Your tenant wants to terminate the tenancy agreement, can you make them pay?
You might be labouring under the impression that if your tenant wants to leave before the end of their tenancy agreement they’ll be obligated to pay you rent for the remaining weeks or months, but I’m afraid that’s not necessarily the case.
I discovered when a tenant gave me only three weeks’ notice that she was leaving two months’ before the end of her contract that landlords can’t just sit back and make tenants cough up the rent when tenants ask 'can i terminate my tenancy agreement early?'.
When I took legal advice I was told that I needed to ‘mitigate the tenant’s loss’ as a result of ending the tenancy early, in other words, I had to try my damndest to re-let the property as soon as possible.
So, it seems the tenant will only have to cover the rent until you find a new tenant and only then if you can prove that despite attempt to re-let the property it has remained empty.
You can charge the tenant reasonable out of pocket expenses, such as the cost of re-advertising the property, creating a new tenancy agreement and carrying out referencing, assuming these costs are less than the rent for the remainder of the contract.
You could also allow the original tenant to assign their contract to someone else, or to sublet the property, but you’re under no obligation to do so, unless the contract between you states this is permissible. If you do allow this, it would be wise to reserve the right to approve the new tenant and to carry out the usual credit checks and referencing.
Is my tenant terminating the tenancy agreement leagally?
If you included a break clause in your tenancy agreement, the tenant is legally entitled to exit the contract as soon as the fixed term ends, assuming they’ve correctly served you the required amount of notice, as stated in the tenancy agreement. It’s usually a month for tenants and two months for landlords, by the way, but you can insist on two months’ for both parties if you want.
Make sure you time the break to avoid a tenant leaving when it might be awkward to re-let your property, at Christmas for example.
If the tenant is on a periodic tenancy which rolls on month by month, they can decide to terminate the lease at any time but strictly speaking their notice period should end on the last day of the tenancy period. For example, if the contract started on the first day of the month, their notice period should end on the last day of the month.
So if a tenant on a periodic tenancy randomly serves you notice in the middle of a rental period, you could insist the contract remains in place until the end of the next full rental period. In other words, if the contract started on January 2 and the tenant gave a month’s notice on September 5, instead of ending on October 4, the contact would remain in place until November 1.
However, no-one wants an unhappy tenant so if they want to leave, it’s probably best to let them go.