Can I terminate a fixed-term tenancy by notice?

Question from Vamsee updated on 10th December 2010:

I would like to have some information on ending a fixed term tenancy. I have seen a house and liked it and wised to live with my family and wife, son. At the next day the landlord has agreed to give it to me and he kept saying he had 3 other parties interested in it and insisted on confirming soon. I did not get a full chance to speak with my family as they felt the rent was higher than expected for that house and area. I have again had a meeting with the landlord and this time I signed the agreement (fixed term for 12 months) which had both me and my wife name on it. I have also paid a cheque of 2 weeks in advance. I was the only one signed, not my wife. However, later the same day when I spoke to my family they were upset and had a dispute and did not want to move in with me. My wife did not agree to it as well and did not want to move in. The landlord wants me to pay for his rent until he finds another, its been over 6 weeks and he still cannot find one. How can I end it?

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

Fixed-term tenancy agreements cannot be terminated by notice. A fixed term can only be ended early by mutual agreement between the landlord and tenant, or by the Tenancy Tribunal in certain circumstances (i.e. where there has been an unforeseen change in one party’s circumstances that will cause that party financial hardship that outweighs the financial hardship of the other party - the Tenancy Tribunal can also award compensation to the other party in this situation).

Where both parties agree to end the term early, the tenant(s) can still be responsible for rent until a new tenant is found, or the expiry of the fixed-term (whichever is earlier). You may wish to discuss the option of assisting your landlord in finding a new tenant to quicken the process.

To discuss your situation further, or for information about fixed term tenancies, you can visit the Department of Building and Housing website (, or call 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.


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