Whether you’re departing on beautiful or terrible terms with your landlord (or letting agent), there’s undoubtedly a right and a wrong way of how and when to inform your landlord that you want to wrap things up and move on with your life. As you’d expect, the wrong way can potentially be a miserably slow and expensive process. Best avoided. On that note, let’s go over the right way.
Please note, this blog post is just for general guidance and is written for tenants in England & Wales, and will vary for other countries.
First, check your tenancy agreement!
First and foremost, I strongly recommend checking the terms and conditions of your tenancy agreement before doing anything else, because they usually contain information on how and when you should serve notice to end your tenancy agreement with your landlord.
Fair warning: often clauses in tenancy agreements contradict the statutory rights of tenants, therefore aren’t actually enforceable by law. For example, if your tenancy agreement says that you must give your landlord 6 years notice, you can rest assured it’s bullshit, even if you have
stupidly signed the contract with your blood.
That said, if the terms and conditions *seem* fair – even if they aren’t 100% enforceable – you could just follow the terms specified in your contract. That’s probably the easiest way to progress. It’s unlikely a landlord or agent will challenge their own tenancy agreement, and even if they do, I don’t fancy their chances of being victorious.
In the event that your lousy tenant agreement doesn’t shed enough light on the matter, or if you think you might have been lumbered with one of those bullshit and unworkable clauses, you may want to read on in order to help determine what your next step might be…
How & when to tell your Landlord you’re moving out!
There’s typically three common scenarios when a tenant is looking to serve notice to their landlord/agent so they can move out, and I’ll provide my thoughts on the best course of action for all three:
- Moving out during the fixed term of the tenancy
- Moving out at the end of the fixed term of the tenancy
- Moving out during a periodic tenancy
Moving out during the fixed term of the tenancy
You should already know that you’re legally obligated to fulfil the terms of your tenancy agreement, so moving out earlier than the end date isn’t going to be easy. In this scenario, I recommend contacting your landlord/agent and having an open and reasonable discussion if you really can’t wait until the contracted end date. Lay your cards on the table.
Personally, as a landlord, I’m happy to work with my tenants if they want to vacate earlier than they obligated to. But that’s just me, and not all landlords are open to the idea. However, from my experience, a lot of landlords will understand as long as you approach the situation reasonably.
Once you’ve explain your situation, one of the following will most likely happen:
- Your landlord will refuse and require you to honour the terms of the tenancy.
- Your landlord will allow you to vacate early on the basis that you pay a penalty (typically to cover marketing costs of finding new tenants. But they could also demand the rent for the remaining months).
- Your landlord shows compassion and agrees to “mutually surrender” the tenancy early.
If your landlord agrees to allow you to move out early, be prepared for these likely conditions:
- You will have to cover any marketing costs to find new tenants
- You will have to remain in the property and pay rent until new tenants are found
Objectively speaking, I think that’s fair enough, and so should you.
In the event that your landlord point-blank refuses to unshackle you from your obligations, I’m afraid you’re stuck, and you will have to wait until the contracted end date before you can move out (you can jump to the next section to find out how and when to serve notice to your landlord at the end of the fixed term). If you decide to pull a fast one and leave anyways, you will still be legally obligated to pay rent until the end of the tenancy.
The only exception whereby you might be able to walk away early without your landlord’s permission is if your landlord has failed to keep on top of his/her legals obligations, and therefore you have valid grounds to terminate the tenancy early. For example, if your landlord has failed to provide water and/or heating for an unreasonable amount of time. If that’s the predicament you’re facing, it can be a complicated situation, so it’s not something I’m going to cover in this blog – that’s for a whole other blog post. However, realise that it is an option, and my advice to you is to seek legal guidance from your local citizen’s advice to determine your best plan of action.
Moving out at the end of the fixed term of the tenancy
This is generally very straightforward, because ultimately all you want to do is end your tenancy and move out on the end-date specified in your tenancy agreement.
In almost all cases, you are obligated to provide your landlord or agent with at least months written notice to your agent or landlord (from the start date of the tenancy as specified in your tenancy agreement), commonly referred to as ‘Surrender Of Tenancy’ notice.
For example, if your tenancy agreement ends on the 19th May 2019, you must give notice BEFORE the 19th April 2019 if you wish to move out on the 19th May 2019.
Free downloadable ‘Surrender Of Tenancy’ Notice For Tenants. I recommend sending it via recorded delivery or by email, so you have a traceable footprint to prove when you served notice.
One important piece of information to note is that your tenancy agreement will NOT automatically end on the end-date specified in your tenancy agreement, you MUST serve notice to your landlord if you wish to end the tenancy agreement and move out on the end-date. Likewise, if your landlord wishes to serve the tenant notice. A common misconception is that tenancy agreements automatically end on the end-date without any action. False.
Moving out during a periodic tenancy
This is the easiest situation for tenants to deal with, in my opinion. So congrats if you fall into this cosy bucket.
If the end date in your tenancy agreement has passed and you haven’t signed a new tenancy agreement – you just remained in the property and continued paying rent as you always have – then you’re on a periodic ‘rolling’ tenancy.
That means the same terms and conditions of your original tenancy agreement still apply, but your contract is rolling on a month-by-month contract (assuming you pay rent on a monthly basis). The length of a periodic tenancy is determined by the frequency of when you pay rent, which is monthly for most tenants, hence why the contract is presumably rolling monthly.
Similarly to ending a tenancy at the end of the fixed term, you must provide at least one month’s written notice to your agent or landlord (you can use the same surrender template I linked to above). For example, if your tenancy agreement started on the 2nd May 2017, and the fixed term ended on the 1st May 2018, and today is the 17th June 2019, you can serve a written notice today and move out by the 1st of August 2019.
If you pay rent on a weekly basis, you are only required to provide at least one week’s written notice.
Once again, I recommend sending it recorded delivery or by email, so you have a traceable footprint to prove when you served notice.
Your tenancy deposit
Before I sign out, a quick note on your tenancy deposit.
If you decide to move out earlier than your contracted end-date, your landlord may have reasonable grounds to use your deposit to find replacement tenants. Of course, the deposit can also be used to cover any damages and rent arrears.
Regardless of which scenario you fall into, if you feel your deposit is being handled unfairly by your landlord, you should contact the tenancy deposit scheme your deposit is being held in, and fight your case. They will then independently mediate the situation. For more information, here is a guide on Tenancy Deposits & Disputes for Tenants.
If you believe your landlord has failed to comply with the tenancy deposit legislation (i.e. if your landlord hasn’t secured your deposit), you may have hit the jackpot, as you could be entitled to compensation. Here’s more information on Tenancy Deposit “No Win, No Fee” Recovery Services for Tenants.
I hope that’s all been helpful! If not, I don’t know what to tell ya’
Any questions or thoughts, drop a note below…
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.