Here is a question to the blog clinic from Fiona (not her real name) who is a tenant:
I am trying to leave a joint tenancy AST. We verbally agreed that I would be free to advertise my room and leave before signing.
I have found several suitable people who one housemate is happy with. The other is refusing everyone without giving an explanation other than he didn’t like them.
I am tempted to move out and cease paying my share of the rent as I believe I have found several suitable replacements. Surely I can’t be forced to stay?
Short answer: you can’t be forced to stay but if no new tenancy is signed, in most cases, you will still be legally liable for the rent.
Your rights really depend on whether the fixed term has ended or not.
If the fixed term has not ended:
When you sign a tenancy agreement with other ‘joint tenants’ you are all of you liable for the rent for the fixed term of the tenancy. So what happens if you move out? Basically one of the following:
- Your co-tenants pay your share of the rent and don’t replace you
- Your co-tenants take in a lodger who pays them their share of the rent
- The landlord agrees to sign a new tenancy agreement with the remaining tenants and a new tenant.
However, there are problems with all of these.
- With options 1 and 2 you will remain legally liable for the rent (even though you are not living at the property) and the landlord can sue you for any arrears, along with the remaining tenants
- The tenancy agreement will almost certainly forbid lodgers without the landlord’s consent, and most landlords will refuse consent as having a lodger in the property will almost certainly breach the terms of their mortgage and insurance
- Signing a new tenancy agreement will be expensive as the landlord will need to run checks on the new tenant, prepare a new inventory and deal with the change of deposit. Since the Tenant Fees Act came into force landlords have limited rights to charge for this and so many will just take the view that they don’t have to consent and so they won’t.
This is why tenants need to be careful about signing for a new tenancy – as your rights to exit the tenancy during the fixed term are limited.
If the fixed term has ended and the tenancy is a periodic tenancy
A periodic tenancy is what happens when tenants stay on after the end of the fixed term without signing a new agreement. Normally the tenancy will run on from month to month.
If a tenant wants to leave they can serve a ‘tenants notice to quit’. This will end the tenancy completely allowing them to leave without penalty at the end of the notice period.
The notice period, by the way, is not less than one complete ‘period’ of the tenancy ending on the last day of the period.
The remaining tenants then need to negotiate a new agreement with the landlord.
If you are still within your fixed term then I am afraid that if you just move out you will remain liable for the rent and can be sued, even after you have left the property. So you need to be very careful about doing this.
However, once the fixed term has ended, you can serve a tenants notice to quit and end the tenancy which will also end your liability under it.
Note that we have a tenants advice guide here which you can buy on tenant’s notices to quit, which includes wording for the notice.