The rental market can be a confusing place.
Sometimes it can feel like letting agents and landlords speak another language. It pays to scrub up on the terminology and understand what it is you’re actually signing. For instance, do you know how to go about breaking a lease? You’re going to need an understanding of the terms of your break clause.
So, what is a break clause in a tenancy agreement? We explain all you need to know here.
What is a break clause?
A break clause is a section of your tenancy agreement which details how you or the landlord can implement the early termination of a lease.
Break clauses can be landlord only or tenant only – meaning only the named party is entitled to exercise the break clause. Typically it will be mutual, meaning both parties are able to serve notice of leave. Ultimately this is about providing both you and the landlord with a degree of flexibility, giving you both an opportunity to exit the agreement. This can be used for many reasons, including sudden changes of circumstance.
Your tenancy will typically be a fixed term agreement, anything from 6 months to 3 years. To get out of your fixed term early, you’ll need either a break clause or your landlord’s permission.
As a tenant you need to read the small print in your tenancy agreement thoroughly. Make sure you fully understand the implications of any break clause. If there’s no provision for early lease termination you can ask for a break clause to be included as part of the rental negotiations.
Who writes the break clause for the tenancy agreement?
Irrespective of who asks for the break clause to be included, it’ll usually be written by the letting agent. For this reason, it’s important you check the clause carefully to ensure it correctly reflects what has been agreed or requested. In order for this to be enforceable should it go to court, it has to be deemed ‘fair’ to both landlord and tenant.
Who implements a break clause?
In agreements with a mutual break clause, both landlord and tenant have the right to implement the tenancy agreement’s break clause.
The landlord can terminate the tenancy early without being required to give a reason. Having said this, selling the property or letting to a family member are usually the most common reasons.
The tenant can also take advantage of the break clause without giving a reason. There are plenty of different circumstantial reasons why a break clause would be used. This is why it’s so vital to ensure it’s in your contract.
What are the restrictions on a break clause?
When drafting or negotiating the break clause in your tenancy agreement, ensure it’s clearly stated how long has to pass before it can be implemented by either party.
Usually, this isn’t before 6 months into the tenancy. This is because the Housing Act 1988 prevents the court from awarding possession of the house to the landlord before 6 months of a tenancy has passed. The exception for this is if the landlord wishes to use one of the 17 grounds for eviction.
How do you implement a break clause?
Most break clauses have specific requirements attached to them and stipulate a particular way notice should be served. These requirements and stipulations are unique to the terms of your tenancy agreement – they can vary a lot depending on your landlord.
Having said this, typically a landlord is required to serve two months’ notice and provide a Section 21 notice to the tenant. The tenant is also typically required to give two months’ notice if they want to end the agreement. They usually have to do this in writing, so it’s worth checking with the landlord or agent whether an email is accepted. If giving notice by email, always ask for a reply to confirm it’s been received.
It’s worth noting, once you’ve served notice to end the tenancy agreement, you can’t withdraw this without the agreement of the landlord.
More advice on renting
Still trying to make sense of the rental market? We can help. We’ve produced a wide range of explanatory and advisory articles to give your search a boost. From tenancy agreements to advice for letting from private landlords – we’ve got it covered. Find everything you need to know about the rental process here.