Can I leave before my fixed-term tenancy ends?

I've recently moved into a shared house with four other people. We're all on the lease, which has a six-month break clause. After being here a month, I've realised I've made a huge mistake. I don't like the area I'm living in because I feel scared for my own safety. The house is in a state, everything's broken and it's so big that it doesn't warm up properly. I'm also not getting on with my housemates. I've tried to make an effort, but it doesn't work. I've even started starving myself because I'm too scared to go into the kitchen in case they start on me. I'm constantly hiding in my room and it's making me ill. I feel the only thing I can do is to move out. The joint tenancy agreement says I can't do this until I've found someone else to move into my room. I don't think I'll be able to find anyone to replace me and I'm worried about the bond I paid. Can I arrange with the landlord to leave early? If he refuses, do I have to stay? If I'm not obliged to stay, how much notice should I give?

It can be an incredibly stressful time when you’ve got problems with your housemates and your home. As you’re a joint tenant and the landlord doesn’t live in the property and share facilities with you, you’re likely to be assured shorthold tenants, so this advice is based on that.

Joint tenants are equally responsible for paying the rent for the whole property, not just for a share of the rent. So if one housemate doesn’t pay their share, the landlord can try to recover this from the others.

If you’ve signed an agreement for a fixed term (e.g. a period of six or twelve months) it may be difficult to end the tenancy at this stage. A joint tenancy can only be ended early if there’s a clause in your agreement allowing this and if all joint tenants agree. In your case, it sounds as if you’re the only one who wants to leave.

So, you should approach your landlord. As your tenancy has a six-month break clause and you want to leave after only a month, you’ll have to get their consent in order to leave. If your landlord gives their consent, you should try and get this agreement in writing. Part of this agreement might be that you find a new tenant, websites like Gumtree or Spare Room could help you do this.

If you choose to leave the tenancy early when you don’t have the right to do so, you and your housemates will still owe the full amount of rent, including your share. Rent will be owed up to the time when you would have been able to end the tenancy and your landlord can try to recover this from you or any of your housemates. Your landlord will only be able to get this money from you if it hasn’t been possible to let the property to another tenant during the period you were supposed to live there.

You also say you’re worried about what would happen to your deposit if you leave your tenancy early. Your deposit gives your landlord security in case you cause damage to the property or don’t pay the rent. Your landlord is only entitled to keep it (or part of it), if they can show they’ve lost out financially because of your actions. Your landlord could keep all, or part, of it if you leave your fixed tenancy early and he loses out on rent as a result. If you have problems getting your landlord to return your deposit, you should try to negotiate. If that doesn’t work, you can take them to court. Remember though, on a joint tenancy, if one of your flatmates cause damage to the property, the landlord may be entitled to take money out of your shared deposit.

If the other joint tenants wanted to remain, they would have to negotiate with the landlord to create a new tenancy.

If you’re going to have to remain in the property for now and it’s in disrepair, your landlord has certain responsibilities to carry out the repairs. There are steps you can take to get your landlord to do the repairs, starting with reporting the problem to them.

Unfortunately, you don’t have the right to end the tenancy just because it’s in a bad condition. However, it may be that your landlord would rather negotiate with you to leave the tenancy early than carry out repairs.

You may also want to get help from your local advice service. An advisor may be able to help you negotiate with your landlord to move out early or improve conditions in the house.

In very extreme cases you can approach the police or your local council about how your housemates are behaving. Do this if:

  • They have been physical violent
  • The have caused a severe nuisance through noise or damage to the house
  • They have racially or sexually harassed you

Answered by Shelter on 06-Mar-2014

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