If you’re renting a property and wondering what your rights are relating to when you can leave the property as per your contract this article is for you.
In this guide we inform UK renters of what a break clause is, when it can be applied and how it can be used to end a tenancy early by both a landlord or a tenant.
How do I know if my contract has a break clause?
The circumstances in which a break clause can be used
How to use a break clause to end tenancy
Can my landlord evict me with a break clause?
Common break clause periods
What is a break clause?
An example of a break clause is a one-year contract with a break clause half-way through at the six-month point.
Not all contracts have a break clause. So, if you’re looking for a new rental property and a break clause is something you value, make sure you carefully check the contract for one. You can also negotiate with the landlord to include a break clause.
How to find out if your contract has a break clause
Break clauses are not compulsory, you will need to read your contract closely to determine if you will be able to leave your tenancy early.
If you can’t find a ‘break clause’ in your contract, don’t panic. The ability to leave your contract early, or your landlord to terminate it, won’t always be dressed formally as a break clause, but it may be included in other language.
Just look for anything around leaving your contract early, this might be referred to as ‘giving notice’, ‘notice period’ or ‘terminating the contract’.
What should a break clause say?
Typical break clauses will state:
At what point the tenant and landlord can give notice;
How much notice both parties need to give, usually at least one month.
There are some steps that a tenant needs to take to ensure they follow the terms of a break clause.
Break clauses usually apply under the following conditions:
You are up to date with your rent, otherwise your deposit can be used to cover rent arrears;
You give the correct amount of notice.
For a break clause to fully take effect and a tenancy to be ended you will need to leave the property and take all your belongings with you.
Keys will also need to be returned, the date is usually agreed with your landlord in the week or so before you plan to move out.
Most break clauses will only be valid when the property, including communal areas is returned in the same condition it was in at the start of the tenancy. If it isn’t you may lose some or all of your deposit depending on the damages.
So, if you plan to leave at the point of a break clause, ensure you keep the property in good condition, especially if you will be relying on the deposit to go towards your next rental deposit.
When can a break clause be used?
A break clause can be used by the tenant or the landlord when the conditions in the contract are met.
Tenants need to ensure that they give the necessary notice that is written in the contract. Usually, you can only give notice at a certain point within the contract. This point may be fixed in some contracts, meaning you only have one opportunity to enact the break clause on or by a certain date.
If you have a joint tenancy, all tenants must agree to break the tenancy if you want to move out. In some instances, your contract may allow one tenant to leave and be replaced by another. However, it is usually the responsibility of the tenant leaving to find a suitable candidate to take over their tenancy.
The timing of when a landlord can trigger the break clause will depend on your tenancy agreement.
The wording in your contract will indicate when the landlord can use the break clause to evict you. However, you should also know that if your landlord wishes to activate your break clause, they will have to give you at least two months’ notice.
This is because landlords must use a Section 21 notice to start the eviction process. It is also worth noting that a Section 21 notice cannot be sent in the first 6 months of a tenancy.
Section 21 notices lays out the intention of the landlord to take possession of a property, a reason will be given – the landlord wants to move in, sell, or redevelop – and the fact the break clause is being triggered will be stated.
Tenants should check whether there are any additional clauses which relate to the landlords’ obligations when using the break clause. If the landlord doesn’t follow all the procedures set out in the contract, tenants can refuse to leave the property.
A landlord would then need to apply for repossession through the courts.
How to use a break clause to end a tenancy early
Make sure you are following the correct procedures as written in your contract, whether it’s a break clause or another type of clause.
You’ll want to give notice in the way that is written in your contract, including:
When you can give notice;
How much notice you need to give.
If you’re unclear ask your landlord. You can ask them to provide this in writing, this will give you evidence you might need in the event of a dispute.
Alternatives to using a break clause to end a tenancy
You should still be able to negotiate an early end to your contract in most cases, even when no break clause in place.
In most occasions your landlord will ask for you to find a replacement tenant, or to stay until they can find a new tenant themselves.
If you have to look for a replacement tenant, make use of rental platforms or post an advert to your friends and network on social media.
Leaving the property without giving the property notice is called abandonment. This is illegal and can result in fines if you’re caught.
Is it legal for there to be no break clause in a tenancy agreement?
Yes, there is no legal requirement for a break clause to be included in a tenancy agreement, and many rental contracts will not include a break clause as standard.
The renter then will be responsible for paying the agreed rent for the length of the tenancy. If you would like a break clause to be included in your contract, this is something you need to negotiate with your landlord.
Without a break clause you do not have the right to end the tenancy early and must stay at the property for the length of the tenancy.
Can my landlord evict me with a break clause?
Yes, a break clause does not restrict a landlord for evicting a tenant. If a tenant breaks their tenancy agreement a landlord can evict them if they follow the correct legal procedures.
As a tenant you have protections against unlawful evictions including harassment and undue pressure to end your contract. If your landlord wants to evict you they will need to serve a Section 8 notice under the Housing Act 1988. Your landlord will have to give a reason in line with these regulations in order to legally evict you, before your break clause comes into play, and you have the right to leave by your own choice.
What is a reasonable break clause?
All break clauses are worded differently. They vary on how specific they are, some will only list the amount of notice needed, others will specify when a break clause can be triggered and when it no longer applies.
Most break clauses will have a fixed notice period of two months. So, if your break clause is less you may want to negotiate with your landlord if you want to leave sooner, preferably before signing your contract. You may even want to negotiate a longer period if you’re worried about finding suitable housing with two months to search.
How your break clause is activated must be clearly set out in your tenancy agreement.
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