If your tenants have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), they are legally obligated to remain in their tenancy until the end of the fixed term of the agreement. They are responsible for paying the rent in full up until that point.
There are times though when you may find that your tenant wants or needs to leave earlier than the agreed end date on their AST. This can be frustrating, especially after the time and trouble you have taken to check and reference your tenants.
However, people’s circumstances change all the time, and if they really want to leave should you let them? Read our tips on what to do if your tenant wishes to leave early for the best way to handle the situation and protect your investment.
Find Out Why
To start with, find out why your tenant wants to move out before their tenancy ends. It could be that they can no longer afford to live at the property, or they need to relocate.
You could insist they stay, but if your tenant has said they are struggling to cover the rent you might end up losing rental income.
It is often best to just accept they have had a change of circumstances beyond their control and try to come to a mutual agreement.
Consider Your Options
There are a few options you can consider if your tenant has requested an early release;
· Agree to release them from the contract early with no penalty
· Agree to release them once a replacement tenant is found and they pay the rent until the new tenant moves in
· Get them to cover the cost of re-letting your property with a letting agent
· A combination of the above
Once you have agreed a way forward with your tenant, make sure you put this in writing. Make it clear also to your tenant that they are legally bound to the contract, and are responsible for the rent until either:
a) the agreement ends, or
b) you begin letting the property to new tenants
Remember, you can charge the tenants the reasonable cost of reletting the property along with rent, until a new tenancy agreement is signed with the new tenants. However, the combined rent and costs must not be more than the total amount of rent due under the tenancy.
Find New Tenants Quickly
If you allow your tenants to break their contract, get focused immediately and put the property back on the lettings market. You would be doing this at some point anyway and swift action will ensure you find new tenants quickly.
Finding replacement tenants quickly to replace those who want to leave isn’t as hard as many landlords fear.
One of our Horizon Lettings Manager Samantha says;
“We are asked by tenants for an early end to their agreement more often than you might think. Sometimes, they have already found someone to take their place so don’t be afraid of asking if they know anyone who might want to rent the property. Otherwise, in the current lettings market there is still a high demand and properties are renting very quickly”
Ask for Flexibility
Use the fact your tenants have requested an early release to your advantage and ask them for flexibility when it comes to allowing viewings at the property. This should help you fill their places before they have actually moved out, and guarantee you have no void period to cover.
You should also request that the tenants keep the house in a presentable manner even if they are packing, and are mindful of the building that they are leaving behind when moving furniture.
You will probably find that your tenants are happy to comply if it means that they can leave earlier.
What if The Tenant Doesn’t Pay Their Rent?
Unfortunately, it isn’t guaranteed your tenant will continue to pay the rent whilst you are organising a new tenancy. If they do indeed stop paying their rent, you could request to use their deposit to cover the costs instead. Alternatively, and especially if the arrears are greater than the deposit amount, you may have to consider taking legal action against them or their guarantor.
What if My Property is Abandoned?
If tenants just disappear then you MAY be able to go in and change the locks under a rule called ‘implied surrender’, but you need to be 100% sure that they have really gone.
If it’s not clear whether the tenants have gone, then the only route is to follow the legal procedure for obtaining a possession order.
The drawback for a landlord of going down this route is that it involves legal expenses and can take several months before possession is finally granted through the courts.
Some landlords will affix an abandonment notice to the door of a property left unoccupied for a period of time stating that the property will be repossessed without going to court if the tenant does not return within a specified period.
Remember though, an abandonment notice has no legal standing and does not end a tenancy. If a tenant in this situation returns to the property after a lengthy absence, for example a long holiday or a period in hospital, to find that it has been repossessed by the landlord this may amount to an illegal eviction.
What If Only One Tenant Wishes To Leave?
During the fixed term one of joint tenants cannot end their obligations under the tenancy, just by moving out. The tenants remain liable to the landlord for rent until the end of the fixed term on a joint and several basis.
As a landlord in this situation, you do have a few options:
· Do nothing – all tenants names stay on the agreement and the remaining tenants will have to pay the outgoing tenant’s share (plus the outgoing tenant will still be liable
· Allow the tenants to temporarily allow a replacement occupier to stay as a lodger. The situation can then be regularised at renewal
· Agree to replace the tenant which involves signing a new AST, referencing the new tenant and dealing with the deposit
Often in this situation the tenants themselves have found a replacement which is always helpful and saves time and money.
A tenant wishing to leave their tenancy early need not, therefore, be the end of the world and we would usually recommend working with your tenant to find a way to compromise and allow their request.
At Horizon Lets we make this a very painless process for both landlords and tenants. We always do our upmost to ensure that the property is not left empty for even one day, and that the landlord is never out of pocket. Trust us to help you make the most out of your investment and contact us today for friendly no obligation advice.
- Right To Rent Checks Procedure
- Get Ready for Right to Rent Check Changes
- What You Need To Know About Ground Rent Reform
- Renters Reform Bill What Does it Mean for Investors?
- Letting & Renting Glossary