What to do when your tenant wants to leave early

A certain amount of relief always follows after we have moved a new tenant into our property. The preceding days would usually have been filled with us scrubbing other peoples grime from places it shouldn’t be and interviewing prospective (and often rude) tenants. It takes a toll.

We usually zip away from our rental at speed, heading for a take away and a bottle of wine followed by a very long soak in a very hot bubble bath. But the relief doesn’t always last as long as we had expected it to.

More often than you would think we have had to deal with tenants wanting to leave the property earlier than agreed and usually with an X Factor style sob story that would even have Simon Cowell rolling his eyes. And it gets real old real quick. It’s hard to tell a genuine story from fake now and so we tend to eye all tenants with suspicion when we visit to talk it out. And really, we don’t give a shit. It’s hard when dealing with people who want you to be on side but honestly, I’m sorry your mum (maybe) is sick, or you (maybe) have been made redundant, but guys we’re trying to run a business here and we are now facing the prospect of having to find a new tenant. Again.

Should you let your tenants leave early?

It’s one of the most frustrating parts of landlording but is something that you will have to deal with at some point. So what are your options when your tenant tells you that they want to end their tenancy early?

Well the easiest and nicest option is just to agree to the request and let the tenant leave early. This became a favourite option of ours after we had to deal with the results of making a couple stay until the original end date specified in the tenancy agreement. They left early anyway, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and refused to pay the outstanding rent. We kept the deposit of course but it didn’t quite cover all of the costs or the bad taste it left in our mouths from such an unsatisfying transaction. You can get a free tenancy agreement from the house shop.

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Thought it doesn’t fit in your plans, you will likely come out better off if you do concede defeat.

If however you want to take a firmer stance, you can refuse the request and force the tenants to see the agreement through until the end. Legally you are within your rights to do this but the chances are you are going to end up worse off. You may come out with your pride in tact but that might be the only thing that is after your tenants have done their worst. An angry tenant is a destructive tenant and like us you may find that putting your foot down results in you having to put a load of cash down not long after to cover all the damage to your now ruined property. In our opinion no good can possibly come from forcing a tenant to stay. You have so much to lose and they have nothing. Don’t give them the upper hand just to save face – you will not win.

As a final option you can choose to fall somewhere in the middle. Let the tenants leave early but impose some conditions that benefit you. This way the tenants are getting what they want whilst limiting the disruption to you and your finances and is much more likely to result in a fair and reasonable negotiation for everyone.

Below are some subjectivities we have used before;

  • Tenancy is permitted to be cut short subject to tenant approving our request to retain the deposit (we always use this)
  • Tenants must assist with viewings to help us to find a replacement tenant faster. We always arrange viewings for times that are convenient for the current tenants but just them being there to open the door is a big help considering we’re based an hour away and have full time jobs
  • Tenants must continue to look after the property. When the return of the deposit incentive is gone it is touch to enforce this and so we always make a point of asking the tenants to look after the property seeing as we have been fair enough to let them leave early. So far, our polite request has always worked. Tenants are mostly nice when you treat them well.
  • Finders fee. We have never actually used this as it seems a little unfair, but you could insist that your tenants foot the bill for finding your new tenants. What concerns us is that it feels a bit mean to insist on this especially if the tenant is already in a jam, and how can you guarantee payment when you are already keeping the deposit in any case?

Just remember, your tenant is a human being who is going to have problems. It might not seem fair that they are so easily able to jump ship when they hit a rough patch (your mortgage company is unlikely to be quite so accommodating) but don’t sweat it. The reality is that you’ll find a new tenant in no time, one who actually wants to be in the property, and it really isn’t worth getting worked up over.

Have you got any tips for dealing with early vacaters? Let u know in the comments below.

Caroline Engstrom

Caroline Engstrom has a passion to help landlords and tenants by providing helpful tips and advice regarding real estates.

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