You may be leaving an HMO to go overseas, to buy a place or to move in with a partner – whatever the reason, make sure that the process is hassle free by sticking to the terms of the tenancy agreement. Many people believe that all they have to do is hand the keys back but that’s not how it works. You could lose your deposit, forfeit your references and find yourself pursued by irate ex housemates if you just walk away – all of which could make your next housing move a difficult one.
“I want to leave early”
If you have a break clause in your tenancy then this will allow you to leave before the tenancy comes to an end. Most break clauses are very specific about how they are to be used and you will not be able to activate the break clause unless you do it at the right time. The break clause will normally still require you to give two months notice. If you don’t have a break clause then you will need the landlord’s agreement to leave before the end of the tenancy. This is called a tenancy ‘surrender.’ If you get the landlord to agree to an early surrender of the tenancy, make sure you have this in writing.
“The tenancy has come to an end so I’m leaving.”
You will need to give notice at whatever point you move out, even if the tenancy has come to an end. This is because, when a written tenancy comes to an end, it moves automatically into a ‘periodic tenancy,’ which has most of the same terms of the main tenancy and also requires notice (usually two months). If you don’t give the proper notice at the right time then you remain responsible for the rent payments, even if you’re no longer living in the property.
“There are only fees to pay when you move in.”
Wrong. There are two main fees that you need to consider when budgeting for a move, and not just those involved in moving in to a new property. The check out inventory fee may be payable by either the landlord or the tenant – check your tenancy to see who pays this. Professional cleaning fees may be written in to your tenancy, depending on the wording. If your tenancy requires the property to be left in the same condition as when you moved in then whether you need to pay for a professional clean will depend on what happened before you arrived. If you tenancy states the need for a professional clean then obviously it is necessary. Look out for other fees that are suggested by agents such as ‘notice fees’ ‘admin fees’ and ‘deposit return fees.’ You should not have to pay a fee for these so if they are mentioned they are worth challenging.
Checklist for leaving
Whether you have a joint or sole tenancy, the same checklist applies.
- Have you given notice as required by the tenancy agreement?
- Have you stopped your rent standing order after the last payment was taken?
- Have you given notice to any utilities companies that you have been managing the bill for that you are leaving? If you don’t know whose name to transfer the account into, transfer it to the landlord.
- Have you started packing well in advance? You must make sure all your belongings are removed from the property on the last day of your right to occupy or you could face charges.
- Do you have furniture that you don’t want to take? Offer it to your other tenants and if they don’t want it then make sure you remove it from the property before you leave (you can use sites like Freecycle to give it away for free or ask the council to come and collect it).
- Have you given your address, email address and telephone number to the agent or landlord? This is necessary for any correspondence about the return of the deposit.
- Have you read the deposit return provisions in the tenancy agreement? What are the time limits and what is the process? It’s important you understand this as some landlords will leave tenants hanging as long as they can – particularly to avoid tenants being able to raise a dispute with a deposit protection service (which must usually be raised within three months of the end of the tenancy).
- Have you booked a moving van or arranged transport? Again, if your possessions are still in the flat when you don’t have a right of entry you could find yourself unable to access them or paying removal fees.
- Do you know what is required of you in terms of cleaning and how this will be done? You’ll need to book professional cleaners in advance if you’re required to use a service – book this for before the inventory and shop around for the best price. If you can find cleaners who offer a deposit return guarantee then they can be a good option.
- Be present for the check out inventory. It’s very important that you make sure a check out inventory takes place and it’s a good idea to be there when it happens so that you are the last person to see the space before the keys are returned. That way, if there are any issues you know what state the property was left in. Take your own time stamped photos of any damage so that you can make your own assessment of how much it should cost to fix.
- Set up mail forwarding. You need to do this in advance of the date you leave to have it set up in time – this will ensure you don’t have to return to the property for post and will catch any correspondence that arrives for you before you are able to change your address with banks etc.