contain a clause, known as a ‘break clause’ which sets out a procedure for you to follow if you want to end your tenancy early.  

If this is the case with your tenancy agreement – all you need to do is follow the procedure.  So if the clause says that you need to serve one month’s written notice on your landlord – you will need to serve two months written notice on your landlord.

Once you have done this, and the notice period has expired, it is safe for you to leave.

Make sure you keep a copy of your notice and a record of how it was served on the landlord.  

Will your landlord agree to let you go?

The fact that you have signed a 12-month fixed-term agreement does not mean that this agreement cannot be changed.  If your landlord is happy to let you leave early, then there is no problem.

So ask him!

It is perfectly legal for you and your landlord to agree to end the tenancy early.  However, make sure you get the agreement in writing so you are able to prove it – for example, just in case the landlord later claims that you owe him rent.

If there is no break clause, and your landlord will not agree to let you leave early, then things get a bit tricker.  So let’s take a look at why you want to leave early.

Do you want to leave because you were misled about the property?

For example, if the landlord has promised to do something (eg supply furniture, carry out repair works) and has failed to do so, or mislead you about the cost,  or if the landlord said the property was ‘quiet’ but is actually on the school run – which makes it impossible for you to sleep if you are a shift worker.

If you are still within the first 30 days of the tenancy, or even within the first 90 days, I have good news for you.  You may be entitled to ‘unwind’ your tenancy under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, as amended by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Regulations 2014.

If you think this applies to you, I suggest you get some telephone advice from one of our solicitors to help you with the procedure.  

Are there serious problems with the property?

If the 90 day limit for ‘unwinding’ has passed, then if the property is in a shocking stage, such that you would be entitled to compensation if you were to bring a claim at court – then you are probably safe in just moving out.

The landlord’s remedy will be to sue you for rent arrears – but if you have a valid claim for compensation, then you would be able to defend and counterclaim.  Your landlord will not want to risk that.

However, you may want to withhold your last month’s rent if you do this, as otherwise, your landlord will be able to claim the unpaid rent from the deposit (assuming you have paid a deposit – if you have paid for an alternative deposit scheme, take advice before doing anything).  Be careful also if you have a guarantor as this may put them at risk.

If you decide to take this course, I suggest you send a letter to the landlord when you leave detailing the problems with the property, making it clear that you have grounds for compensation but that if they allow you to leave early, you will not be bringing a claim.

Again, before doing this, it would be best to seek advice from one of our solicitors who will be able to advise you if this is a viable option and maybe help you draft the letter.

What about implied offers to surrender?

You may have read about this – this is where a tenant’s conduct is inconsistent with an intention to continue with the tenancy, meaning that the landlord is justified in going in, changing the locks and reletting the property.

However, if you just move out – this may entitle the landlord to treat your action as an implied offer to surrender, but he does not have to.  He will be perfectly within his rights to bring court proceedings against you for unpaid rent. When you sign a tenancy agreement for a fixed term, you are legally liable for the rent on a month by month basis.

The landlord may elect to treat this as an implied offer to surrender – but he may not.  So this is a risky course of action.

Finding a replacement tenant

If there is nothing wrong with the property, and the landlord is unwilling to allow you to end the tenancy early – he may change his mind if you find a suitable replacement tenant and offer to pay his expenses.  

After all, the main reason why the landlord will not want you to leave early is because he won’t want all the bother of finding and referencing a new tenant and all the work that goes with that.

If you make life easier for him, he may be willing to agree.

And finally

For more information read our article on ending tenancies.

If you are not sure what your rights are – for example, if you are not sure if your tenancy agreement has a break clause, or if you don’t know if the problems with your property are sufficient to allow you to threaten a claim for compensation – don’t forget that you can easily book a telephone advice call with one of our solicitors.

Would you like to speak to a solicitor about this?

A simple and straightforward way for you to get up to 1/2 hours telephone advice from a specialist landlord and tenant solicitor.

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