Here's what you need to know about terminating your tenancy agreement in private rented housing.
Students aren’t always aware that they enter into a legal contract when they sign a tenancy or license agreement. An agreement must be ended properly when you want to move out. The rules on ending an agreement vary and this page highlights those most relevant to students in private rented accommodation.
What if I have a fixed term agreement?
If you have a fixed term agreement, this means that you have agreed to rent your home for a certain period of time.
If you want to move out on the day that the fixed term agreement runs out, you generally don’t have to give notice to your landlord. However, some agreements require notice to terminate the tenancy at the end of the fixed term. Guidance suggests that such a term may be considered unfair and unenforceable. If you are in this position you should get advice.
In practice, even if your agreement doesn't include such a term, it’s best to let your landlord know what your plans are. This is to avoid problems, such as delays in getting your deposit back. If you stay beyond the fixed term, even for one day, a periodic agreement begins. You will then have to give your landlord notice if you want to move out. These notice requirements are set out further below.
- Break Clause - there is a term in your agreement, known as a break clause, which allows you to end the agreement early. If there is a break clause, it should say how much notice you have to give
- Surrender - your landlord agrees to you ending the agreement early. This is called surrender. If you have a joint tenancy, all the joint tenants must agree to the surrender
If you leave before the end of the fixed term without your landlord’s consent, you are liable to pay the rent until the term ends even if you aren’t living there.
What if I have a periodic agreement?
A periodic agreement is one that runs from one rent period to the next. These often arise when you stay on in your home after the fixed term has run out without signing a new agreement for another fixed term.
You are expected to give notice to end a periodic agreement, which is called a ‘notice to quit’. If you don't give the correct period of notice to end your agreement you may remain responsible for paying the rent. As a starting point, it's best to check your agreement as it's likely to set out what notice period you have to give.
Notice to end a periodic assured shorthold tenancy must be made in writing. The minimum notice requirement is 28 days. If you have a monthly tenancy, you will have to give one month’s notice. If you pay your rent at longer intervals you have to give notice equivalent to that rental period. For example, if you pay rent every three months, you would have to give three months’ notice.
Periodic agreements for assured shorthold tenants
The notice must run out on the first or last day of a period of the tenancy. For example, if you have a monthly tenancy which began on the 20th of the month, the notice must run out on the 19th or the 20th. If you are not sure about when your notice should end, you should check with an adviser. Your landlord may also agree to a shorter notice period, but you would have to agree that with them. It's best to get anything that has been agreed in writing. For more information about assured shorthold tenants, please click here.
Joint periodic agreements for assured shorthold tenants
If you have a joint periodic tenancy, one of you can end the tenancy by serving a notice to quit. This ends the other joint tenants’ right to live in the property.
Periodic agreements for lodgers
If you have a periodic agreement, you have to give the notice period that is set out in your agreement. If the agreement doesn’t say how much notice is required it'll depend on whether you have an excluded tenancy or an excluded license.
As a lodger, you are likely to have a license, so you must give 'reasonable' notice. There are no set rules about what is reasonable so you will have to agree this with your landlord. For more information about lodgers, please click here.
How do I give notice?
It's best to keep a copy of the written notice that you give to your landlord. If you are posting it, you should use recorded delivery or some other signed for service. You should also ensure that the letter is dated and clearly sets out the date that you'll be leaving.
Ending a tenancy before the fixed term ends
You can't end a tenancy agreement before the fixed term ends unless either of the following apply: you have a break clause in your tenancy agreement that lets you give notice to end the agreement early, or your landlord agrees to you leaving the tenancy (known as 'surrendering'). If you surrender the tenancy, get your landlord's agreement in writing if possible to avoid disputes later.
Giving notice if you have a break clause
If your tenancy agreement has a break clause you can give notice to end the agreement before the fixed term ends. Your tenancy agreement will tell you the following information:
- When the break clause applies (this could be 6 months after the start of the tenancy)
- How much notice you have to give you must give notice in writing – don't use email unless your agreement says you can. You should to deliver it by hand (ask for a receipt) or post it using recorded delivery
How do I leave without giving notice?
Leaving before the fixed term ends without giving notice and without the landlord agreeing is known as 'abandonment'. It doesn't end your agreement and you must still pay rent. Abandonment includes:
- Posting the keys through the letterbox
- Leaving and not going back
- Just telling the landlord that you're leaving
Your landlord can charge you rent until your tenancy agreement ends. If you don't pay, your landlord can apply for a court order to:
- Make you pay what you owe
- Get the property back (take possession)
If you've abandoned a tenancy or have rent arrears it can be harder to find a new home.
Leaving early if you have a joint tenancy
You're a joint tenant if there's more than one name on the agreement. For more information about being in a joint tenancy, please click here.
If you want to leave you must all agree to end the tenancy and can end it if you do both of the following:
- Agree with the landlord to surrender it
- Give the required notice if there's a break clause
How do I leave at the end of my fixed term?
You can normally leave on the last day of your fixed-term agreement without giving your landlord notice. Check to see if your tenancy agreement says you must give notice and how much you must give. You must give notice if it says something like:
- You must tell your landlord if you plan to leave on the last day
- When the fixed term expires the tenancy will continue as a periodic tenancy
You should let your landlord know what you plan to do to avoid disputes.
How do I get my deposit back?
If you paid a deposit at the beginning of your tenancy or license, it should be returned to you. It's reasonable for your landlord to take money off the deposit to cover some things. For example, damage to the property or furniture or outstanding rent that you owe. Your landlord should not deduct money to cover damage that could be regarded as fair wear and tear. Also, if you're an assured shorthold tenant and you paid your deposit on or after 6 April 2007, your landlord should have used a tenancy deposit protection scheme to safeguard the deposit. You should also have received information about the deposit and the scheme used to protect it.
If there is a dispute about how much of the deposit you should get back at the end of your tenancy, the scheme will hold the disputed amount until the dispute is resolved. There is also an alternative dispute resolution service. Whether you are an assured shorthold tenant or not, you can take action in the county court against you landlord if you're having problems getting your deposit back when you move out.