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Can a Tenant or Landlord exit an AST early?

It is not uncommon for tenants to want vacate a rented property before the natural end of the tenancy agreement.  In this instance, where do the Landlord and Tenant stand legally?

To sum it up - a tenancy agreement is a legally binding agreement between two parties so when you sign the agreement you must be absolutely sure that you are prepared, as a Landlord, to let the property go for the term and, as a tenant, to pay the rent or consideration for the property, even if circumstances change or you do not ‘like’ the property anymore.

Most tenancy agreements are created for a fixed period of time e.g. week, month, year etc.  A standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement is a minimum of 6 months to maximum of 3 years.

The tenancy is legally enforceable by both parties and can only be ended or terminated in four ways:

  1. Agreement between the Landlord and Tenant - This is where both parties agree to surrender the terms of the tenancy agreement.  In most cases, this would be agreed in writing by the Landlord and the keys should be handed back to the Landlord or Letting Agent.  Generally, Landlords would seek to find replacement Tenants before the existing Tenant vacates and the existing tenant would be liable for the rent until the new tenant moves in.  It is sometimes agreed that the existing Tenant would pay for any costs associated with finding new tenants such as Credit Checks etc
  2. Performance – This is where the actual period of the agreement has come to a natural end.  Bearing in mind that for an AST, tenants are not required by law to notify their landlord that they intend to leave the property at the end of the agreement.  If the tenant does not vacate, the tenancy would revert to a Periodic Tenancy Agreement.  The Landlord is required to issue a notice to the tenant call a Section 21 Notice 4(a) during the initial fixed term and the notice should be issued with 2 months remaining within the fixed term.  If the Tenancy becomes a Periodic Tenancy, the Landlord would issue a Section 21 Notice 1(b) requiring possession.
  3. Breach of Contract– In unfortunate circumstances, if a Landlord or Tenant breaches the terms of the tenancy agreement, they may find themselves at the nasty end of legal proceedings.  Landlords are able to serve notices onto tenants during the fixed term of the agreement based on legal grounds – for example – if the tenant withholds 8 weeks rent from the landlord, the landlord may serve a Section 8 Notice based on Ground 8 of the Landlord and Tenant Act.  There are 17 grounds under which the Landlord can serve notice on a Tenant and the first 8 grounds are called mandatory grounds, meaning that the Tenant would be ordered to give back possession.  The rest of the grounds are discretionary grounds, meaning that the Judge may not give possession back to the Landlord immediately and instead, give the tenant a warning not to carry on that particular breach of contract. 
  4. Frustration – An agreement would come to an end when something happens which is the not the fault of either party such as the death of the Landlord or Tenant.


The most common instances of ending an agreement are when both parties agree as in example 1 or the agreement sees out its agreed term as in example 2.  So, if either party wanted to end the agreementFree Articles, it would need to be done by careful negotiation.    


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