Can a landlord refuse to end a tenancy early?

The relationship between landlord and tenant is one of mutual benefit: the tenant pays the landlord a set monthly amount and in return is able to live in their property for a fixed period of time. When the relationship is formed, a contract is drawn up to solidify this agreement. As a landlord, this provides security that they will receive a steady source of income for the entire duration of the contract. Should the tenant wish to leave the property early due to a change of circumstances, the landlord will face a difficult predicament: either allow the early exit on certain terms, or refuse outright on the basis that it goes against the terms of the contract. This decision will depend on the specifics of your situation, and it’s likely that the tenant will try to negotiate a solution that allows them the freedom to leave.

Your rights as a landlord

When unforeseen circumstances arise, a tenant may look to negotiate an early exit of the property. However, for a landlord, this is not ideal. Losing a tenant means losing a reliable source of income. You will be forced to search for a new tenant, and therefore lose profit as a result if you are not able to find one quickly. In this sense, there is no gain in allowing an early termination. By signing the tenancy agreement, your tenant makes themselves liable for rent, usually on a monthly basis. Technically speaking, the tenant has no right to end the tenancy early, and the landlord is under no obligation to cooperate with their request.

However, under certain conditions, you may feel it appropriate to enter into negotiations with your tenant. If this is the case, remember to tread carefully. If you aren’t fully aware of your rights as a landlord, you may allow your tenant to take advantage of the situation.

If there is a problem with the property

If your tenant claims that there is a problem with the property, this in itself is not enough for them to simply up and leave. The first step your tenant should take is to get in touch with you about the issue to arrange a visit to the property. That way, you will be given the opportunity to fix the defect the tenant is complaining about. Once the issue is resolved, the tenancy should continue as normal. If you fail to carry out these repairs by an agreed date, your tenant will be within their right to serve you with a Notice to Quit. Remember, your tenant can only serve this notice if they have provided you with enough time to fix the problem, so don’t be fooled into thinking one defect equals an automatic Notice to Quit. Should you receive this kind of notice with no prior warning, it will not stand up in Court.

This principle also applies in other cases where the tenant is accusing you of breaching the terms and conditions in the agreement.

If your tenant finds a new tenant

Allowing your tenant to terminate their contract early due to their change of plans is not something you should take lightly, especially if they offer no form of remedy to your loss. However, if the tenant has already sought out a replacement tenant for your property, this will significantly reduce the risk of losing profit and provide a quick-fix solution to the problem. The new risk created, however, is the risk that this new tenant will prove to be unreliable. Just because it’s convenient, it does not necessarily mean it’s the perfect fit for your property. Before entering into any agreement, it’s common practice for a landlord to ask a potential tenant for a reference from their previous landlord, along with their latest pay slip or bank statement to prove that they can afford monthly rental payments.

If they sublet the unit

If your tenant is leaving the area temporarily but will return in a year - for example, they may suggest sub-letting the unit during the period of time that they will be away. In this situation, your original tenant will remain the official tenant by law, meaning that they will still be liable for rental payments and damage to the property. However, during this time, they will sub-let the property to someone else who will be responsible for providing your tenant with the necessary amount each month. This may not be ideal; as it poses a great deal of risk to your income as you are technically relying on the sub-tenant for timely rental payments. If this is not something you are prepared to do, you are not obliged to accept this offer.

If it’s an emergency

If your tenant must leave your property due to domestic abuse, they must provide you with Tenant's Notice to End my Tenancy Because of Fear of Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse (N15) form and sign a Tenant's Statement About Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse

If your tenant has requested to terminate their contract early or have served you with a Notice to Quit, get in touch with our expert team of property solicitors today. We will provide the specialist advice you need in moving forward and protecting your interests.