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Leaving a tenancy

This advice applies to Scotland

Is leaving the best option for you

If you're thinking of leaving a tenancy because you're unhappy with the condition of the accommodation, repairs aren't being done or there are problems with your landlord, there might be other actions you can take. 

For example, if you're being treated unfairly because of a protected characteristic you have, such as a disability, you may have a claim for discrimination. 

Check how much notice you should give the landlord

The type of tenancy you have dictates how you can legally end your tenancy including how much notice you have to give and what format it has to be. Tenancies are usually either public or private with types of tenancies within these broad categories. Check types of public sector tenancies or  types of private tenancies to find out what type of tenancy you have.

Leaving assured and short assured tenancies

If you want to end the lease before it’s due to expire, you need the agreement of the landlord unless there's a term in the agreement that allows you to leave early. Otherwise you may end up liable for the rent for the remainder of the lease.

The legal rules about the type of tenancy or the written tenancy agreement may say how to give notice. If they don't, you should give notice in a letter that you've signed and send it by recorded delivery. Giving notice by email or text message is not advisable and, in many cases, is not a valid way of ending a tenancy. There's information about ending a tenancy on the Shelter Scotland website.

If you want to end a tenancy agreement, or if you've given notice to the landlord and then changed your mind and want to stay on, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau, as there are different rules on this for different kinds of tenancy - where to get advice.

Leaving private residential tenancies

If you have a private residential tenancy, you must give your landlord at least 28 days’ notice but check your tenancy agreement to see if you have to give longer.

Your tenancy agreement should also say how to give the notice, for example by email or letter.

If you change your mind, you have the right to withdraw your notice at any time during the notice period by writing to the landlord. You should do this as soon as possible by email or on paper (in the same way as you send the notice) and keep a copy for your records.

Your tenancy comes to an automatic end when you leave after giving your landlord the correct notice.

Leaving a public sector tenancy

A public sector landlord has to provide their tenants with a tenancy agreement that explains clearly what the timescales are for leaving the tenancy. Most public sector tenants are Scottish secure tenants but some may have shorter tenancies called short Scottish secure tenancies. 

If you want to leave the tenancy you normally have to provide four weeks notice in writing.

What happens if you leave without giving proper notice

If you leave without giving proper notice, the landlord may be entitled to charge rent up to the date when notice should have expired. If you’re still in the fixed term of a short assured tenancy, you could be charged until its end if you give no notice at all.

If there’s a dispute about rent arrears after ending a tenancy, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. Find out where to get advice.

Your landlord can end your tenancy if they think you've left your home without telling them - this is called abandoning a tenancy. Read more about abandoning a tenancy on the Shelter Scotland website.

Joint tenants

Joint tenants are jointly and solely liable for the rent and often the council tax. This is known as joint and several liability. 

If one joint tenant wants to leave and stops paying their share of the rent, the landlord can ask the other tenant or tenants to pay the full amount of the rent.

A joint tenant may end the joint tenancy by giving notice to the landlord. If you want to stay in the property you'll need to negotiate with the landlord to ask if you can have a new tenancy in your name only. 

There is detailed information about joint tenancies on the Shelter Scotland website

You left belongings in the house after you left

If you leave things behind when you give up a tenancy, the landlord might charge for the cost of clearing them out of the house.

If you owe the landlord money at the end of the tenancy, the landlord is not entitled to hold on to any possessions. Property you left behind still belongs to you and normally should be returned to you when you ask for it. However there are special rules that apply to property found in a house which a public sector landlord has repossessed because they think it has been abandoned.

If you left belongings in the house by mistake, you should tell the landlord as soon as possible. If the landlord won't return your belongings you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Landlord owes you money at the end of the tenancy

If the landlord owes you money at the end of the tenancy, for example, for repairs you paid for or oil for a central heating tank that you filled, you should negotiate for the return of the money.

If the landlord doesn't pay you may have to take legal action for the return of the money. 

In certain cases, if your tenancy is still coming to an end you might consider recovering an owed amount (like overpaid rent) from upcoming rent payments. You should be sure to have proof you’re owed this money and show it to the landlord. There are risks associated with this so you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Getting your deposit back

See Problems with fees and deposits

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