Leaving early and Sub-letting

If you’re leaving a tenancy earlier than planned, you might need to get someone else to take your place – either taking over your tenancy completely or renting your space from you (sub-letting). This page explains a bit more about this, and what the pitfalls of sub-letting might be.

Leaving a tenancy earlier than planned

If you are renting privately, there may come a time when you decide you want to move out. In that situation, if the rest of your flatmates wish to stay on, then you will need to end your share of the lease properly.

Although the (new from 1/12/17) Private Residential Tenancies allow a lease to be ended by the tenant with 28 days’ notice, if you have a joint tenancy with other people, you cannot simply end the tenancy like this unless all the other tenants agree.  See ‘Types of Lease’ below.

You may be responsible for seeking a replacement tenant to take your place. The replacement tenant has to be suitable, and someone with whom your flatmates would be happy to live, and also an appropriate tenant from your landlord’s point of view.

If no replacement can be found, you could end up liable for paying rent, or if you have a joint tenancy, the remaining tenants may become responsible for paying your share of the monthly rent.

If you are moving out because you are unhappy with your living situation, then it may help to speak with your flatmates first, and/or your landlord, in case there is an alternative way of resolving the matter.

Sub-letting…or not?

There is a big difference between finding a replacement to take over your tenancy, and sub-letting your room. If someone takes over your tenancy (technically you ‘assign’ your tenancy to them), they have a contract with the landlord and you no longer have any responsibility or liability as a tenant.  However, if you sub-let, it means you still have responsibilities under your tenancy agreement, plus you become effectively the landlord to the person you are sub-letting to (the sub-tenant).  This, as you can imagine, can be fraught with issues.

In both cases though, you are not permitted to sublet, take in a lodger, or pass your tenancy on to someone else before first getting written agreement from your letting agent/landlord. Sub-letting without the landlord/letting agent’s knowledge or permission is an illegal sub-let.

First things first

Do talk things over with your flatmates if you are thinking of leaving. If they have a ‘joint and several tenancy’ with you, they have a right to know that you are intending to leave, or that you are intending to seek a replacement for yourself.

Don’t forget to speak with your landlord/letting agent to let them know you are intending to move out, as they will have to agree in principle to releasing you from your contract and finding or helping you to find the replacement.

The landlord should try to re-let the tenancy as soon as possible but can continue to claim rent from you for the time between you leaving and another tenant taking over while the lease is still running.

Types of lease

Do check what kind of lease you have.

If you have still a joint ‘Short Assured Tenancy’ (SAT) (leases created before 1 December 2017) then if you wish to leave early, you may find that you can be liable for rent until the end date.  The end date should be stated on the lease.

If you have a newer ‘Private Residential Tenancy’ (PRT) (leases created after 1 December 2017) then if you wish to leave, you must give your landlord/agent 28 days’ notice. Although you will not have an end date on your PRT, in a joint tenancy if one tenant leaves, this does not automatically bring the lease to an end.

In a PRT, only if all the tenants in the property decide to leave, and provide adequate notice, will the lease come to an end.

If you live in University accommodation or Purpose Built Student Accommodation (private halls) you won’t have either of these types of tenancy and it is most likely that the rules for leaving early will be stated in your contract and/or on your accommodation provider’s website.

Leaving the property

Do make sure that your share of rent is paid up to date. This will be up until the date when the replacement tenant moves in.

Don’t forget to make sure that the replacement tenant is ready to move in, and knows when the start date is to be.

Do make sure your inventory is checked, and read all the utility meters before you leave – preferably with the landlord. Make sure you have settled any outstanding bills with your flatmates.

Don’t forget to leave your accommodation in a clean and tidy condition – you may find yourself with a hefty bill for cleaning or redecorating, or deductions from your deposit, if the flat is not as it was at the start of the tenancy. Remove all your possessions and dispose of rubbish properly.  It’s a good idea to take photos before leaving, in case there is a dispute about the condition in which you left the flat.

More information is on our Moving Out page.

Tenancy Deposit Schemes

If you have paid a deposit, do ensure that you get your money back after you move out.

The three tenancy deposit schemes in Scotland have a special process for changing over one tenant when the rest wish to continue. Your landlord/letting agent will need to contact the scheme and inform them of the change, but there is no charge for this service.

More information about Tenancy Deposit Schemes.

Going away for a short break?

You may be contemplating letting out your room temporarily while you are away, and planning to return to the property when you come back. If you lease out your room on a temporary basis, this is likely to be considered a sub-let. In other words, you would effectively become the replacement tenant’s landlord, while at the same time, you are also a tenant and subject to tenant’s responsibilities and duties. Your tenant would have a ‘Common Law’ tenancy.

As we’ve mentioned above, this situation can quickly become confusing unless things are fully understood. If you are planning to sub-let your room, do make sure you understand what that means, and do make sure you get written permission from your landlord/letting agent.

Further advice

If you need more information or to chat through your situation with an adviser, please contact the SRC Advice Centre.