Can I Change My Mind After I’ve Signed A Tenancy Agreement?

Cancel Tenancy Agreement

Yes, you’re perfectly entitled to change your mind.


No, you can’t back out after creating/signing a tenancy agreement in England or Wales without mutual agreement, whether you’re a landlord that doesn’t want their new tenant to move in anymore, or whether you’re a tenant that doesn’t want to move in anymore.

Eek! The odds are I’ve just dropped some sour news. I’m sorry!

However, even though the legal position is largely binary, the reality of the situation is often less straightforward, particularly for the person enforcing their legal rights, so it’s not always sensible or practical to follow through…

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It’s important to understand that once a tenancy agreement is agreed upon and a deposit is paid, whether it be an oral or written agreement, the contract is more than likely legally binding than not.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to wriggle out of an oral tenancy agreement when a deposit isn’t paid, because it’s hard to prove an agreement was made in the first place. So if you’re in that position, you might have better luck escaping the beartrap.

Are tenancy agreements entitled to a “cooling off period”?

Unlike insurance policies and various other policies, there is no default or legal entitlement to a cooling off period. For example, you can’t change your mind within 15 days after signing a contract.

So unless there is a clause in the tenancy agreement that permits a cooling off period (I’ve yet to see or use a tenancy agreement that does), then it doesn’t exist. On that note, might be a good idea to check your tenancy agreement to see if you’re in luck.

Mutual agreement is the key

Tenancy agreements can be terminated or amended prematurely if there is a mutual agreement between tenant and landlord. In this instance, the new agreement will override what was previously agreed upon.

For example, if a tenant signs a tenancy agreement and then for whatever reason changes their mind a week prior to the start date of the fixed term tenancy, then it’s possible to terminate the tenancy if the landlord mutually agrees to it.

Any amendments to the tenancy should be in writing, dated and signed.

Generally speaking, reaching a fair mutual agreement should always be the objective in these situations. It’s less messy and almost always less expensive for everyone involved.

Landlord’s perspective: My tenant wants to cancel the tenancy agreement before moving in

I’ve actually been in this situation before. It’s not nice, but it’s not the end of the world.

Yes, I could have forced my tenant to fulfil their legal obligations, or at least tried to force them to. But honestly, what’s the point?

They didn’t want to move in anymore, and I don’t ever want to host tenants that don’t want to be there, so the only sensible solution was to mutually terminate the agreement. It was all very amicable.

Imagine if I forced them to move in, the relationship from the offset would have been horrendous. Moreover, the odds of them terminating the tenancy as quickly as possible is high (i.e. as soon as the fixed term expires, usually in 12 months), and that can end up being even more costly. These are points I would urge all landlords to consider when contemplating what to do in this situation.

I know finding replacement tenants can be entirely frustrating and even costly, but I’d rather take that on the chin than dealing with disgruntled tenants.

Am I entitled to compensation? Landlords can get the tenant to cover costs associated with finding replacement tenants – this is usually deducted from the deposit.

Rental agreements break down ALL the time – this is not unusual. That’s why I never stop looking for tenants or completely burn ties with backup applicants until tenancy agreements are signed, deposit is paid and the tenants physically move in.

Following this can approach can avoid a lot of ball ache, particularly remarketing and longer void periods.

Tenant’s perspective: I want to end a tenancy before moving in

When comparing both perspectives (from landlord and tenant), I’d say this is the most challenging, especially if dealing with unreasonable landlords and/or letting agents.

My advice would be to try and reasonably negotiate with your landlord to end the tenancy before it begins. Be honest and forthcoming with your position. Most reasonable landlords will have the same outlook as me – they don’t want to force anyone to live somewhere they don’t want to.

However, you should be prepared to pay some compensation, because the odds are that your sudden pivot in position is going to cost the landlord money (e.g. extended void periods and marketing costs). So if you’ve paid a deposit, you may not get it back. That’s not a given, it really depends on the landlord’s circumstances, but all I’m saying is that it’s something to bear in mind.

In the worse case scenario, if your landlord is not willing to negotiate and expects you to fulfil your legal obligations set out in the tenancy agreement, then your next best option is to end your tenancy agreement as quickly possible.

Forcing tenancy agreements

I personally don’t believe in forcing tenancy agreements.

That is just my perspective and approach, I don’t expect everyone to agree. You’re completely entitled to follow the proper legal procedures and use it to your full advantage.

However, whenever I’ve been in this situation as a landlord (which has only been a tiny handful of times), I’ve never once instinctively considered my legal position to be my primary tool. My first thought is to consider what would be the best outcome for myself and my tenants in the long-term, and never has the conclusion been to force my tenants to remain in a property or situation they didn’t want to be in.

Yes, I’ve allowed tenants to prematurely terminate tenancies before they moved in, and also during the fixed term. Circumstances change for everyone, that’s just life. If a landlord can’t be fair or adaptive, they’re in the wrong game.

Yes, there have been some caveats during the process, which included (but not limited to, or always applied):

  • Tenants to cover marketing costs
  • To provide at least 4 weeks notice

I’ve found that negotiating a fair resolution is usually always the best approach, both from a financial and mental health perspective, and rarely does applying legal pressure in these situations result in net positive results.

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