Advice: Can I end my tenancy early?

Pat Hutchinson MBE.
Pat Hutchinson MBE.
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By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Newtownabbey CAB

Q: I am a lone parent with two children in a private tenancy; my lease runs out in April 2016. I’m getting married and moving in with my partner. Can I end the tenancy early?

A: If you want to end your tenancy it’s important to do it properly otherwise you may be held responsible for paying the rent even after you’ve moved out.

What you have to do depends on whether your tenancy is fixed term or periodic. A fixed term tenancy is for a fixed period of time, for example, 12 months. A periodic tenancy is one that runs from one rent period to another, for example, from month to month. A periodic tenancy can start with a fixed term and then become periodic.

If your tenancy was granted after 1 April 2007 and no term is specified in your tenancy agreement, then a default six month fixed term will apply and after this time, if you stay in the property, the tenancy will be periodic.

Fixed term tenancies

If you want to end a fixed term agreement early, you can only do so in one of two ways:

• with the permission of your landlord. This is called ‘surrender’. It means you and your landlord agree to the tenancy ending. To avoid any problems, it’s best to get the landlord’s agreement in writing; or

• if there is a term in your tenancy agreement that allows for the tenancy to end early. This is called a break clause. The break clause will tell you how much notice you have to give.

If you are a joint tenant, the other tenants must agree to end the tenancy too.

If you don’t end a fixed term tenancy properly, you may end up liable for the rent for the remainder of the time covered by the fixed term.

Periodic tenancies

If you want to end a periodic agreement you must give your landlord a valid notice to quit. The notice to quit must:

• be in writing

• be for at least 28 days. However it could be for longer, depending on the length of time you have been living in the property

• expire on the first or last day of a period of the tenancy (unless your tenancy agreement says otherwise). The first day of a period of the tenancy is usually the day your rent is due, but not always. It’s not always easy to work out what is the first or last day of a period of the tenancy, so you may need to get advice first.

• in the case of a joint tenancy, just one tenant giving notice to quit can end the tenancy for all of the tenants.

What happens if the tenant leaves without giving proper notice?

If you leave without giving proper notice, your landlord may be entitled to charge rent up to the date when notice should have expired, or up to the end of the tenancy agreement if it is a fixed term agreement and you did not give any notice at all.

The help of an experienced adviser is almost certain to be needed if there is a dispute about rent arrears in this situation.

• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau – go to www.adviceguide.org.uk or call at: Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 90852271 (Lunch 1:00 - 1:30pm); email advice is available by contacting enewtownabbey@citizensadvice.co.uk