Can my tenants break a fixed term tenancy?

Question from Katrina Amiria updated on 19th February 2009:

I have a tenant on a fixed term agreement which is due to end on 31st Jan 08. It then reverts to a periodic agreement as written into our agreement. Recently my tenant asked in an email if they could extend the fixed term for 6 months which I agreed to, however the tenant now (via a text message) wants the agreement to just to roll over (to the periodic agreement). Can the tenant legally move out on the 31st and not tell me beforehand that that is what they are going to do? Thus leaving me with no tenants? Or do they need to give me notice?

Our expert Jeff Montgomery responded:

It appears that you and your tenant may have initially agreed that the fixed term tenancy would be extended for another six months. If this was the case, they could not give notice to terminate the new fixed term. A fixed term tenancy can only be ended early by mutual agreement between the landlord and tenant, or by the Tenancy Tribunal in certain circumstances. It now appears that the tenant wants to go back to the original terms of the tenancy agreement.

If you agree to this, then the tenancy will become a periodic tenancy on 01 February 2009, and the tenant would be required to give 21 days notice to terminate this. This may depend on the particular wording of the tenancy agreement. In the circumstances, it may be a good idea to confirm with the tenant what their intentions are before the fixed term ends. If you are unable to agree on what type of tenancy will apply after 31 January 2009, you could make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal to resolve the matter. To discuss your situation further, you can contact the Department of Building and Housing on 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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