Unbelievably common situation, when a tenant wants to jet off into the sunset sooner than contractually agreed upon. So what should you do?
Nothing, let it happen. Roll with it. Hell, offer to help them pack if you’re the jovial Christian type.
Just don’t sweat it.
Legally, tenants are obligated to remain your tenants and liable for the full rent up until the end-date specified in the tenancy agreement contract. Unless of course, the tenancy is legally terminated.
But what happens if they want out early and you’re not feeling agreeable? In most cases I don’t recognise any reason to force tenants to honour the agreement, because the end result will probably be a shit storm. It’s like trapping a dog in the corner, it will either piss on your carpets or chew your nuts off.
Being a landlord is stressful enough, don’t actively make it harder for yourself. There’s often no need to be an uppity douche by unnecessarily using your position of authority. Sometimes you just need to be reasonable and understand that shit happens and circumstances change for everyone.
Why you should allow your tenants to vacate early
It really isn’t a tragic situation, despite the fact your body is telling you otherwise by hyperventilating and forcing you to blow into a brown paper bag. I’ve seen landlords go nuts over the issue. But seriously, what issue? Calm the hell down.
All you need to do is find new tenants that actually want to stay in your property. Take the situation for what it is. The time and effort of replacing tenants is something you would have had to endure eventually anyways. It’s part of being a landlord.
I think many landlords often get consumed by the “power struggle”, they get off on being able to say “no”
- As said, circumstances change for everyone. Your tenants have a reason for needing to vacate, why would you want to be a preventative? To be honest, you shouldn’t even concern yourself with why, just accept that circumstances have changed and they want out. So many people get caught up on the why’s when it really doesn’t matter.
This situation can actually be a blessing in disguise because it can form the most cost-effective and efficient way of replacing tenants, so it would be careless not to take advantage.
The tenants are going to leave eventually, whether you permit them to surrender the tenancy on this occasion or not.
When a tenant gives notice and vacates there’s usually a void period in-between tenancies, because it’s often difficult for landlords to find replacements while the property is occupied. Tenants can make it extremely difficult.
However, if you allow the tenant to vacate early, you can do so on the basis that they allow flexible entry for viewings. This kind of compromise can save money by reducing the void time down to a minimum.
Most tenants won’t just move out in one day. When they want to end the tenancy early they usually give at least one months notice, which is more than enough time for even the most foolish of landlords to handle their business.
Hypothetically speaking, let’s imagine for one second that you’re an unconscionable bastard that forced your tenants to honour the agreement. Now, how do you think it will impact your relationship going forward? It will inevitably reduce it to shit.
Everything will simply be more difficult, especially communication. Let’s not forget, rightly or wrongly so, tenants can make life very difficult for landlords, more so than landlords can make for tenants. Unless you’re a raging masochist, there is no reason to consciously put yourself through that ordeal. Just let them go.
- Would you trust someone in your property that you’ve effectively entrapped? Nope. They now have incentive to use your carpets as toilet paper and smear unsavory bodily fluids over your door handles simply out of spite.
- Assuming your tenants do vacate without your consent, your one option is to take legal action- suing for loss of rent and any other traumatic expenses you had to subsequently swallow in the process. However, bearing in mind the amount of energy you’ll exert trying to recoup the money, you probably would have been better off working with the tenant and coming to an agreement. It’s definitely the easier and often cheaper option.
If the tenant in question has been long-serving and loyal, perhaps do it for the sake of showing some God damn appreciation, if nothing else.
I can’t imagine any reasonable human would actually prevent tenants from vacating early in this situation, that’s why I was almost reluctant to list it as a point. But you know, some people…
The end date is just a psychological deterrent
I know what many of you will be thinking: “What’s the point in having a tenancy agreement if you’re not going to enforce the rules, you dumb asshole?”
Yeah, I get it. However, this is just ONE clause. I’m not disregarding every clause in the tenancy agreement. If, for example, my simpleton tenant pierced a hole in the wall with his erectile penis during a fit of drunken frolics, you can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that I would use whatever relevant clause(s) in the contract to force the adolescent donkey to cover the costs for repairing the damage. There’s no questioning that.
But I do see the end-date as more of a “psychological deterrent” for tenants, as opposed to a practical clause that’s enforceable and punishable if defied. What I mean by that is, tenants usually respect/honour the end date and don’t contemplate challenging it because they’ve signed the contract, so they work around it if they’re thinking about vacating in the future. However, if they do challenge it (which most don’t), there’s little practical sense for a landlord to take matters further by using the clause as a preventative.
I believe ALL landlords should take the end-date clause in the same light. A psychological deterrent, and nothing more.
Now, if your tenant does happen to give you the dreaded signal that they want out, the best solution is to compromise (as always).
Whenever it’s happened to me, I tell them it’s fine under the following conditions:
- Viewings: they allow for viewings.
- New tenants: they have to continue paying rent until new tenants are found and moved in (this usually doesn’t take long, worse case scenario is 2 weeks).
- Presentable: they need to try and keep the property neat and tidy during viewings (assuming they haven’t vacated).
- Marketing fees: they cover the cost for finding the new tenants. I use online letting agents, so the fee is around £50, so it’s not much. Most tenants are relatively surprised (and relieved) when I tell them how cheap it is.
I think the conditions are fair, especially since they’re the ones breaking the terms of the contract. I’ve never had a tenant raise concern or their fists over them. Of course, it’s all relative and your circumstances might be different, so some of the conditions I mentioned may not be applicable, while others might. The point is, be compromising and fair so neither party loses out. Limit the damage.
I know some landlords insist on a lump-sum fee to terminate the tenancy. I don’t think that’s necessary, just as long as my costs are covered, I’m cool. I’m not looking to take advantage of the situation by swindling money out of my tenants for a profit. I’m not a letting agent.
So over to you. Has it happened to you before? If so, how did you deal with it? Do you let tenants vacate early if they want to?
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.