So, your tenant wants to vacate your property earlier than the dates agreed in the Tenancy Agreement – what are your rights?
Can the tenant leave during the tenancy?
If both parties agree
If both landlord and tenant agree to terminate the tenancy early, then that’s perfectly legal and valid. This is known as ‘Surrender’. There are two ways to surrender a tenancy.
- Surrender by Operation of the Law – this is when the tenant gives up their occupation of the property to the landlord and the landlord accepting this. This usually involves the tenant handing over the property’s keys to the landlord accepting that the agreement is over and that they now have possession.
- Declaration of Surrender – this is when the tenant signs a Surrender of Tenancy Letter. This written document then acts as proof that the tenant has given up possession of the property to the landlord.
Ending a fixed term tenancy
If the tenant is in the middle of a fixed term, they can only terminate the tenancy early if the landlord agrees, or if there is a “break clause” in the Tenancy Agreement.
If the agreement does not mention a break clause and the landlord refuses to accept the early termination, then the tenant will be contractually obliged to pay you the rent for the entire length of the fixed term.
Ending a periodic agreement
If the tenancy has lapsed into a Periodic Tenancy (rolling from week to week or month to month), a tenant will typically have to give at least one rental period of notice. So, if the tenant pays rent weekly and the tenancy is periodic, they only need to provide one week notice. If they pay monthly, they will need to provide one month’s notice.
A tenant can end a periodic tenancy by issuing a valid notice to quit to the landlord. Once the notice expires then the tenant’s agreement will have ended.
What are the landlords’ options?
- Continue to enforce payments from the tenant, as the tenant is liable until the tenancy is legally terminated
- The tenant can provide a new tenant BUT the tenant has to be acceptable to the landlord. Until that time the tenant is liable
- The landlord may allow the tenancy to terminate on the basis of a financial settlement to be made i.e. a compensation fee
- The landlord can find a new tenant, and hold the tenant liable for the costs of finding the tenant (advertising, agency fees etc).
- Allow the tenancy to terminate.
What should you do?
It’s up to you.
But personally, I would let the tenant vacate early without causing too much of a fuss.
I know, that will be a tough pill to swallow for many landlords, which is totally understandable.
From the landlord’s perspective, a deal has been made and it should be honoured. I totally get that. However, hypothetically speaking, let’s imagine for one second that you force your tenant(s) to honour the agreement. Now, how do you think it will impact your relationship going forward? You’ll effectively be caging your tenant, and let me assure you, caged tenants don’t make the best type of tenants.
I’ve written an entire blog post on how and why landlords should let their tenants vacate early if they wish to do so, you should check it out.
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.