Ending a tenancy 

How much notice does my landlord have to give if they want me to move out?

This will depend on whether you have a periodic or fixed tenancy, and the reason your landlord gives for wanting to end your tenancy.

If you have a periodic tenancy, your landlord must give you at least 90 days’ notice if they want to end the tenancy, except in the following circumstances:

  • the landlord or a member of the landlord’s family wants to move in
  • the tenancy agreement states that the property is for housing employees of the landlord, and another employee is to take over the tenancy
  • the property has been sold and one of the conditions of the sale is that the property be vacant (notice must be given from the date of the sale going unconditional).

In the above circumstances the landlord must give at least 42 days’ notice and state the reason for giving you notice to leave.

The notice must:

  • be in writing, 
  • include the address of the premises, 
  • include the date the tenant is to move out, and  
  • be signed by the landlord or their agent 

It’s different for a fixed term tenancy.

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How much notice must I give my landlord if I wish to end my periodic tenancy?

As a tenant, you must give at least 21 days’ notice to end a tenancy - unless your landlord agrees to a shorter notice period. Your notice must be in writing and include the address of the rental property and the date that you want the tenancy to end. You must also sign the notice.

You can find a template notice on the Tenancy website (it is the one titled Notice to terminate a periodic tenancy – from tenant to landlord).

Note that this only applies to periodic tenancies, as you can’t give notice to end a fixed term tenancy.

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Can my landlord give me notice to end my tenancy via text?

This is probably not an acceptable way to give notice.

Notice to end a tenancy, whether it is given by the tenant or the landlord, must: 

  • be in writing
  • include the address of the tenancy
  • give the date when the tenancy is to end
  • be signed by the person giving the notice
  • delivered by hand, mail, email or fax

More information about the correct way to serve notice is on the Tenancy website.

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What happens at the end of my fixed term tenancy? Can I just leave?

This will depend on how long the fixed term is. If it is for no more than 90 days, then at the end of this period your tenancy ends (the end date should be specified in the tenancy agreement) and you have to leave the property by then.

If the fixed term is for longer than 90 days, then at the end of this period your tenancy automatically becomes a periodic tenancy (unless you and the landlord have agreed otherwise).

If you don’t want the fixed term tenancy to roll over onto a periodic tenancy i.e. you want to leave at the end of the fixed term, you will have to give notice to your landlord that you wish to leave at the end of the fixed term. Notice must be given between 21 days and 90 days before the end of the fixed term

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How can a fixed term tenancy be ended early?

A fixed term tenancy can only be ended early if both tenant and landlord agree to it, or if it is ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal.

If the landlord and the tenant can’t agree on ending the tenancy early, either party can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to end the tenancy on the grounds that they have had an unforeseen change in circumstances and it causes too much hardship for the tenancy to continue.

If the Tribunal decides to end the tenancy, they can also order either party to pay compensation to the other, to cover any loss or damage caused.

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Our tenancy agreement says that the landlord can charge us money if we need to break our fixed-term tenancy early. Is this legal?

The landlord is entitled to recover “expenses reasonably incurred” as a result of the tenancy ending early.

Expenses might include the cost of advertising for new tenants, property manager’s fees associated with finding and signing up new tenants, etc. However, the fees charged have to be reasonable.

If you don’t think the amount your landlord wants to charge you is reasonable, you can ask them for an itemised list of expenses and negotiate with them based on your own estimation of costs.

If this doesn’t give you a satisfactory result you could take a case to the Tenancy Tribunal. Even though you have signed the agreement, the Tribunal could decide that the amount stated in it is unreasonable, or that the clause is unenforceable.

You can check with Tenancy Services on 0800 83 62 62, or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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What do I need to do when my tenancy ends?

If you are preparing to move out there are a few simple things you should do:

  • Make sure you have given notice to your landlord (or received notice from them).
  • Move out your possessions and clean the premises - you need to leave it in the same condition as when you moved in (except for fair wear and tear).
  • It’s a good idea to take some photos when you move out, in case there is a dispute about damage later on. Arrange a joint final inspection with the landlord, and arrange to give them the keys afterwards.
  • Arrange with the landlord for the Bond Refund Form to be completed and signed. Don’t sign the Bond Refund Form unless you agree with how the bond is to be refunded.
  • Make sure the landlord has your forwarding address in case they need to contact you.

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Can I end my fixed term tenancy early because of the condition of the premises?

If the landlord won’t agree to an early termination of your fixed term tenancy, then you are unlikely to be able to end your tenancy early unless the premises are uninhabitable.

If you believe the premises are uninhabitable and that it is not your fault (for example the house is badly damaged in an accident) then you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order to end the tenancy early under section 59 or 59a of the Residential Tenancies Act.

If the premises are uninhabitable you can leave the premises after giving your landlord 2 days’ notice and stop paying rent. If you do this, you should get proof to support your claim. For example if you want to leave because you discover the walls are riddled with black mould you can get a council report to back you up.

More about the landlord's obligations regarding the condition of the property is on the Tenancy Services website.

If the place is in need of repairs, but is still habitable, this is not enough reason for the Tenancy Tribunal to order an early termination to your tenancy agreement. In this situation you need to give your landlord the opportunity to have the repairs done by giving them a formal 14-day Notice to remedy. This gives the landlord 14 days in which to make the necessary repairs. If the landlord does not carry out the repairs within this time period, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to help.

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My landlord wants us to leave the house and we don’t have a tenancy agreement. Can he make us leave?  

Your landlord is legally required to give you a copy of the tenancy agreement in writing before the tenancy starts. But if you don’t have a tenancy agreement, the terms of your tenancy will be whatever you’ve agreed with your landlord verbally, and the various rights and responsibilities you both have under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. For further information you can call Tenancy Services on 0800 83 62 62 or visit their website.

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I have to move out. Can I get someone else in to take over the tenancy?

If you have a periodic tenancy, you have to get your landlord’s permission before passing your tenancy on to anyone else. If you aren't the only tenant, and some of the original tenants are staying then both you and the new tenant need to sign a change of tenant form.
If you have a fixed-term tenancy, you can only end your agreement early in some cases, but your landlord may agree to your subletting the property to someone else. 

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I gave my landlord a 14 day notice to get outstanding repairs done, and now she’s given me 90 days’ notice to leave. Can she do that?

It is unlawful for a landlord to end a tenancy just because a tenant has complained (e.g. by issuing a notice for repairs) - this is called a retaliatory notice

If you think your landlord has given you notice in retaliation for your 14 day notice, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order to challenge the notice. You’ll need to make this application within 28 days of receiving your landlord’s notice (prior to 1 July 2016 you had to do this within 14 days). The Tenancy Tribunal can decide that the landlord's notice is invalid, and can also order your landlord to pay a fine.

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What do I need to do if I want the tenant to leave my rental property?

There are two ways a lease can be terminated.

1. You can give notice to your tenant if they have a periodic tenancy, or get agreement from the tenant to leave a fixed term tenancy before the end of the term.

2. You can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a termination order. You can do this if the tenant

  • is at least 21 days behind in paying rent or
  • has assaulted, or threatened to assault you or a member of your family, one of your agents, or the tenant’s neighbour or 
  • has caused or is threatening to, or has allowed another person, to cause substantial damage to the property or
  • has not complied with a 14-day Notice to remedy a breach of the tenancy agreement or the Residential Tenancies Act.

You can also apply to have the tenant evicted if they have breached the tenancy agreement or the Residential Tenancies Act.

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What can I do if my tenant won’t leave at the end of the tenancy?

If your tenant refuses to leave when he or she is legally required to, then you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a possession order. Until the tenant leaves, you and your tenant have to fulfil your respective obligations to each other.

To get a possession order enforced, you have to take the order to the District Court. You should do so no more than 90 days after the end of the tenancy; otherwise a new periodic tenancy will begin with the same conditions as the previous one. When the possession order is granted, the tenant will be evicted by a bailiff or with the help of police. Remember that it is illegal for you to evict the tenant yourself.