Tenancy Agreement

Ending A Tenancy Agreement

Here are a few ways of how to end an Assured Shorthold Tenancy…

If both landlord and tenant agree to end tenancy agreement…

If both parties agree to end a tenancy agreement, it can be done at any time during a tenancy. This is known as ‘surrender’

Both parties should agree to this in writing so it is clear what is being agreed. If a joint tenancy is in place, all the tenants must agree to the surrender.

When a tenant has legally surrendered the tenancy, then the landlord has the right of possession of the property under Section 5 of the Housing Act 1988.

The landlord must ensure the agreement has been ended properly. If the landlord takes possession of the property when both parties have not agreed to ending the tenancy, then the landlord could be accused of unlawful eviction.

There are two ways that surrender of a tenancy can occur. Firstly, by ‘operation of the law’ or secondly, by a ‘declaration of surrender.

Surrender by Operation of the Law
This is when the tenant surrenders the occupation of the property to the landlord and the landlord accepting. This may involve the tenant returning the property’s keys to the landlord, and the landlord accepting that the agreement is over and that they now have possession.

Declaration of Surrender
This is when the tenant hands over a written document that acts as proof that the tenant has given up the possession of the property. The document is called a ‘Declaration of Surrender’. The landlord must accept the surrender in order for the tenancy to end.

Ending a fixed term tenancy

A fixed term tenancy is for a fixed period of time agreed in the tenancy agreement. There is usually a start and end date in the tenancy agreement, which is the fixed dates of the tenancy.

A lot of fixed term tenancy agreements have a ‘break clause’, which permits the tenant to end the agreement before the fixed term ends. If this clause exists, the tenant can give notice provided they follow the procedure stipulated in the tenancy agreement e.g. the amount of notice they must give the landlord.

If there is no break clause, then the tenant cannot end the tenancy early without the landlord’s agreement. If the tenant does vacate early without the landlord’s agreement, then the tenant can be liable to continue paying the rent until the end of the fixed period.

A tenant has the right to leave on the last day of the fixed term without giving any notice. If the tenant remains in the property after the fixed term, the tenancy will automatically become a periodic tenancy agreement, and will have to give proper notice unless the landlord agrees to them leaving.

If the landlord wants to end the agreement at the end of the fixed term, which is typically 6 months or 1 year, then the landlord must serve the tenant with a Section 21 – Notice of Possession two months BEFORE the end date.

Ending a periodic tenancy agreement

When a fixed term tenancy agreement ends, and no new contract has been signed, then the tenancy becomes periodic. The terms and conditions in the previous tenancy agreement still apply, but the contract will roll on a month-by-month basis, or even a week-by-week basis. It depends on how often rent is paid. If rent is collected every month, then the contract rolls on a month-by-month basis.

In the case of a periodic tenancy, the landlord can end a tenancy based one rental period of notice. So if rent is paid every month, the landlord only needs to serve one month’s notice. The notice must be in writing and must end on the first or last day of the tenancy, unless the tenancy agreement allows it to be ended on a different day.

A tenant may choose to end a periodic tenancy be issuing a valid notice to quit to the landlord. The tenant must also give a rental period to the landlord in order to end the agreement. Once the notice expires then the tenant’s agreement will have ended.

Ending a tenancy agreement early

If the landlord wants to end the tenancy agreement early, but the tenant refuses, then the landlord cannot regain possession early, but must serve a Section 21 notice at least two months before the fixed term has ended so the tenant has notification that they must leave on the last day.

A landlord can only end a tenancy before the fixed terms if the tenant has breached a clause in the tenancy agreement. If this is the case, the landlord must serve a section 8 (notice to quit) to the tenant. A section 8 notice states that the landlord intends to seek possession of the property and also stipulates the ground or grounds on which possession is sought. Without a valid notice a landlord will not get possession.

In most cases, a tenant will leave the property when a section 8 notice is served, so there is no need to apply for a court possession.

If the tenant refuses to leave after the section 8 has expired, then the landlord must make an application to a court for possession. If the landlord is given possession, the court will decide on how quickly the landlord will regain possession. The decision is usually based on the circumstances.

What if the tenants refuse to leave?

If the tenants refuse to leave at the end of a fixed term tenancy then a landlord will need to serve a section 21 (Notice of Possession) on the tenants giving them a minimum of two months’ notice. If the tenant still refuses to leave after the notice has expired, the landlord will need to make an application to a court for possession.