Karen asked us a simple, but very common question:
I have a fixed term tenancy of 12 months, can I break it early and can my landlord charge me rent until he finds a new tenant?
Fixed term tenancies
The fixed term, regardless the type of tenancy has a single function – preserve the tenancy unchanged for the fixed period, usually 6 or 12 months. During that time neither the landlord nor the tenant can alter any terms of the agreement.
The tenant has a right AND a responsibility to stay in the property for the entire fixed period. A right because the landlord cannot evict you freely until the fixed period ends, a responsibility because you are responsible for paying rent during the fixed term.
When the fixed term expires, each party has the right to end the contract with a prior notice. If your landlord doesn’t renew your tenancy for another fixed term, it will automatically roll into a periodic tenancy which offers more flexibility for both parties to end the agreement.
Can you end a fixed term tenancy ?
Fixed term tenancies can be altered with the agreement between both parties. If you want to surrender the property, you must speak with your landlord and ask them if you can move out early.
If they agree, you need to get that in writing and assign a move out date, preferably a month after you’ve obtained the written agreement. Once you moved and have returned the keys, and the landlord has accepted them, you’re no longer liable for the rent. But the landlord may want to make deductions from your deposit, so you need to follow the procedures at the tenancy deposit protection scheme.
Some tenancy agreements also feature the so called “break clause”. This clause allows for both parties to review the tenancy at a certain point in the tenancy, usually at the half of the fixed period. If you have a break clause in the tenancy agreement, you can terminate the tenancy early and so can your landlord.
The break clause will have additional information about how much notice you must give and any additional details about ending the tenancy.
A final option, but one you likely can’t rely on, is if the tenancy agreement is for any reason invalidated. For example, if the landlord made you sign a tenancy agreement that reduces your statutory rights or assigns you responsibilities that the landlord is legally responsible for looking after. In this case, the tenancy agreement is invalid and the fixed term may not be binding. Please consult a solicitor if that is the case.
How to negotiate with the landlord
Since often it’s down to the landlord’s agreement, you need to be able to negotiate a quick escape for yourself.
Landlords’ biggest concern is to make sure there is always a tenant in the property and there are no void months for which they don’t receive rent payments. That why the landlord will likely charge you until a new tenant is found regardless if you’ve already moved out and surrendered the keys.
The best way to get an early exit is to help them find a tenant who is ready to move in right as you move out. If you can do this, you might arrange an exit without any penalty.
However, you if can’t, the landlord is free to charge you rent until a new tenant is found, or until the fixed term has expired. There are some cases, when you can be charged full rent until a new tenant moves in and then a portion of the remaining rent until the end of the fixed term as a penalty.