A tenant in a fixed-term tenancy can only end the tenancy before the end of the term with the landlord’s agreement (accepting the tenant’s offer to ‘surrender’ the tenancy), or if this is allowed for by a ‘break clause’ in the tenancy agreement.
Where a ‘break clause’ exists the tenant must follow any requirements for giving notice specified in the tenancy agreement. Break clauses are comparatively rare.
If the agreement does not allow the tenant to end the tenancy early and the landlord does not agree that the tenant can surrender the agreement, the tenant will be contractually obliged to pay the landlord the rent for the entire length of the fixed term.
If the tenant wishes to surrender the property (end the letting before the end of the agreement), the landlord should try to mitigate their loss (future rent) by re-letting the property. Quite often a landlord will reach an agreement with the tenant to accept their surrender if they find a suitable replacement tenant, which will ensure that the landlord suffers no loss of income.
Reasonable re-letting costs can be charged, but these and any other conditions attached to the landlord’s agreement to accept the surrender should be recorded in writing before the surrender takes place. Once a new tenant is found, the landlord cannot re-let without first accepting the surrender of the first tenancy and so there must be no ‘double charging’ of rent for the same period.
If the tenancy has no fixed term, the tenant must give the landlord notice in writing of their intention to leave. The tenant must give at least four weeks’ notice where rent is paid on a weekly basis and at least a month’s notice where rent is paid on a monthly basis. The date of expiry must be the end of a period of the tenancy or the first day of a new period.